Posts with Videos

Video: Enroll Your Child in an Activity to Teach a Second Language

Will you enroll your child in activities like swimming lessons, kung fu or chess? Why not find that same class taught in your second language choice?

While it can be a bit more challenging to find that class, it is possible and then you kill two birds with one stone! Your child gets to partake in a fun activity while learning a second language at the same time! Kinesthetic learning (or tactile learning) is an educational style where children do a physical activity while learning, rather than simply listening to a teacher in a lecture-style format. Many children, especially wiggly ones, will learn much better with this active learning style than they would sitting at a desk learning a second language.

How can you go about finding classes offered in your second language choice?

Here are some ideas: 

Tip 1: Call around to different sports classes to see if a slot can be offered in your second language choice. Perhaps you can find a school that has just opened up and they are willing to offer you a class in French, Spanish, etc. if you agree to get two or three of your friends to join in!

Tip 2: Check out areas in your neighborhood that might offer classes in a particular language. Perhaps there is a town nearby that has a large Hispanic population — you will probably be able to find a great sports class offered in Spanish there!  

Tip 3: Post a free ad on to find someone who is willing to teach a sport/skill/activity to your child (and perhaps to a group of your friends’ children) in that second language.

Tip 4: If you are enrolled in a school or program for second language learning, ask one of the teachers if she would be interested in coming over on the weekend or after school to teach your child a sport or a hobby that she enjoys. For example, perhaps one of the teachers in your child’s school loves tennis. Ask that teacher to instruct your child in the sport while immersing him in the vocabulary for your second language. This teacher does not have to be a pro to teach your child tennis — the idea is that your child enjoys a new activity in an immersive language experience! 

Tip 5: If you have a friend who speaks a second language fluently, ask her if she might offer a mini “class” for your child and hers in that second language. Perhaps your friend loves to sew, play golf or do art projects — what a great way for your child to engage in a new activity and learn vocabulary at the same time. Perhaps you can offer to pay for the materials in exchange for the lesson? 

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Our Story: 

We have discovered lots of great classes offered in Mandarin — sometimes you just have to ask.  

Have fun with these classes! You don’t have to be enrolled in the class forever — especially if your child’s interest has declined in the activity. We typically do our classes for about 6 months to one year and then we move onto a new activity in Mandarin. This way my children learn the vocabulary for each hobby or sport in Mandarin well, and then they move on to something else. Many times, I throw them in an activity if I happen to meet someone who speaks the language who has a passion for a certain sport or other times, I drive by a class that has Chinese writing on the windows and then I “inquire within!”  

We found this art program by chance! I had made a wrong turn and all of the sudden found myself parked in front of this art studio called “Wang’s Art Class” but the rest of the writing in the windows and the signs were in Chinese! I popped in and found a whole class of Mandarin speaking students learning Chinese! I enrolled my son on the spot! My son had been asking for art lessons ever since the first day of kindergarten when he sat next to his best friend who took art after school. Perfect! Win win! 

However, it was actually tough for me to get the teacher to teach to him in Mandarin even though he spoke to the rest of the kids in Chinese. I kept on having to remind him to speak to my son in Chinese and he kept on saying that when he saw the blonde hair, he would automatically talk in English! I ended up staying for the first 10 minutes of every class just to make sure that the introductory lesson was in Mandarin and to gently remind the teacher to speak with him only in Chinese. By the end of our year, Lucas had learned lots of new art vocabulary in Mandarin and got confidence in drawing through the class! Now that my son is in 1st grade, we have since moved onto new activities, but it was a wonderful introduction to art for all of Kindergarten. 

The following shows a short video of my son at his Mandarin art class.





Filed Under: Classes, Posts with Videos

Video: Candy Land to Teach Colors

Playing games is the best way for children to learn a second language! Children have fun while using vocabulary in a meaningful way. Some of the simplest games provide a wonderful opportunity to explore simple language in a second language! 

Why use these games to teach a second language?

Simple games enable children of almost all levels of second language abilities to play along. If a child only knows colors in a second language, he can play Candy Land or Twister. If a child has just started learning numbers in a second language, Chutes and Ladders is a great game to reinforce numbers. 

Check out these wonderfully fun, but simple games available on Amazon: 


Michelle’s Story: 

In our house, we have “Mandarin Hour” once a day– or at least we try for an hour, but sometimes it ends up being “Mandarin 15 minutes” instead and that is ok. The idea is that the children speak only in Mandarin for an allotted time each day. They can choose the activity (blocks, legos, games), but they need to speak only in Mandarin Chinese for that time. 

In the video below, I chose the game Candy Land to illustrate how a child with more advanced speaking skills, my older son Lucas, can teach his younger sister. Lousha,  colors in Mandarin Chinese. 

I have written the pinyin and the simplified character on each of the cards so that my children see the writing as they play to get familiarized with the written forms of Chinese.

The following video captures and unscripted and unrehearsed video of my children playing Candy Land: 




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Filed Under: Games to Learn a Second Language, Playdates, Posts with Videos, Uncategorized

Video: How We Use TV to Teach a Second Language

Language Learning DVDs for kids are just fantastic these days! Many of them teach children basic expressions and concepts in fun and engaging ways!  However, it can be difficult to get your older child to watch one of these language learning DVDs more than one or two times – especially  if your child desperately wants to watch a Disney flick or a popular Nickelodeon TV show.

How can you turn Disney or Dora into a second language opportunity? Show them the movie in that second language! 

It sounds easy right? Just pop in a DVD that has a language track in your chosen second language and off you go! Your kid will be spouting off Chinese or Spanish by the time the credits roll at the end of the show. Not so. It may take a while for your child to “get it” — meaning get the idea that the show that they used to watch in your native language is now being dubbed in a different language. The Language Playground™ has developed a method for introducing content and language in a way that solidifies meaning behind the images that they see on the screen.

Don’t get us wrong – you don’t have to do this for every TV program that your kiddo watches in a second language — that can be exhausting! Just pick and choose the parts of this process that work for you and your family.

Here is our process: 

1. Reading in your native language: Read a book in your native language that is based on the film that you are about to show your children

2. Watching in your native language: Have your children watch the show in your native language

3. Reading in a Second Language: Have your children listen to the book being told in a second language

4. Watching in the Second Language: Have your child watch the show in your second language choice with the book on his lap so that he can follow along. Only allow your children to watch the movie in your second language choice going forward.

5. Testing: A great way to test your child’s knowledge of the program is to put on the subtitles (if you don’t speak the language yourself) and see if he knows what is being said in the film.

  • If your child can’t yet read: put on the subtitles and ask him to tell you what is said in each scene. You can pause it screen by screen to see if your child understood the dialogue. Don’t do this for the whole film as your child will get frustrated and won’t want to “play this game” but if you do it sporadically throughout the show, it can be fun for both of you!
  • If your child can read: put on the subtitles and make a little card that enables you to block out the words at the bottom of the screen. Position yourself next to the TV so that you can see the subtitles but your child cannot. Again, don’t do this for the whole film, but if you do it sporadically throughout the show, your child may enjoy this challenge!

How do I get movies that are dubbed in my second language choice? 

It is getting much easier to get DVDs in many languages. Many popular movies and TV shows are now offered in multiple languages — even recently released DVDs.

FOR CHINESE LEARNERS: Finding popular shows in Mandarin can be a bit more challenging than French or Spanish, but we found a fantastic website where we buy all of our DVDs! Check out for a HUGE selection of popular American and Chinese animated DVDs, books, workbooks and games! Check out additional DVD recommendations by clicking on the Chinese flag below. Aside from the DVDs sold on asianparent, most Mandarin DVDs that you purchase will need to be played on a region-free player. They are cheap! Invest in one today! See below for our recommendations.

FOR SPANISH LEARNERS: Spanish tracks are already built into many popular DVDs (especially the collectors’ editions). Click on the Spanish flag for our recommended list of Spanish DVDs for children.

FOR FRENCH LEARNERS: French tracks are already built into many popular DVDs (especially the collectors’ editions). Click on the French flag for our recommended list of French DVDs for children.

FOR ESL or EMERGING ENGLISH READERS:  Click on the English flag for our recommended list of English DVDs for children.

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Filed Under: Posts with Videos, TV as a Tool

Video: Bilingual Preschool

Send your child to an immersion school!

Immersion schools, which can start as early as preschool, are a wonderful way to give your child a head start on learning a second (or third) language. Children learn all the same subject matter taught in standard schools, but in a second language!


  • This website is a great place to start your search and get reviews from parents like you! Just type in what you are looking for (i.e. Mandarin preschool) in the search bar and see what kind of schools are available. 
  • This website is a wonderful site to search for home school programs in your area. We were surprised at just how many smaller programs were not advertised on yelp or found on the web, but were on craigslist! Many of these programs are less expensive as well since they are run out of people’s homes. 
  • Yahoo Groups: Join some yahoo groups with a focus in your language of choice and post your question about recommended schools there. There are tons of happy parents just waiting to speak about their immersion school choices. 
  • Recommended Websites: Check out our list of recommended websites for links to websites that will help you find a school in your area. 


While living in Japan, we realized how easy it is for children to pick up a foreign language if they are immersed in it. While Lucas was only three when we left Japan, we knew that he loved speaking Japanese in school. To continue building upon this interest, we enrolled him in Chinese and Spanish preschools when we returned to the US. Since language acquisition is easiest at an early age, our children have jumped right into fully-immersive half-day Spanish and Chinese preschools. The entire class is conducted in that language and the children love it! At two, Lousha joined Lucas in Chinese school. At three, she started Spanish. After a year, we decided to focus solely on Chinese and so we no longer attend the Spanish schools. 

Why not send my children to a “regular preschool”?

We felt that they would learn the English basics (alphabet, numbers, etc.) from us and their daily environment, and we wanted to give them a head start in acquiring foreign language skills. Children are little sponges and we know that now is the time for them to learn a new language. My kids still get all of the same elements that they would get at a “regular preschool” – social interaction, understanding of the rules, and snacktime :), only now they are soaking in another language at the same time! 

They are not in school very much — just two days a week – but their level of understanding grows tremendously with each hour! It is just enough for them to enjoy it and yet not be overwhelmed.   


Check out the following video of Lousha at her bilingual Montessori School, Growing Tree in Saratoga, CA. We adore this school, their methods, their materials and their dedicated teachers. 



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Filed Under: Classes, Flashcard Fun, Games to Learn a Second Language, Posts with Videos, School for Immersion

Video: A Twist on I Spy to Teach Vocabulary

A Twist on Ispy to Build Vocabulary

I Spy is a great game that interests children and encourages them to dig into their vocabulary vault to find words to play the game. My helper, Rebecca and my son, Lucas, play a twist on the traditional game of I Spy to encourage vocabulary exploration in Mandarin. You can play the same game in your second language of choice and watch your child relish in using the words he has learned so far.

The Game:

I spy is a great game to encourage vocabulary building in a second language while children have fun at the same time. With my younger daughter, my helper plays the traditional game of “i spy” with books to teach her words and have her gain confidence in using the vocabulary that she already knows in Mandarin Chinese (i.e. I spy a cat). However, for my son, we add a twist to the game as an additional challenge.

For him, I spy is a descriptive game where he needs to describe the item that he spies in a book in Mandarin Chinese until my helper figures out which object it is that he has in mind. If he does not know a vocabulary word in Mandarin Chinese for something that he wants to describe, he needs to find other words that he does know to get his explanation complete. Then, my helper takes a turn detailing the object that she spies on the page in Mandarin Chinese. They continue to play until it is time to go to bed! 

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Filed Under: Babysitter Help, Games to Learn a Second Language, Posts with Videos, Product Reviews