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    How to Teach Your Son or Daughter a Foreign Language – Even if You Don’t Speak It

    How to Teach Your Son or Daughter a Foreign Language – Even if You Don’t Speak It
    September 11, 2016
    Brent Van Arsdell

    I think I know why you’re here.  You had a baby — and then you had feelings that you never would have imagined.  And today, you want this wonderful child to learn a foreign language.   Right?

    I’m going to tell you how to teach your son or daughter a foreign a foreign language — even if you don’t speak it yourself.  But first I’m going to tell you what doesn’t work.

    School Language Programs Don’t Work

    I really should say that school language programs in English speaking countries almost never work.  School language programs do work in some parts of Europe.  And they usually work the best when they are teaching highly related languages, such as Danish schools teaching their students English.  Danish and English are highly related.

    School language programs in the USA have an almost 100% failure rate to produce high school graduates who can competently use the languages they studied.

    Occasional Immersion Programs Don’t Work

    Taking your children to France once for two weeks so your children can learn French won’t work either.  For immersion to be effective, your son or daughter, needs a lot more time than two weeks.  What would work is to spend three months every summer in Paris and a month in the French Alps over the holidays.

    Vocabulary Learning Games Don’t Work

    My brother speaks Spanish well.  He speaks it well enough to use it daily in his work as a physical therapist.  He would like his two daughters to learn Spanish.  His method of teaching them Spanish has been to tell stories (mostly in English) and then plug in an occasional Spanish word.  The result is that his daughters know about 100 words in Spanish, but they can’t say, “What’s your name?” or “Where is the bathroom?”

    All language learning systems that do not quickly teach the learners complete useful phrases fail.  No exceptions.

    Grammar Training by Itself Doesn’t Work

    Many language learning programs have such a strong focus on grammar that they might as well be 100% grammar.  This doesn’t mean that there isn’t some value in learning grammar, but wait until your son is conversational in his new language before having him study grammar.

    Weekly Tutoring for One Hour Doesn’t Work

    Don’t waste your daughter’s time and your money on once per week tutoring.  Once per week isn’t nearly enough to yield any kind of effective results.

    Tutoring is a slow language learning method, but it can work!  However it should be a minimum of two hours per day for a minimum of five days per week.

    Things That Will Be Help – But Aren’t Enough

    Have your child listen to a LOT of music, and movies, and videos in their new language.  If you play music at home, make sure the vocals are in your son’s new language.  When you watch movies, watch foreign films in your daughter’s new language with English subtitles.  Remember that subtitles are notoriously inaccurate, but the more hours your daughter spends in her new language, the better.

    Switch Much Of Your Socializing to You Son’s New Language

    Say for example that your son wants to learn Spanish.  If you are religious, switch to a Spanish church.  If you aren’t religious, join secular organizations for Spanish speakers.  If your son makes friends in his new language he is much more likely to learn it well.

    Language Immersion School or Daycare

    This can work, if your child is motivated and likes it.  There are some very good French immersion programs in the English speaking parts of Canada.  People who stay in these schools until they graduate, come out speaking pretty good French.  They have a strange accent, but they master the language.

    Larger American cities will always have Spanish day care available.

    Remember That It’s Learning Minus Forgetting That Counts

    Your daughter will forget everything that she doesn’t use.  So remember that you need a method of fast review to retain the knowledge for a lifetime. has a fast review method like this.  So when your daughter forgets, and she will forget, she can quickly re-learn what she has forgotten.

    Have One Parent Talk to Your Son Exclusively in His New Language

    This absolutely works 100% of the time.  For example, if a father only talks English to his son, while his mother only talks to him in Spanish, the boy will speak two languages with native proficiency.

    If the parent teaching the second language is NOT a native speaker, don’t worry about your daughter picking up a bad accent from you.  Children will always adopt the accent of other children if they have the opportunity.

    If you have a baby who isn’t talking yet, you may want to learn the language yourself and teach it to her when the right time comes. Can Help Children Who Can Read Well

    If your son is old enough to read and understand a newspaper, then can be part of his language learning plan.  Make sure he watches and understands the video directions and the interactive instructions.  Also make sure he studies fast.

    I want to stress that your girl will need more than to become proficient.  She will need practice with native speakers that is fun for her.  Your job as a parent is to arrange the pleasant interactions in her new language.

    If your boy isn’t old enough to read English well, then is not a good choice for that child.

    Have Your Child Do Our Demo

    If your daughter or son is old enough to read English well and if she or he is old enough so that studying on a computer for 30 minutes would be a good experience, then have your child try our free demo without interruptions for 30 minutes.  See how much they can remember several days later.

    If they like the free demo and remember what they learned, then our program is right for you.


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    Leave A Comment

    19 Comments to “ How to Teach Your Son or Daughter a Foreign Language – Even if You Don’t Speak It”

    1. Jennifer Boudreaux

      I’m interested in using to meet high school language requirements. Our family homeschools. We need French I and French II. Which levels of your program would we need to purchase? Once the purchase is made, how long are we allowed to access the website content – one year, two years, etc.? Is there any written work or specific grammar instruction that comes later, or is the main goal here only speaking French?
      Jennifer Boudreaux

      • Brent Van Arsdell

        Hi Jennifer,

        I’m guessing that you will have to pass a proficiency test, so I’d suggest buying our French 1, 2, and 3 package. Once you pay for it you can use it as long as you need to, however I suggest giving your family a deadline.

        Our programs are specifically designed to help you learn to speak and understand your new language. It’s pretty easy to learn French grammar from a book, where we excel is with speaking and understanding.



    2. evangeline

      Can I use any smartphone with internet connection to study?

      • Brent Van Arsdell

        Most Android phones will work, and any phone that has a full version of Flash should work. However we suggest testing the free demo to make sure that works before buying a new phone. If the free demo works just fine then everything will work fine.


    3. Celine

      How long,approximately, will it take to learn? I’m 13 and I would like to learn French, but I’m not very persistent and i don’t have a lot of money. I’m hoping my parents will let me get this, but only if it works.

      • thomas

        Celine –

        Your learning curve is completely dependent on how much focused time you are willing to put towards learning French. recommends 30 minutes daily to learn a new language. It takes appx 4-6 months at that rate to complete an entire language series. To help your parents and express a desire to learn French check out our scholarship page and apply if it sounds right for you!


    4. Karen Monsen

      My son wants to learn Japanese. Do have a Japanese program?

      • thomas

        Karen –

        We DO have a Japanese language program. We’ve recently just released it for use so make sure to let us know what you think about it.


    5. thomas

      Melissa –

      I think there must be a misunderstanding. The him/her son/daughter reference is varied throughout the article in order to balance it and not suggest gender weighting of the conversation. Please consider this article as expressing equality for both boys and girls of any age. Your son, or daughter, have equal ability to learn as effectively using the same tools.


    6. Rosemary Talavera

      My son and his wife are homeshooling their twins and since i have to take care of them once a week i was elected to teach Spanish since i am hispanic. My son
      ‘s wife is not spanish speaking and she is a professor of Sociology in a college. It hasn’t been easy easy since the girls do not really care to learn the language. They are 3rd grade students. Eight years old. When i try to teach them they act bored and can’t wait for the lessons to be over. I try to make it fun and they have learned words, numbers, shapes, colors and a few sentences but a week later they don’t remember sentences but single words are ok. I made some flash card and play games by matching the word from Spanish to English. Are they required to learn a second language at their age? I worry that i am not teaching them efficiently especially when the parents don’t encourage them to don’t the homework i leave them. They don’t know how to speak it themselves. I am almost 70 and get discouraged in teaching them when they don’t care to learn.If i’m lucky we will have a good day and they do well at times. When i come to visit them i try talking to them in spanish but they tune me out and the parents don’t help by encouraging them to answer back in Spanish. Don’t know what else to do. I think next year i’ll opt out of teaching them. Thanks for letting me post this. Rosemary

      • thomas

        Rosemary –

        Teaching children can be exceedingly difficult, especially if the parents are not on board to help. has created software that works towards being interactive while eliminating the need for ‘homework’ unless standard grammar rules are required. Grammar is usually required for home-school assessment tests administered by the local or state school boards. At their age there really isn’t usually a requirement for foreign language though the earlier their exposure the more likely they will be to learn more effectively when older.

        Have you tried using our software with them yet? Take a few trial runs with the free demo to see how well it works for you and them:

        Make sure to pay attention to the instructions presented before the demo.

    7. Kasmarine Klein

      I am an ESL teacher trying to make a difference. I have a degree in Behavioral Brain Science so I understand a little about normal language development as well as things that make it easier or more difficult to learn a new/second language. I am looking for a program, or idea of how to test/weigh the needs of my scholars. I am the ESL teacher for 6,7,8th grades and I want to make a significant difference for these kids. The native language is Spanish so I am in actually trying to teach them English. As a teacher cost is always an issue. Does your program have an evaluation? If so, how can that be accessed. As a teacher can I apply for your scholarship? Any info or direction would be amazing.

      • thomas

        Kasmarine –

        Have you heard of Anki? It’s a great flashcard type program that can be loaded with just about any kind of data you want:

        Have you tried our demo lesson yet? It’s great to see how well it works for memorizing data. Try it for a language you don’t know yet and be amazed! The software works for anyone who can at least read the primary language. is working on an ESL version of the software for Spanish speakers! We do hope to have it released before the end of the year.

        What offers for evaluation is two options:

        1) The 6 month no questions asked money back guarantee – Valid on packages paid for in full at the time of purchase and 3 month payment plans. This is a great way for you to test the software on a small sample group to see how they take to it. If it’s not working we want you to have the resources to find something that does work for you.
        2) Monthly plans are a great way to try something out in a shorter term with a small cost. The monthly fee isn’t refundable and the commitment doesn’t extend beyond your desire. Cancel at any time and owe nothing more.

        Scholarships are designed for individuals and small families that need financial assistance to learn foreign languages and reach their dreams. The scholarship program is not designed for for-profit or governmental type organizations. An excellent way to help your students with scholarships would be to recommend them check out on their own to supplement the lessons learned in your school. If the family needs a scholarship to meet their dreams then they can apply.

        Please feel welcome to contact me directly for commercial rates:


    8. Michelle

      We are very interested in using Language101 in our homeschool. We have several children and I am wondering how your program works for a family. I would like to purchase the deluxe package with all languages. Can several children use that one account. How does it work for a family?

      • thomas

        Michelle –

        Thanks for asking about the super pack and using it in a family environment. Here’s a quick overview:

        The All Language Super Pack give you and all your secondary accounts access to all the languages we offer now and will offer in the future. Each student requires their own account as each account keeps track of individuated study progress. As one student studies at a different rate than another it’s important to keep the study progress separated. Each language a student is studying is also kept separate – Spanish study progress will have zero effect on Italian study progress. One student studying more than one language at a time is possible though not recommended. All your children can study a different language if they choose – you are not restricted to completing one language before moving on to the next. It is helpful for a family to study the same language as then the skills learned can be practiced amongst one another. If one student is studying French, another Italian and another Russian the application of the studies will be far more limited for real-life practice. Although limits the number of licenses for professional use we do offer an exception for families larger than four members – all your family members currently living with you are included in the ‘family’ license be it three students or eight students.

        Please make sure to take a look over the FAQ:

        Contact me directly for more information:


    9. Michelle

      We homeschool and I’m trying to pick a language to learn myself and teach our last two kiddos. How in the world to you pick? I like French, my husband thinks Spanish would be better and he speaks a bit of German. I want a language that shares an alphabet (just seems to make a monumental task seem easier), would be “beneficial” beyond just mind development, and we’d have access to beyond meeting with a group (Disney movies come in English, French and Spanish). Other languages are an option. Any thoughts?

      • thomas

        Michelle –

        Great questions! These are not answers that I can just give you though. This is something that needs to be considered. Does your life bring you anywhere near Latin America, France, Canada, or Germany? Does your child have a strong affiliation with any children of another cultural upbringing? Do they long to travel to a specific place in the world?

        These are all opportunities to dive into learning a new language.

        The best language to learn will be one where the opportunity to use the language skills will be presented sooner than later.

        Thomas Wyse

    10. Jennifer Bardon

      I am very interested in learning Russian. I have never taking Russian before, would this be a good program for me

    11. lee jones

      I was very interested in Rosemarie’s question. I am turning 70 and have been teaching six of my grandchildren Spanish with Pimsleur. I’m pretty sure I’ll teach them Russian with 101. But the children learn at different rates, not based on their ages, but on their interest in learning.
      Not politically correct, but I have gotten them to speak to each other in Spanish by teaching them phrases like “I speak great but you do not speak well because of your autism.” (None are autistic.) We have incorporated such teen gems as “You make me throw up”, “twenty -three lizards are in your hair”, “I’m going to go eat and buy things but you can not because you do not think fast enough”, and some that I don’t dare include. They ask me for special words before our class and say them instead of what the lesson asked them to say. Giggles and plans for retaliation ensue.
      So, while they do not appreciate what you are attempting to give them, you can surprise them and get their attention this way at least.~Lee

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