In the midst of the global Covid pandemic, many schools switched to online learning while others struggled to keep up. Parents learned that their children could, and did find success in virtual learning environments, but there needed to be a “recipe” for success. Student motivation plus teacher knowledge of online platforms greatly contributed to that success.
Now that students are back to in-person learning, some parents are choosing to keep their children enrolled in supplemental online courses to learn what they wouldn’t otherwise in schools. Learning programs in traditional schools can be restricted by budget and time constraints, staffing issues, and a lack of prioritization. Online learning, when done right, can personalize a student’s learning experience, making it more engaging and meaningful.
It is for this reason that I founded The Kid Spark Group, an online language learning company for young children, in the middle of a global pandemic. I knew firsthand that by customizing their experience, students could not only learn, but thrive at learning languages in an online environment.
How can parents ensure their child’s online language learning success? I’m sharing five tips below from my own experience with KSG clients.
Identify which language your child wants to learn
With so many options available, it’s important to consider the purpose for learning the additional language. Do you live in a country where that language is the official language or widely spoken? Does your family speak the language? Are you setting your child up for future success by encouraging bilingualism or multilingualism? Oftentimes it comes down to one simple question; “Which language would you like to learn?”
Make sure to have the right technology in place
This may sound like a no-brainer, but having a strong and reliable wireless connection in addition to an appropriate device is crucial to an online learning experience. It’s frustrating for both instructors and students to drop in and out of your meeting link due to a poor internet connection. And while cellphones are great for joining the meeting (lesson), they’re not ideal for certain learning platforms such as working on a collaborative whiteboard, or viewing and manipulating images due to the small size of their screens.
Find the right online instructor
Not every teacher is great at online instruction, and not every speaker of the language can teach. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard “Oh, I speak Arabic! I should teach for your company.” Interview the instructor if necessary. At The Kid Spark Group, parents are given the option of booking a free 30-minute online session to learn more about how our lessons are taught and how we personalize them to our learners’ goals, interests, and learning styles. Our instructors go through an interview process which includes teaching an online 10-minute sample lesson for an age group of their choice. Our clients are matched to their instructor based on a number of factors, one being the synthesis of their teaching and learning styles.
Practice with your child on “off days”
If your ultimate goal is fluency, then your child will need to interact with the second language more than once or twice a week during online lessons. You can work towards the early production stage of second language acquisition and create a culturally rich home by:
listening to music in the second language and learning songs with your child
actively watching cartoons and videos in the second language, stopping the video for yes/no and either/or questions
introducing your child to cuisines from around the world and learning the ingredients that go into making different dishes in the second language
regularly visiting the international food section in the grocery store with your child and calling out the names of different foods
encouraging friendships with children who speak the second language
Stick with your schedule and be patient
Second language acquisition takes time. In fact, the five stages which begin with preproduction and move to advanced fluency (Krashen & Terrell, 1983) can take years. It’s important to stick with your online learning schedule, put in the work on your “off days” and remain patient.
Online instruction has afforded opportunities to students worldwide, opening doors to nontraditional pathways of learning. By working with the right online language instructor and continuing that education at home, it is absolutely possible for your child to experience language learning success.