Museums & bilingual kids

If you are raising a bilingual child and wonder about how to increase quality input in the target language, museums are an excellent tool. Here’s 5 reasons why.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

Love his little face squished on the display glass, just soaking it all in.

1. Contextual meaning

Language is all about context and a museum that is organized and divided by different themes or time periods allows you to change contexts quickly. Context gives meaning to our words and so the various collections, displays and expositions found within a museum will help your child to grasp meaning quickly. For example, the word stegosaurus will take on a whole new meaning when your child is in front of a large scale model of prehistoric bones.

2. Rich vocabulary building

If you are looking to build vocabulary, a museum with its endless genres, varieties and species is the perfect place. But don’t hesitate to do a little homework beforehand to build your own vocabulary in the target language! Even a fluent speaker of a language doesn’t always have all the specific vocabulary learned. Or take a pocket dictionary with you to look up the translations of the many different species of animals behind cases that your child is bound to ask you about.

3. Hands-on learning

Whenever possible, choose a hands-on museum where children are encouraged to touch, feel, smell, run, jump and play. Kinesthetic learners will especially enjoy! Some museums even offer workshops where children can make a craft or take part in short experiments. If you check online, you can usually find out about these workshops ahead of time as many museums require you to enroll your children in advance.

4. Powerful emotions

Emotions are a powerful way to open the pathways to learning. And museums are filled with surprising elements that can elicit a wide range of emotions: wonder, surprise, awe, fear, humor, and so on and so forth. Couple rich language with these powerful emotions and children are more likely to remember what they learn.

5. Child-led learning

Following your child’s natural interests is one of the most effective and natural ways for your child to learn. Your child is motivated out of his own curiosity and his thirst to learn more comes entirely from him. If your child loves dinosaurs, find a dinosaur museum or a museum where there is a dinosaur exposition. And don’t forget to do your own homework so you know how to say stegosaurus and tyrannosaurus in the target language!

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

Life size models are impressive and provide opportunities for exchanges in the target language.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

Rémy loves dinosaurs, so of course we had to visit this dinosaur exposition at a local museum in Elbeuf. Many museums are free or offer discounted rates for children.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

This dinosaur skull elicited giggles from everyone.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

The real fossils were off-limits for touching, but not this dinosaur replica, to the absolute delight of our little Rémy.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

This small representation of a baby dinosaur progressively coming out of his egg provided the perfect opportunity to explain part of the cycle of life to Rémy, en español, of course!

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

Scary monkey elicited plenty of different emotions and reactions from the whole family.

As a final note, don’t forget to adapt the visit to your child’s age and level of interest. Allow him to have fun and make a it a pleasant memory that he will keep for years to come. Stay in the target language as much as possible, but don’t despair if your child doesn’t immediately retain and recall all the new vocabulary. Bilingual children (just like all other children) learn line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. Your museum visit should be one of many other language rich activities that you enjoy with your child.

Museums & bilingual kids | 5 ways museums help build language

And after a hard day of learning and fun, a little shut-eye was needed! Rémy loved these stepping box displays where he could climb on top and get up close and personal with the different collections or just take a rest as pictured here!

Best of luck to you in your bilingual journey and don’t hesitate to ask any questions you might have in the comments section below.

Related article:

How can museums support learning?

1 Response

  1. January 25, 2017

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