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.
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!
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.
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.