One of the most important things you can do to help your children learn Hebrew is to motivate them by creating curiosity and interest. This is not as difficult as you may think. Children are very excited and open to learning. Once they start making progress and having success in learning, they will undoubtedly want to learn more. The following are 9 helpful suggestions to get your children to thirst for learning and to make progress in learning the Hebrew language.
1. Keep It Short, Simple and Positive
We all learn best when we have something that is short and simple to learn opposed to something that is long and difficult. Think of a time when you learned something because it was presented in a way that you could understand and it was not too much information to learn. An educational term for this is called “task analysis”. This means you break down the task to learn and you learn bit by bit until you have learned it in its entirety. For example, if you were teaching the Hebrew alphabet, you would teach a few letters at a time. Each day you would review those and add one or two letters before your child knows them all. Then, you can add sounds. Again, it is important to keep it short and simple so your child meets success and builds confidence. This in turn will encourage them to keep learning. Being positive is very important. To reassure someone that he/she is doing a good job and to offer genuine praise is also important. You should never raise your voice or expect too much from your child too quickly. By offering lessons that are short, simple and by being positive, your child will be excited to learn more. You will be able to move from the alphabet to words, and then onto phrases and sentences in no time!
2. Practice Makes Perfect
Think of something you are really good at doing. Then think of how you undoubtedly practiced to become that good. Maybe it is a certain sport like swimming or skiing, playing a musical instrument or dancing, or possibly drawing or painting. Everyone knows that if you practice, you will get better. Therefore, it is important to have your children practice the lessons you teach them so their Hebrew language skills improve. You should make the practice suggestions fun and also be open to practice any time…whether driving in the car, at the dinner table, before bed, at bath time, the possibilities are endless. When you connect learning throughout your child’s day, your children see language as integrated and can more readily meet success. In the 1960s, a Learning Pyramid was developed by the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine, US. It states that learners retain approximately:
90% of what they learn when they teach someone else or use it immediately.
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned.
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion.
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration.
20% of what they learn from audio-visual.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading.
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from lecture.
3. Surprises, Fun and Games!
Everyone loves a surprise! So if you can incorporate the element of surprise and suspense in learning, this will help excite and continue to motivate your children. Think of babies who play “Peek-a-boo” and how they watch so attentively for you to say, “peek” and then they respond with a giggle or with urging for you to keep playing the game over and over again. You could put objects behind your back and have your child point to one of your hands and then they say the name of the object in Hebrew. You could have a scavenger hunt around the house and they would need to look for hidden objects and then say the words in Hebrew. To top off the language learning activity, you could have a “surprise” treat at the end (possibly a connection to something Hebrew like Hebrew chocolate or taffy). By incorporating fun and games into learning, children will experience just that…learning is fun! They will be more motivated to keep learning. You can play any number of childhood games in Hebrew like Hide-and-Seek, Tag or Simon Says. You can sing the alphabet in Hebrew and count objects (coins, candies, objects, etc.) play guessing games of colors, animals, and other simple vocabulary. Several online language games are available in Hebrew and your child will enjoy the variety of using a computer and choosing among the many creative, engaging games to play that increase in difficulty and build-in practice. Perhaps a Hebrew computer game could be an incentive. Board games are popular ways of learning Hebrew, too. Think of any game your child enjoys whether it be Checkers, Sorry, Chutes & Ladders, Candy Land, Bingo, Dominoes, Matching Games, etc. and play these by adapting the game to using the Hebrew language. You can count in Hebrew when you move your tokens and use as much Hebrew at your child’s second language level to play the game. The secret is to have fun!
4. Flash Cards
Flash cards are an effective way to learn a number of skills and concepts. Similar to motion images, flash cards work very simply. They create object-sign associations in your child’s brain after a short period of exposure. You can use pre-made Hebrew flash cards or make your own to practice with your child. Index cards, construction paper or any type of paper will work fine. Letters, words, phrases, pictures and any combination of these language forms will work. You can play matching games where the children turn over the cards and they draw two cards to try to get a match: maybe a letter to a word that starts with the letter, two letters that match, etc. It is important not to use too many cards at once. You can isolate a few to study and keep practicing those until they are mastered and then introduce new ones. Another suggestion is to make a chart of the skills learned. Perhaps it is an alphabet chart and when your child learns a letter, the letter is colored in on the chart. You could do this with words, phrases and/or sentences. The chart is an incentive, but you could build-in appropriate rewards when so many things are learned just to help keep the motivation level of learning Hebrew high. So speaking of rewards…look at tip #5.
Although intrinsic learning is the ultimate motivator, it is fine to give intermittent rewards to children. This will encourage them to learn more and serve as a motivator. The rewards could be tied to the learning charts as previously mentioned or you could decide together what needs to be learned for a goal and then plan a reward. Perhaps your child is learning so many words in a category like body parts or farm animals in Hebrew. When this skill is learned, a reward could be given to your child for this mastery and hard work. Again, something Hebrew would be a great reward like Hebrew chocolate or candies, dinner at a Hebrew restaurant or making some Hebrew food at home. Maybe there is a Hebrew movie you could rent or a museum that has an exhibit of something related to Israel. Or if you wanted, the reward would not need to be linked to something Hebrew. It could be a trip to the park or zoo, or a favorite place your child likes, or a simple treat like ice cream or a movie at the theater, etc.
6. Audio Visual Stimuli
(Cartoons, Books on Tape, Music and Songs)
A trip to your local library or bookstore and/or searching online will find you some Hebrew cartoons, books on tape, and music and songs. Everyone learns best and stays motivated in learning when there are a variety of resources used in a variety of ways: visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic. By using a variety of audio visual stimuli you will tap into your child’s modality strengths and interests. Seeing that the Hebrew language is alive in cartoons, books and stories, and in music/songs is a wonderful treat for your child. These materials will help motivate your child to maximize their learning of Hebrew. It will be a fun way to reinforce skills and to learn new skills, too.
7. Assorted Stories and Books
Picture books, nursery rhymes, children’s stories and fables, plays, finger plays, etc. are wonderful avenues to build on prior language and to foster new Hebrew language learning. The elements of colorful pictures, fun rhyme, interesting characters, lessons to be learned, exciting happenings and any type of movement all play a role in keeping your child motivated to learn more Hebrew. By reading and rereading, and encouraging your child to repeat after you or to say some of the repetitions in the book (rhyme, story, fable, play, finger play, etc.) will increase their short-term listening skills, auditory memory, and oral speaking. You can search for books on Hebrew history and culture for children and also share those. You could locate Israel on a map and globe and study the flag and some other cultural things related to Israel like children’s names, holidays, festivals and customs. You could read about places of interest in Israel. Some books will have chapters on Hebrew games to play with children and crafts to make. When you have time, you can incorporate some of these into your Hebrew lessons, too. Another suggestion is to take your child’s favorite literature and substitute a few of the words for Hebrew words. You can add more words when your child has developed a stronger vocabulary. Studies have shown that even background music and videos will increase your child’s vocabulary. So take the CDs in your car, play music at bedtime or bath time, and enjoy learning throughout the day!
8. Talking with Native Speakers
Another way of practicing Hebrew is to provide opportunities for your child to interact with native speakers of Hebrew. Maybe there are foreign exchange students from Israel at your neighboring high school or college. Perhaps there is a Hebrew professor at an area university. You could go to a Hebrew restaurant, grocery store, cultural center or museum, or any number of other places that Hebrew people may gather (church, school, community center, etc.) Possibly you could find a pen pal from Israel or find a family to Skype with on a regular basis. Maybe a foreign language club at a local school would be able to help you or that Hebrew restaurant owner might know of someone who would be a great match. By practicing the language your child has learned, or even by listening to it in several other settings, this will be motivating to your child. It is a wonderful way to foster new friendships and to see the relevancy of the language. Your child will be able to see progress, too, when communication is exchanged and understood by a native Hebrew person.
9. Asking Questions
If you know Hebrew, you can talk to your children in Hebrew and ask them questions about any of the things you are learning. If you don’t know Hebrew, you can continue to ask questions like “what is this?” to illicit an answer in Hebrew. You could ask your child to draw with colored chalk, crayons, and colored pencils or to paint an object when you give the directions in Hebrew. Or they can create something and you can ask them to tell you about it by using some Hebrew words like the number of something in the picture, the colors used, simple words or sentences, etc. By asking questions along the way, you can better gauge what your child has remembered and what they know, and what you need to review and reteach. To build on prior knowledge is key to learning more. It also is a great motivator when your children see they are learning and that the time spent with you is a valuable way to learn and keep learning.
Teaching Your Child a Second Language
The Benefits of Learning Hebrew
Knowing two languages from a young age has many benefits for children as they grow up and become adults. It is proven that children can learn Hebrew easily. Research shows that young children who learn a second language are able to readily learn additional languages in the future. What’s more? Language learning helps prepare children for today’s globally connected world and the world of the future.
It has also been proven that learning a second language increases academic scores (specifically in the areas of reading, language and math) and heightens the general aptitude level of student’s learning. Those acquiring a second language, such as Hebrew have better problem solving and memory skills, demonstrate more flexibility in acquiring new kinds of information, are better able to multitask and have a deeper appreciation and understanding of cultures of people. Furthermore, they outperform students who know only one language in creative writing and flexible thinking. These children have higher self-esteem and self-confidence, as well.
With two-thirds of the world’s children brought up in bilingual households, you can conclude that introducing Hebrew to your children is quite common and natural. Bilingual speakers are those who speak two languages fluently. The term “bilingual” means fluent in two languages.
The Age to Learn
Many studies show that children can learn Hebrew at a young age. Some linguists report that a critical time of learning a second language peaks at around age 6 and ends by age 12. Additional studies point out that children are better than adults when it comes to pronunciation and oral performance. This is attributed to muscular plasticity and cerebral plasticity that diminish by aging. So your child as young as a newborn can be exposed to Hebrew. This will not lead to confusion of languages.
Additional research studies point out that a child can grasp the basics of Hebrew by the time they turn five-years-old. And as the child gets older, more advanced skills can be taught. It is important to look at normal language development to see how second language skills are acquired. This chart illustrates the age when specific language learning occurs:
Birth: early crying, baby’s first attempt to communicate
Five months: cooing sounds
One year: a few simple words for common objects (a pet, a parent, a food)
18 months – 24 months: two word phrases
2 years: acquisition of approximately 200 words/month
2.5 years: 3 word sentences
5 years: understanding and correct usage of grammar
Researchers have debated about the difficulty of learning languages. Although there are some who attest that certain languages are the hardest and may take more time to learn, most of these studies involve adult learners. The answer regarding difficulty in the acquisition of language learning is mostly dependent on your first language. Much can be said about the ease of learning your first language. Those that learned their first language easily are more apt to learn a second language quite easily, too. Another aspect to consider is how closely your native language is to the second language you are trying to learn. Sometimes the vocabulary or the alphabet system is quite similar and this may help with the speed of learning.
For those who are interested, the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the United States Department of State compiled this chart to summarize how long it takes to learn a language of English speakers. Remember this chart is based on English speakers and on adult learners. According to research, they found the most difficult languages to learn are Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Perhaps the number of language speakers in the world is of interest to you and it might influence your choice of a second language. According to the 2010 CIA World Fact Book, the top numbers of people speaking languages throughout the world include:
1. Mandarin Chinese – 882 million
2. Spanish – 325 million
3. English – 312-380 million
4. Arabic – 206-422 million
5. Hindi – 181 million
6. Portuguese – 178 million
7. Bengali – 173 million
8. Russian – 146 million
9. Japanese – 128 million
10. German – 96 million
Methods of Teaching
Any parent who cares about languages and his/her child’s learning can be a successful teacher. Bilingualism might be thought of as a requirement for teaching Hebrew, but this is not a prerequisite. An important ingredient to successful teaching is having a parent who is positive, enthusiastic and patient. The parent must also be aware that children learn at different rates. It is never appropriate to compare your children with each other or with other children. These additional attributes as a parent will help enhance language learning for your child:
Having a positive attitude toward learning Hebrew, and learning in general
Involving your child in active engagement/participation
Striving to be patient, teaching in simple steps, and providing for ample practice and an abundance of praise
Establishing a fun non-threatening environment
Accepting that children all have different learning styles and preferences. Some are more auditory learners, some more visual, others are tactile or kinesthetic. Tapping into your child’s strengths as a learner will make the learning experience more fun and will boost the language learning rate.
When your child is old enough for a more structured learning environment like a preschool or elementary school, there are various types of bilingual instruction available. You could supplement Hebrew learning in any number of these settings. These types of bilingual programs include:
Maintenance bilingual education: These programs are designed to help children learn two languages. In most countries, the home language is not the main language of the country or region. The goal is to help the students become biliterate.
Transitional bilingual education: These programs aim to help children transition from their native language to the language of the majority culture. Content instruction is in the child’s first language initially and the child at the same time receives instruction in the second language. Later, when more language skills are learned, the child is moved into classes taught in the second language for all subjects.
Immersion bilingual education: Students are generally native speakers of a majority language. At least half of the content matter is taught in a second language. The idea is that students are fully immersed in the second language throughout the school day. Some researchers claim this method of language instruction is the best for early language learning because of the increased time spent with the “new” language and because young children do not have any concept of primary language in their brain.
Two-way (or dual-language) immersion bilingual education: These programs aim to help native speakers of a language to learn a different language, while at the same time helping children who already speak the native language to learn the “new” language. Children from both language groups are together much of the day, and content matter instruction is delivered in both languages. The goal of these programs is to help promote bilingualism, biliteracy, and cross-cultural understanding for all.
Several researchers claim that it is impossible to have one language teaching method because there are too many individual, cultural and contextual factors to learning and teaching. Also, language learning is very difficult to measure because of the various skills within Hebrew (i.e., semantics, phonology, pragmatics, grammar and vocabulary). It is important to note that bilingual children often mix the languages when speaking. This is known as code-switching or code-mixing. You do not need to worry when this happens as it a very common and short-lived part of language development.
Specific Activities to Help Teach Language
Here are some helpful tips to make the journey of learning the Hebrew language more successful:
Books are an effective tool for teaching Hebrew. You can ask your child questions along the way about the characters, setting and plot. You can predict what will happen next, why the author wrote the book a certain way and what they feel the purpose of the book is. Through books, you can introduce other countries, cultures and languages.
There are many CDs and videos that you can find at a local library or bookstore that teach about languages and cultures. It is suggested to find some that are age appropriate for your child. It is common to find Hebrew songs translated into Hebrew. This makes it helpful in showing the individual vocabulary words for words and concepts that your child may already know. You can rely on the melody of the song to teach the alphabet and some simple phrases and concepts that any of the songs may focus on. If you think of some of the songs or rhymes you were taught as a child, you can see how these can enhance learning.
Games of I Spy, Bingo and Memory can all be made and played to enhance vocabulary of this new language. If your child enjoys a particular game in their native language, you might want to consider adapting it for teaching this second language. Flash Cards or picture cards can be made to practice certain vocabulary words.
Interaction with others who are learning the Hebrew language is important. Perhaps, you can join or start a Hebrew playgroup and meet a few times a week or month. You can also incorporate some cultural lessons in the playgroup: sharing of international recipes, a movie about the country, a few songs or rhymes to exchange. Perhaps each time the group meets, a different child/parent could be in charge of the refreshment and some simple activity (game or craft from that country) to share.
You know what your child likes so try to use those interests with learning Hebrew. If they like animals, introduce the animals in Hebrew, etc.
Visit an area where Hebrew is spoken. It might be a supermarket or restaurant, an area of your city or a trip to a different city that has native speakers. There may be a cultural center, museum or church that highlights that particular language or culture. Sometimes there are festivals, musical/drama/dance performances that cover a certain language.
Explore geography with your child. Teach them about where the countries are located where Hebrew is spoken and some things about the country (products, dress, foods, etc.)
You can try recipes and foods that are native to a specific region or country where Hebrew is spoken as a primary language. Again, there is a lot to learn about the various ingredients, how the foods are eaten, etc.
Foster creativity! Encourage your children to make up stories and plays, dress-up and pretend in Hebrew. Any art activity whether using colored chalk, crayons, clay or paint, your child can write these new Hebrew words or talk about their artwork in Hebrew.
Consider others who might speak Hebrew. Perhaps there are high school or college students in the area who speak the language. They might be able to babysit or come with you on an outing. You might be able to find someone in that native country and use a webcam or Skype to talk to that person on a regular basis.
Everyday opportunities exist to speak Hebrew 25% of the day. Research concludes that you need this much time to acquire and maintain the new language. So it is important to try to integrate Hebrew in as many everyday experiences as possible. From mealtime to bath time, to nap time and play, try to encourage the children to use Hebrew. Conversational teaching is what is important.
Build in appropriate rewards. You might consider taking your child for a reward when a specific language milestone is reached. Perhaps it is so many words or phrases; perhaps it is learning the alphabet or a song, the days of the weeks, counting to 20, etc. Taking your child out for icecream or to a special restaurant, on a picnic, to the zoo or museum or to the park to play would be wonderful incentives for your child to want to learn more.
You can teach lessons each day, but if you can teach (children) to learn by
creating curiosity, they will continue the learning process as long as they live.
-Clay P. Bedford, the late President of Kaiser Aerospace & Electronics Corporation