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Five Ways to Keep Kids' Summer Reading and Language Learning Fresh This Summer

summerslide-01Summer is around the corner, and for kids of all ages, there will be an inevitable beeline to the nearest bonfire to burn the year’s textbooks, papers, and tests. We want to warn you now: save their foreign language textbooks. Not just because cruelty against foreign language materials deeply pains us, but because this summer, continued learning is crucial for your child’s long-term language-learning success. We define success as measurable, ongoing growth in language and culture learning, conversational confidence in their target language, and a true passion and enthusiasm for their chosen language. There's no better time than summer to make language learning your family's next adventure.

The threat of the “summer slide” is real, and we’re not talking about the cool, fun kind at the water park – although we highly encourage your kids to spend plenty of time there, too. We’re talking about the retention backslide that occurs when the three months of summer pass by and little to no language learning occurs, and kids find themselves losing the valuable skills they learned the year prior. Whether your child is aiming to earn college credit or just trying to avoid the wrath of Herr Gärtner next fall, we have five effective ways to enrich your child’s life with language and culture this summer.

1. Use your community

In today’s global world, your community is ripe with valuable language and cultural connections that can enrich your child’s language-learning experience. Tap into your social network for fun mentoring, volunteering, and cultural opportunities available in your child’s chosen language. Odds are you’re within six degrees of separation from a native speaker, a teacher, or an expert who is excited to share language and culture with your child this summer. It may come in the form of pen pals, mutual mentoring, or local theater – whatever it is, it'll likely come free. Reach out to your child’s teachers, to your neighbors, friends, and local community centers, and find new and exciting learning opportunities to keep language learning going all summer long.

2. Use media

In a dream world, summer would mean shutting off screens and spending these three months at one with nature: frolicking in meadows, wading in lakes, and camping out in the woods. We’re sure your family will get a healthy dose of nature this summer, but when the screens do light up, we want you to make the most of it. Research popular shows, music, and literature in your child’s chosen language, and introduce those that align most to their interests. Blast music in their target language when you’re driving them around, stock the house with culturally relevant books and magazines, and watch television shows and movies together in a new language (subtitles optional!).

Do you have a smart phone addict in your family? Redirect the obsession and have them download free language-learning apps to their phone (Mango is fully mobile!), or change their phone’s default language to their target language. How do you say Instagram in Spanish? Not your problem.

3. Use your passport (virtual counts)

If you’re like us, you follow the mantra of the Dalai Lama as closely as possible. And when the Dalai Lama says, “Once a year, go someplace you’ve never been before,” it’s best to heed his advice. If it’s in the stars for your family to travel abroad this summer, maximize the experience by planning a trip to a locale relevant to your child’s language-learning goals. Immersing your child in a new language and culture is the best crash course out there, and the new experience will create excitement and motivation for continued learning post-trip.

Strapped for cash this summer? Some of the best adventures are unfolding in your own backyard. Around the country, summer cultural festivals and events are taking place, and they are full of native speakers, delicious native foods, and exciting cultural exposure for the whole family. Hop on Google and look up cultural festivals happening in your city, or a major city near you, and let the adventure begin.

4. Use your imagination

Continued learning is key for maintaining for your child’s language learning between school years. Every effort, big and small, helps build and round out your child’s knowledge and enthusiasm for their new language. Get creative and build language-learning supports based on their interests and passions. If your child is a bookworm, check out fiction in their target language, or books written by the culture’s most famous authors. If you’ve got a hipster on your hands, your child may enjoy immersing themselves in the culture’s fashion, alternative trends, and music. Set their Pandora to a new station, gather up some hip magazines, and watch the language-loving sparks fly.

Summer tends to move quickly, and most families find themselves short on time, money, and even ideas. Save yourself the stress and keep it simple: your local library is a goldmine of resources; including take-home language-learning resources, clubs, books, and community classes for all ages. Take a trip with your child early in the summer and explore the opportunities together.

5. Use Mango Languages

You knew this was coming. Mango loves company, and we think your summer language-learning endeavors would look great with us by their side. As bright and fun as a summer day, Mango is best served chilled, on the beach with the whole family. We’re suitable for ages six and up, and like a fine wine, we get better with age – meaning the more time your child spends with us, the more they will learn. Our courses use actual conversations to deliver relevant language and culture, increasing retention and comprehension for learners all summer long. For younger learners, we offer Little Pim courses, in which an adorable talking Panda guides your child through kid-friendly language lessons, using repetition and visuals to reinforce vocabulary in a new language.

The moral of the story: language learning can be really fun, especially in the summer. Maximize your child’s three months of freedom by exploring language and culture in new and exciting ways, and even better, do it together. Fingers crossed you'll bring us along for the ride.

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Jillian Rodriguez

Jillian is a writer and editor out of Detroit, Michigan. She loves connecting people through new ideas, interesting stories, and good conversation. In her free time, Jillian loves to read, write, and listen to podcasts - in Spanish and in English!

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