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Teaching Kids New Languages on the Road

Mango Languages

In an ideal world, we’d all be raised bi- or tri-lingual and not have to worry about communicating in native tongues when we travel abroad. Until then, however, most of us (here in the U.S., at least) are stuck playing catch-up; we identify second languages we wish to speak, then we learn them. Slowly. And not always that well.

Thankfully, technology has improved considerably since we traveling parents were kids. As a result, there are a number of options we can use to help our children pick up a langauge. Many of the latest and greatest options actually are designed to be used for mobile devices, which means you can enable your kids to learn the language of the country you visit on your next family excursion overseas as you go.

Some of these tools are better than others. Some also are more kid-friendly.

Without question, the one I like best is Mango Languages, which has a special animation-and-video-oriented line for kids ages 0-6. This special program, dubbed Little Pim, was created by award-winning filmmaker Julia Pimsleur Levine and teaches kids up to 180 words and phrases per course (or 60 per session). The only downside: It’s actually not available on the app. You'll need to work with your local library to access the service, since some libraries may not wish to subscribe.

Other programs with compelling kid-oriented mobile language-learning products: the U.K.’s MUZZY, GoGoLingo (which was acquired by Rosetta Stone in April 2012), and Transparent Language.

All of these offerings are worth consideration. Heck, even Byki, Rocket Lanugages and Live Mocha are worthwhile (though only Byki has an app right now).

Of course the best way for kids to learn a new language when you’re traveling abroad is through immersion. To achieve this, spend some quality time with relatives who speak another tongue (if you've got them) or enroll your kids in a short-term social program in your destination country. Even if you’re only traveling for a short while, the results will amaze you.

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