Full immersion is one of the fastest ways to learn a new language. However, most parents don't have the ability to spend a year or more abroad, and certainly educators aren't able to fly their classes to experience a particular culture firsthand.
Since you can't get students to the other side of the world, you have to bring the world to them. One of the best ways to do this is by using authentic materials when teaching a foreign language to kids.
Authentic materials are any learning tools that were created by native speakers of the language being taught. They are not created specifically for a student audience, but can serve a deep purpose in helping kids experience the culture and become multilingual.
Some examples of authentic materials include:
- News interviews
- Toys and games
- Musical instruments
- Art forms and crafts
Why are authentic materials so important? Because they are the building blocks of culture and everyday experiences for the people who speak the language being studied. It represents who they are, how they live, what they value and how they express themselves.
When someone who doesn't speak the language experiences authentic materials, it's like peeking into a fascinating new world. The richness of the culture is immediately apparent, igniting curiosity and a desire to learn more. It also fosters an appreciation for other ways of life, underscoring important diversity lessons.
Consider an 8-year-old student in the United States who is reading a Spanish comic that is extremely popular with boys and girls of the same age in Mexico. Not only does this connect the student with the modern culture in Mexico, but it instantly connects two diverse people. They may live thousands of miles apart, but now they have one thing in common: this fascinating comic book.
Of course, by reading authentic materials, you're also learning proper use of a language as well as dialect. A student experiences the target language in context! Same goes if you sing a song, cook from a native cookbook, read the directions and play a cultural board game, etc. By having the everyday experience of native speakers, emotional and intellectual connections are made that enhance a student's learning curve significantly.
It's usually pretty easy to tell an authentic material from an inauthentic one, but if you're unsure, ask yourself a few questions. Is the audience for this material students or native speakers? Would this be something that would be used by the people that live in a country where this language is spoken? Was this created by a native, fluent speaker?
At Language Stars, our classes are taught by native speakers. This helps enrich the language-learning experience itself, but it also allows each classroom to experience many different types of authentic materials. Perhaps it's a book a teacher loved as a child, or a favorite movie from their homeland. It's just one of the many ways Language Stars classes make learning fun and effective for children ages 12 months through 12 years.