How to speed up your kids’ language learning process

How to speed up your kids’ language learning process

12-year-olds already have an English vocabulary of 3.000 words on average. This is because young people learn a lot when watching foreign-language TV programmes and playing games in foreign languages, mostly English.

Young people experience larger learning gains

Research has shown that auditory support facilitates text comprehension and speeds up the learning process. Young people experience larger learning gains if a TV broadcast in a foreign language is also subtitled in that language because you then hear and read the words at the same time. This is the conclusion of a study by the Language Education and Society research group at KU Leuven.

According to Professor Elke Peters, boys, who generally play more video games than girls, achieve higher scores on English language tests at the age of twelve. When it comes to the French language, this is different because usually students only get in contact with the language through their French teacher and handbooks. Perception is also very different. “French is considered a school subject, while English enjoys a very different status," says Peters.

Research also shows that because computer games are interactive, they promote language skills. We must be aware that increasing language contact via TV or gaming alone is not enough. It is really important that children of primary school age learn a language in a more explicit way. Practising and repeating vocabulary proves to be indispensable, and you can build on that through games, tailor-made material, TV or books.


Anyone watching a television programme in a foreign language, with subtitles in the same language, does not only understand what is being said but also learns new words faster, says research from iMinds - ITEC KU Leuven Kulak. Maribel Montero Perez did her doctoral thesis "Watch and Learn ?!” on this subject.

The students from the four test groups who watched TV with subtitles scored significantly better on the vocabulary tests than the control group. The survey afterwards showed that the students greatly appreciated the presence of full subtitles in the same language.

The evolution of more programmes offering subtitles is welcome, not only for the deaf and hard of hearing, but it can also help TV-speaking foreigners to expand their vocabulary knowledge faster and thus improve their language skills.

Karaoke reading

Listening and reading at the same time! With karaoke reading, you can concentrate better on the content and you will not get tired of reading.

Karaoke books are digital books that are combined with the spoken version of the book. While reading, you will be supported by a karaoke bar that follows the text that is simultaneously read by a human voice. So, you can see per word where you are on the page! You can also adjust the speed of the reader and the font size of the text as desired, so you can read in your own way and at your own pace.

Karaoke reading was developed by Dedicon. They mention the following benefits:

  • The (human) voice supports the story through emotion, so you understand the story better
  • You can alternate reading and listening
  • You do not always have to read back to understand what it says, you follow the red thread
  • You can read faster through the reading voice
  • You can use headphones in the classroom to read quietly.
  • You have various options, such as reading rate and font size.


Read and listen at the same time with a listen-a-long book! A listening book makes reading, and learning to read, more fun and accessible. While reading a real book, they hear the spoken text at the same time.

By reading and listening at the same time, the reader’s attention can be entirely focused on understanding the text. They can focus more on the story that they are reading, which makes reading more fun and accessible, crucial for motivation!


From my personal language learning experience, I believe listening and involving yourself in authentic conversation leads to better improvement of your speaking competency. More often than not, I incidentally learn new phrases or words, in their contexts, after having a meaningful conversation and I find myself, surprisingly, using them afterwards in my later conversations.

So, be immersed in the language by having native speakers all around you, providing in-context opportunities to match their words to their actions and objects. Listening, reading and talking about what you have read will help you learn a second or third language faster!

How to level up your kids’ Dutch

So, to summarise, your kids can do the following things to level up their Dutch:

  • Play interactive computer games in Dutch
  • Follow Dutch YouTubers with subtitles on
  • Watch Dutch videos and subtitled movies
  • Go to Dutch reading websites to read and listen at the same time
  • Karaoke reading
  • Listen to listen-along-books
  • Authentic conversation

What are some of your favourite ways to help your child learn a language? Let us know in the comment section below!

Wendy van Dalen


Wendy van Dalen

Dutch lessons for (expat) children and their parents, tutoring, Remedial Teaching and homework support. Also language and culture support for parents. Please see or

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