Audiobooks-Surprising Benefits of This New Trend for Children's Language Acquisition
Online children's audiobooks are rapidly increasing in popularity and this is of great benefit for families living overseas. Audio content is often easily accessible, doesn't require a considerable amount of internet data to stream or download, and doesn't use up any of the precious pounds allotted for your luggage. If you are living (or are planning to live) overseas with young children, audiobooks can be valuable for language development of both the first language and any secondary languages. For older children and teens, audiobooks can enhance their formal vocabulary in the target language(s) and can be a great alternative for those who aren't particularly fond of sitting down to read a book.
If your children attend (or are planning to attend) a local school where academics are taught in a language other than what is spoken in the home, audiobooks can be an incredibly helpful tool for language-acquisition. Books tend to use more formal diction and this is often what is required and expected in an academic setting. The academic version of a language often sounds slightly different and uses different words than the conversational language. In some locations, a school setting requires a completely different language than the language spoken in the community or in the home. For example, in Burkina Faso, Mossi is the language commonly spoken in the local communities, however, French is the language used in schools. Because of this, the children's time spent with friends in the local community will not necessarily give them the opportunity to practice their academic language. If you, the parent, are not fluent in your children’s academic language, you will also have a difficult time helping them with schoolwork. Thus, supplementing their learning with other resources, like audiobooks, may be essential tools in assisting your child or children in developing new language skills.
Audiobooks are also greatly helpful in locations where the written language does not use a phonetic alphabet. In our language-acquisition training, we often recommend beginning language learning with children's books, starting with "baby books" and steadily increasing in complexity as your vocabulary increases--in much the same way as all human beings learn to speak and converse. However, in contexts where the written language does not use the English alphabet, it is difficult (or impossible!) for a parent to correctly read even a simple children's book out loud to their children. While learning to write in the target language may eventually be necessary, speaking and understanding is of first importance and these skills can grow immensely through auditory resources.
Because audiobooks are rapidly increasing in popularity, they are also increasing in availability in a wide variety of languages. The current largest site for audio content is Audible, which is run by Amazon. They offer children's audiobooks in 12 languages, but are planning to expand to include many more in the coming months. If you are not yet a member, you can receive a free book to try it out. Another resource is Librivox. They provide free public domain audiobooks in a variety of languages. They do not have as wide of a selection as Audible, but it is nice to have a free option. Audiobooks are a fantastic resource for parents who desire to raise bi or multi-lingual children overseas and I hope you find these auditory resources encouraging as you and your family pursue this new journey together!