Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons

Buying guide for best foreign language materials

By the time most kids are in elementary school, they’re taking their first foreign language classes. It’s exciting to learn a new way to communicate, but there’s a lot of information to take in, which is why parents often invest in foreign language materials for their kids.

Not only do they give kids a leg up, but foreign language materials often approach languages in different ways compared to what kids experience in a classroom setting. While they remain educational in nature, the lessons in foreign language materials are structured without being rigid. More than anything, foreign language materials aim to balance self-paced learning with engagement in an attempt to encourage kids to progress in language fluency.

Wondering which foreign language materials are right for your kids? Keep reading our buying guide for an overview of popular formats, including workbooks, CDs, and even interactive games. We also include shopping tips to help you find the most age- and level-appropriate choices. When you’re ready to buy, check out our picks for the best foreign language materials.

Grammar, including verb tense and conjugation, is the most difficult concept to master in a foreign language, and it’s common for learners to revisit these lessons to solidify their understanding.

Key considerations

Age vs. level

Foreign language materials are designed in a different way than learning materials for other subjects, which are usually categorized by age or grade. Because kids progress in language learning at different speeds, these materials are designed in a hybrid model of age and fluency level. While you’ll still find many foreign language materials that are recommended for specific age groups, it’s not unusual for materials to be used by kids outside these parameters.

A common example is a student changing to a school that teaches a different foreign language than the one he’s studied. Because the curriculum may be too advanced for a new learner, kids in this situation utilize foreign language materials that cover the basics to get them up to speed. Many ideal choices are actually foreign language materials intended for a younger age as explanations are generally simple and concise.

Focus

Foreign language materials mainly focus on conversation, composition, building vocabulary, and mastering grammar. Some foreign language materials emphasize a single area, while others offer a comprehensive approach.

If you’re not sure whether your kid will do better with focused or comprehensive materials, assess her performance in each of these areas. If she’s fairly adept across the board and wants to advance in her overall understanding, opt for comprehensive materials. On the other hand, kids who need to develop a specific area, such as their pronunciation, will do better with a more focused set of foreign language materials.

Format

Textbooks and workbooks remain the most popular foreign language materials. Both are arranged in digestible sections to help students master one set of skills before progressing to the next. Textbooks consist of lessons and corresponding questions. Workbooks allow kids to write directly in them.

Foreign language materials often come with audio or video components. These typically include CDs, DVDs, or access to an online portal. Media like this is helpful when it comes to improving pronunciation and developing conversational skills, especially for auditory learners. Rather than relying on strictly book-based instruction, audio and video allow kids to hear the language they’re learning. In videos where kids are able to watch native speakers, they also become accustomed to changing the shape of the mouth to produce specific sounds.

Interactive platforms consist of games, downloadable content, and online access to conversational forums with native speakers. Games and downloadable content offer more unlimited access to resources compared to books and some media-based foreign language materials. While certain platforms are age- and level-specific, more comprehensive platforms offer a wider range of content to cover multiple age groups and fluency levels. Online platforms that allow you to enter chat rooms or forums with native speakers are modeled after language labs. In this environment, kids are able to engage in a focused exchange with native speakers. The native speakers are usually able to give concise feedback on grammar, vocabulary usage, and pronunciation.

Features

Images and illustrations

Many textbooks and workbooks contain images and illustrations. Foreign language materials geared toward younger kids will have more imagery, especially in the vocabulary sections. This helps kids establish a visual association with the words they hear. Books for older kids also contain images. However, they aren’t the primary focus of the content. More than anything, images work to break up dense sections of text to boost engagement level.

Pronunciation

Part of the mastery of foreign languages is developing pronunciation. In text-based materials, you’ll find phonetic spellings of vocabulary words, which include emphasized syllables. Media and platform-based materials utilize pronunciation exercises. In some programs, words or phrases are pronounced by multiple speakers of different ages, genders, and dialects. The repetition helps kids acclimate to the pronunciation by identifying the same sound multiple times, making it easier to replicate.

Contextual information

Most foreign language materials include contextual information to supplement language learning. This can include information on culture, cuisine, geography, or etymology as well as maps, charts, and even anecdotes from native speakers. These facts are peppered throughout books and integrated into interactive programs to pique interest as well as boost engagement. They also operate as a way to kickstart lessons, such as studying the Pampas of South America to introduce kids to a Spanish vocabulary lesson on landforms and geography.

Did you know?
Even though Latin is a dead language, it’s still taught in many schools. Latin is the foundation of medical and scientific terminology, and it’s useful for growing your vocabulary and mastering grammar in English as well as other languages.
STAFF
BestReviews

Prices for foreign language materials

Foreign language materials cost between $10 and $200, with price mostly dependent on the type of materials. If you’re looking for a focused textbook, workbook, or CD, you’ll spend between $10 and $20. You’ll also find some audiobooks or ebooks geared toward adults in this range.

Bundled materials, which include books as well as media, typically run between $25 and $60. These are especially popular with kids as they present the language through more than one medium.

For more comprehensive learning with a wealth of resources at your disposal, be prepared to pay between $75 and $200. These foreign language materials include well-developed, structured programs or are entirely interactive and may require a subscription.

Tips

  • Make flashcards. One way to solidify understanding of vocabulary terms is to write them on flashcards. You can even use these flashcards to play games that help kids flex their language skills.
  • Focus on comprehension, not memorization. While kids might be able to memorize certain terms, actually learning concepts like verb tense and conjugation requires deeper engagement.
  • Invest in foreign language materials prior to a trip. If you’re planning on traveling to a foreign country, give kids a dose of culture by introducing them to the language before you go. They might even continue learning it as a hobby once you return.
To keep kids on track during summer break, many parents invest in foreign language materials to reinforce the previous year’s curriculum.

FAQ

Q. Will using foreign language materials improve my kids’ grades?
A.
While you might find a positive correlation between supplemental instruction and your kids’ grades in foreign language classes at school, there’s no guarantee. Materials can be hit or miss for kids, so sometimes it takes trying more than one bundle or type of learning modality to find success.
 

Q. Will I need to buy my kids a dictionary to use with their foreign language materials?
A.
It’s unlikely. Most foreign language materials have dedicated vocabulary sections and sometimes come with their own mini dictionaries. If kids are stuck with a few terms here and there, you can also use Google Translate or language translation devices for clarification. However, it’s important to know that translation can be more literal than accurate at times.
 

Q. English is not our first language at home. Can my kids benefit from using foreign language materials to improve their fluency?
A.
Yes. In homes where another language is spoken, kids are most fluent in conversation, but they tend to use the language less often for composition. Many parents invest in foreign language materials to help kids develop more formal writing skills as well as grow their vocabulary and grammar skills in a structured program.

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey

Our Top Picks