Children's Education

How to help your kids with homework when you don’t speak the language

Tips for expat parents abroad: find out how you can help with homework even if you don’t speak the language.

Homework help

By Gary Buswell

Updated 28-2-2024

One of the challenges for expat parents can be how to support children receiving education in a foreign language. This is the case for many parents of children who go to a school that teaches in their new country’s native language. If you’ve found the perfect school for your child but don’t know how to help with their homework, don’t despair. Here are some homework tips which explain how foreign-speaking parents can still help their children with schoolwork:

Help your child with preparing their homework routine

Helping your child with homework doesn’t mean you have to speak the language or understand the concept. One of the most important things all parents can do is create a homework routine. Students need a regular study time and place for their homework, away from distractions such as television or social media.

Students in a classroom in Belgium

You don’t have to be a master of the language or subject to provide homework help. That should be a relief to parents whose school days are long behind them! Providing simple practical support on how to manage homework – making sure it’s not left until the last minute, or even doing work yourself at the same time to set a good example – can be a great help.

Schools usually have a homework policy that can help guide parents on this.

Translate the homework into the home language

For those that want to get really stuck in, there’s always the option of translating the homework. Fortunately, this is quite easy with online tools.

Translating homework assignments can also help parents and children understand the purpose of the homework.

Enroll your child in after-school study programs

Education isn’t just during school hours. Many schools run out-of-hours clubs that offer homework help and support. This is a great way for parents to ensure that their child gets homework help if they’re stretched for time or find it difficult to set a routine.

Some schools provide a free homework club after school. Children can get assistance from a teacher so that all their homework is completed before they go home. This reduces stress for both parents and children and ensures that evenings are free to pursue other interests and hobbies.

Take an interest in your child’s learning

Showing an interest and being there to help is a great way to start as it makes the child realize that you view their learning as a priority.

A father helping his daughter with her homework

If your child sees that you’re taking an interest in how they’re progressing, it can have a positive impact on their achievements. There are a few ways you can do this, including:

  • Asking your child questions about what they have been learning
  • Giving regular encouragement and celebrating your child’s successes
  • Providing a listening ear when your child encounters difficulties with school or school-work

It can also help if parents stay close to where their children are doing homework. That way the child knows that the parent shows interest and is on hand to help if necessary.

Keep in regular contact with class teachers

If you can get to know your child’s teacher, you’ll have a better understanding of what they’re looking for. Many schools have events and parent-teacher sessions where parents can attend and ask questions. If language barriers prevent you from being able to take full advantage of opportunities such as these, you can keep up communication in writing.

At some schools, teachers e-mail parents regularly, detailing their upcoming lessons. Translate these into your home language so you understand the assignments.

Finally… resist the urge to do the homework yourself!

Don’t forget that it’s not your homework. Your child won’t benefit if they don’t think for themselves and learn from their own mistakes.

Be available to provide homework help, support, and guidance, but resist the urge to do it for them. Homework is an extension of school learning and children should be able to complete it themselves under parental guidance.