Raising a bilingual or multilingual child in a monolingual country can be challenging, but learning an extra language is easier during childhood when the human brain is absorbing everything like a sponge. Arming your child with more than one language can lead to more job opportunities down the road, as well as the ability to connect to more people, both socially and professionally. Studies even show that being bilingual can help people keep a sharp mind through old age.
StepsMake it a team effort. Ideally, everyone in the household should be supportive of the child learning and using another language, even if not everyone speaks the language. Sometimes, one person in the household wants to teach the child another language, while others may object, or be indifferent or unsupportive. If this is the case, and assuming that you are the one who wants the child to be bilingual, discuss the benefits of multilingualism with other members of the household. The important thing is that when the child uses another language, everyone rewards and encourages it, rather than correcting them with the primary language.
- Example A toddler sees a carrot, points to it and says zanahoria! which is Spanish for carrot. A bad response would be to scowl or look confused and say No, carrot. A good response would be to smile and say Yes! Zanahoria. Carrot. Good job
- Other members of the family, especially the other parent, may be worried about feeling left out if you and the child have your own language. If this person is not willing to learn the language, you can suggest that they take on an activity with the child that you are not interested in so that they have something that is their own as well.
Read childrens books in another language.
Have the child watch programs especially educational ones and movies in another language.
Get a nanny or babysitter who speaks another language. Ask them to use that language when speaking to the child, and to encourage the child to use it as well. Set up play dates or put your child in playgroups with children who speak another language. Use peer pressure to your advantage! If you can not find an appropriate playgroup, considering starting one: How to Start a Local Playgroup
Expect the child to actively use another language. In a home where more than one language is used, a pattern might emerge where another language is spoken to the child, and the child understands it, but he or she does not know how to speak it because he or she responds in the primary language. Make it a rule that the child must respond in the language in which they are spoken to. Another option is to set aside a day or half day a week when only a particular language can be used.
Be persistent. There will probably come a time when the child do not want to speak the other language. It might become a big point of contention, especially as a child gets older. How you handle it will depend on your parenting style Will you strictly enforce usage of another language? Will you continue speaking the language even if the child refuses to speak it back? Will you take your next family vacation to a neighborhood or country where the other language is commonly used?
TipsThe sooner you start, the better. Children are more receptive both neurologically and attitude wise when they are younger.
Do not get worried if the child mixes languages. This is common, and it is temporary. By age 4 or 5, it should disappear on its own.
If you begin teaching your child several languages, and then drop all but one of them, do not feel too bad. As they get older, they will be able to pick up their second language much more easily than if they had had no exposure to it. Every little bit really does help with early language acquisition!
- How to Teach a Child Bilingual Reading
How to Communicate with a Non Native English Speaker
Sources and Citations
- Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Raise Bilingual Children. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.