Tips for Raising Bilingual Children
Learning more than one language has major benefits on a linguistic, social, and cognitive level. Today we'll share some tips for raising bilingual children.
Today, we live in a highly globalized world. Therefore, being able to speak more than one language is more and more valuable. In today’s article, we’ll share several helpful tips for raising bilingual children.
The advantages of raising bilingual children
First of all, being bilingual offers individuals the possibility of communicating with more people from more parts of the world. But beyond this obvious advantage, there are also many cognitive, academic, and social benefits to speaking more than one language.
Learning or being exposed to more than one language stimulates language development in children. What’s more, these children tend to get better grades and are able to find more creative alternatives when it comes to problem-solving.
And of course, we can’t forget that the wide range of excellent job opportunities that are available to those who are bilingual.
Childhood as a crucial stage for language learning
Exposing children to a second language as early as possible is an especially relevant factor. The younger a child is, the more ease they have when pronouncing the sounds of different languages.
The capacity to distinguish and produce these subtle differences in pronunciation is optimal during the first 6 years of life. Therefore, learning new positions for the lips and tongue becomes more complicated once our ears have become accustomed to the sounds of one specific language.
Brain plasticity is at its height during the preschool stage. However, children up to 10 years of age still possess a great capacity to learn.
Keys for raising bilingual children
Decide that you want to raise bilingual children and how you want to accomplish it
Teaching a second language to children is a challenge that requires constant effort from both parents. Simply exposing children to the language on occasion won’t be enough.
Choose your method
The circumstances of each family are different. Therefore, it’s up to each individual family to decide on a method for raising bilingual children that most adapts to their situation.
- One parent, one language. This method is best for families whose parents each have a different native language. In this case, each parent addresses their children in their own mother tongue. At the same time, their children learn to communicate with each parent in a different language.
- One context, one language. This option is useful when both parents master both languages that they want their children to learn. The parents simply establish different situations, or contexts, for each language. For example, they can use the minority language (the one that’s less common in their country) while at home. The entire family will then use this language to communicate when they’re at home. However, when they’re out in public, at school, or visiting friends, they’ll use the other language.
- Classes, courses, and programs. Of course, there are families where neither of the parents masters the target language fluently. If these families want to raise bilingual children, then it’s best to resort to schools or institutions that teach children a second language. Looking into extracurricular programs or exchange programs in foreign countries is worth your time. And, of course, you can consider the option of hiring a nanny that speaks a different language.
Use complementary resources
Take advantage of cartoons, videos from the internet, applications, books, and songs in the target language. This way, your children will start to incorporate sounds and meanings in a fun and relaxed context.
At the same time, having a community that supports your efforts can be extremely helpful. Get in touch with other parents that are facing the same challenge, or families that speak the target language. That way, you can exchange questions, concerns, and advice.
You can establish this contact through internet groups or, preferably, in person. That way, your children will have a group of friends with whom they can communicate using their second language.
Setting things straight
Teaching a second language to our children is no easy task. Difficulties will arise and, on occasion, children reject this teaching. Therefore, you need to be patient and stay positive.
Don’t force your children to use another language, but do try to teach them the benefits that being bilingual offers. Create situations where your children need their second language in order to communicate with others.
And, above all, use your creativity. For example, you could get a new family pet and tell your kids it’s from another country. That way, you can encourage them to speak to the animal in that country’s language and thus encourage them to learn and practice.