Are you trying to learn English, or would you like your kids to speak English? It is common knowledge that babies who are exposed to more than one language at a very young age are able to acquire them naturally and effortlessly. So it makes sense that parents would be keen to start teaching their kids to be bilingual, even from the time they are babies.
The advantages for your child being bilingual are numerous. Not only will they never struggle in school with language classes, or pay for lessons during school holidays, but they will be better able to adapt throughout their life to different situations thanks to their language knowledge. It has also been shown that while bilingual children may sometimes perform lower in languages at first than their peers (for example making oral mistakes), over time they will far surpass them, as well as in other school subjects.
But how do you raise a bilingual baby, who will become a bilingual child and adult?
There are lots of things you can do to make it happen! But it really comes down to a real committment from the parents. If the baby learns to speak in a totally bilingual home, then the effort on the parents’ part is much less; but if the parents are mono-lingual and want their child to be bilingual, there must be a concerted, conscious effort every step along the way.
Here’s 5 tips to help you get started!
1. Start young! Even before your baby is learning to talk, expose them to the second language as much as possible. If mom and dad each speak a different language, make an effort to each speak to the baby in your native language all the time. If mom and dad are both bilingual, the baby will hear both languages being spoken and they can eventually differentiate between the two. However, if mom and dad are not bilingual, you’ll have to make the effort to expose baby to the second language as much as possible through books, music, videos and most importantly, PEOPLE. Babies always learn best directly from people, compared to non-human voices.
2. Make it happen. Your baby won’t magically become bilingual unless they are put in situations where the language is spoken—and they can hear it! If mom or dad aren’t bilingual, many large cities provide day care centers which immerse children in the second language, such as Spanish or English. Here in Grenoble, France for example, Speak English Kids provides week-long English immersion day camps for both native speaking children and local French children together, and the result has been a fantastic and fun learning experience. You can also join local associations or clubs where the language is spoken, and try to meet families with other children who speak the language. The key is to expose the child to the language as often as possible in any way you can.
3. Make friends. Sometimes all it takes is one great friend to teach us so much in terms of speaking and expressing oneself in language. Young children love to mimic each other and everyone around them. If they have native speakers of the second language around them, forming bonds and emotional memories, the baby’s brain is able to acquire a language much faster than any other method. This can be achieved through family friends, day care providers, neighbors, or their own little friends.
4. Build a home library. Books and videos are excellent ways to become immersed in a language. Reading to your child in the second language, singing songs, and watching videos are all great ways to build and maintain their enjoyment and exposure to the language. It’s important to find balance between the two languages the child is learning, so you may want to have separate places for two different home libraries. You may want to designate certain days or activities for one language or the other.
5. Ignore the critics. You may hear people say that exposing a baby or young child to more than one language can be confusing for them, and delay their progress at school. You can take comfort in knowing that this is not the case, and there is much evidence to back this up. Children who grow up bilingual tend to be more open-minded, have a better ability to focus, communicate better and have more diverse interests.
Raising your baby or child to be bilingual is a gift you can give them which will last their entire lifetime. Are there any reasons not to?
Have you raised bilingual children?
What methods or activities did you use?
Do you think it give your children an advantage in the world?