Teaching a baby to be bilingual isn’t as hard as it looks. Remember that babies aren’t born knowing any language, but they do have the capacity to learn any language. They’re born with the capacity to make 40 sounds, and with that ability, they’re able to learn any language. According to Erika Levy, Ph.D., assistant professor of speech and language pathology at Columbia University Teachers College in New York City, who was quoted in a Parent.com article, “They can learn to understand new words in two different languages at an incredibly fast rate.” Don’t worry, your child won’t get confused or any other silly myth you’ve heard. As a matter of fact, teaching your child to be bilingual has enormous benefits for them in the long run. If you’ve decided you want your child to reap these benefits, keep reading.
How Do I Teach My Child To Be Bilingual?
The short answer is: the same way they learn their first language – talk, talk, talk, talk. Remember that children learn to speak before they can read or even write, that’s why talking to them in their target language is a key step in ensuring fluency in both. However, if you’re not bilingual yourself, you will have to get help. Consider the following tips:
Find People Who Speak the Language
If you’re monolingual, great, you can speak to your baby in your language. However, if you’re not bilingual, you’ll have to find someone who is fluent in the target language. This could be a friend, nanny, babysitter, au pair, or even a language tutor. Babies need real interaction in order to learn languages. That means talking to them in the language and pointing out things to them in the language. According to Nancy Rhodes, director of foreign-language education at the Center for Applied Linguistics, in Washington, D.C. “If you have a bilingual babysitter, encourage her to speak her native language to your child exclusively.”
Learn the Basics
If your child is really young, you can help foster a love for the language and teach them some vocabulary. For example, you could teach your child to count in both English and their target language and the colors in both English and their target language. By learning the basics such as numbers, colors, greetings, etc., you can begin to expose your baby to the language.
Introduce the Language as Early As Possible
The best time to start teaching your baby a second language is right now. Don’t worry about confusing them. According to Parents.com, “Two- and three-year-olds are not only increasing their vocabularies, they’re starting to recognize the speech patterns they’ve been hearing since birth.” The article continues, “The earlier you introduce a second language, the easier it will be for your child to pick up its unique sounds.” Your baby is not too young to start learning a second language, as a matter of fact, now is a perfect time.
Supplement Language Learning
Just to be crystal clear, TV and games will not make your child fluent, but they can help to reinforce vocabulary and make them interested in learning a language. There are bilingual books you could read to them as well as plop them down to watch some Spanish cartoons on Netflix. These things can make language learning so enjoyable for them. YouTube is also a great resource for parents wanting to teach their children a language; they have many helpful videos and game ideas. According to Francois Thibaut, director of the Language Workshop for Children in New York City, who was quoted in a Parent.com article, “So just hearing a television show, listening to music, or learning a few words in a second language will give your child essential tools for appreciating it now and learning to speak it later.”
While children are usually excellent learners, it’s best to manage expectations and not expect too much too soon from the baby. According to the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association, “From time to time, children may mix grammar rules. They might use words from both languages in the same sentence. This is a normal part of becoming bilingual.” Even Parents.com urges you to have reasonable expectations. Remember your child’s English isn’t perfect at this stage, so it’s not strange that the second language wouldn’t be either. They have a lot to learn and that’s okay. Make sure they have a supportive learning environment.
Enroll them in Classes When They’re Old Enough
TruFluency Kids offers classes for children as young as 4 years old. Languages classes are a great way to make sure your child will be fluent in the language because they are taught by people experienced in teaching a language. The tutors will be able to give the child the exposure and interaction needed to achieve fluency. Children need real conversation and interaction in the target language to be fluent, there is no going around that – online is 100% okay as long as it is a live instructor. All the other tips are really just to supplement learning the language and maintain interest. Look at it this way, we knew how to speak English before we even started pre-school, but we still had to take English classes straight up until we finished high school. While language classes in schools don’t usually make us fluent, don’t overlook the importance of a well-taught and interactive class. An interactive class makes all the difference.
If you’re ready for your child to pick up Spanish and be bilingual then contact us, we’d love to help and answer any questions you may have. Check out a class for just $12 bucks! Our methods are tried and proven so you can be confident in your child learning effectively learning Spanish.