Congratulations on your decision to raise a bilingual child. You must have heard about all the great benefits that come along with it and you’re probably excited. It’s totally normal if you’re a little anxious about it especially with all the myths circulating about raising a bilingual child. That is why we’re going to set some of your fears aside and empower you with the confidence to raise your tots to speak multiple languages.
Don’t worry – they’ll start talking
If you’re speaking to your baby in two languages and they’re not talking back in either one of them, don’t worry. It’s totally normal that bilingual kids take a little longer to start talking. So if you notice your friend’s monolingual kid speaking much more than yours, don’t give up on making your kids bilingual! They’ll start speaking in time. If you don’t believe us, watch this.
Be in it for the long haul
In order to raise a bilingual kid, you not only have to be very intentional but you have to be consistent. Consistency is the key to learning just about anything and so languages are not an exception. When we say to be consistent, we mean over a number of years – most likely you’ll have to keep insisting until age ten. Yes, some days will be harder than others but that’s okay, keep going. You can help yourself be more consistent by having a schedule of pre-planned activities, sessions for tutors, and other things like that to ensure exposure to the language. Even if you’re NOT fluent in a second language, you can still teach your child.
Send your kids on a trip
Okay – this tip may not work for everyone. However, if you have friends and family living in a country where the minority language (the language the child hears the least) is spoken widely. Do this at least once a year and if you can accompany them, that’s great too! Doing this will not only help your kids learn the language but also they’ll see aspects of the culture first hand which they may miss out on otherwise.
Don’t make learning a language a chore
You may find yourself being more excited about your children learning the language than they are. They might not fully see the importance and all the benefits now. Therefore you need to create the excitement around the language. Use movies, games, find friends who speak the minority language, tv shows, songs and books.
They’ll push back once they start school
At school, they’ll be constantly bombarded with the majority language and so you may get some push back from them. That’s where the consistency and the commitment to not make the language a chore comes in. Stick to your guns, and again, try to find others who speak the language as well, so that it is normalized.
Use technology to your advantage
There are so many things you can do using technology to help your child learn two languages. Not only are there songs and movies in the minority language that your kids can watch but they also have access to native speakers. Don’t be afraid to video call friends and family and have your kid chat with them in the minority language. We love this site for ideas on bilingual parenting and even more free resources!
Technology can even help you come up with new and exciting activities to keep language learning interesting.
Improve language quality
Viorica Marian, Ph.D., who is the Ralph and Jean Sundin Endowed Professor of Communication Sciences and Disorders at Northwestern University, wrote an article in Psychology Today about this very topic. She says that the quality of the interaction with the language absolutely matters. For example, she says that low-quality television is actually associated with lower vocabulary scores in bilingual children. What does work is face to face interactions. According to Dr. Marian, “Having stimulating face-to-face interactions with caregivers is crucial in helping children acquire language.” She continues by saying “aim for more face time and choose educational or high-quality children’s television when possible.”
Hire a language tutor
There is nothing wrong with hiring some extra help even if you’re bilingual yourself. A good language tutor is an expert at teaching a language and usually have some tricks up their sleeve to keep your child engaged and excited to learn. Don’t be afraid to incorporate a tutor or some language classes in your strategy. We can partner with you doing Spanish immersion classes online starting at $12 per class. Contact us at TruFluency Kids Spanish Immersion Online.
Raising a bilingual child may not be easy but it’s certainly possible and if anyone can do it, it’s you!