In today’s global society, raising a bilingual child can be more useful than ever. In addition, children who can speak more than one language have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems, have increased creativity, and can develop more flexible ways to think through problems.
Here are some tips for raising bilingual children.
Start as early as possible
According to the National Science Foundation, we can “acquire a language (and sometimes more than one), to the level of native competency, before age 5.” Children younger than age five can learn more than one language easier than older children, so it’s advisable to start the process as early as you can.
Older children can still learn a second language, but after the age of five it may require extra time and patience.
Replace common words and phrases
Introducing your child to common words in their second language is an easy way to help your child associate things they already know with new words. For example, you may want to start saying “Guten Morgen” every morning, or using “gato” when you talk about a cat.
Try the One Person, One Language method
The One Person, One Language (OPOL) method is ideal in two-parent homes where one parent speaks in their first language, and the other parent speaks another. The idea behind OPOL is that each parent speaks to their child exclusively in their own language, thus exposing the child equally to both.
Take advantage of books, music, and other media
Children love to read, sing, and watch movies, and this can be used to help you teach them a second language. Many local libraries have media in other languages, and fun and interactive songs can be found online as well. Take the opportunity to make language fun for your child, and they will be more encouraged to learn.
Go out into the community
Depending on where you live, there may be existing resources in your community that you can turn to. For example, there may be a bilingual daycare, play group, place of worship, or other groups in your area. You may also consider looking for a babysitter who speaks the second language you are trying to help your child learn.
Travel to help your child practice
If it’s possible, you may want to consider traveling to a country or region where your child’s second language is widely spoken. Not only will this help your child practice speaking and understanding the language, but they’ll also gain valuable exposure to the local culture and people.
One struggle of raising a bilingual child is maintaining the proper focus on the second language. For example, if your child attends an English-speaking preschool, has primarily English-speaking friends, and reads English books, there is a risk of their second language becoming underdeveloped. It may help to make a plan for teaching the minority language, so that you can be sure your child’s exposure to both is more balanced.
Raising a bilingual child can be challenging, but it will also equip your child for success later in life. With these tips, you can start helping your child learn a second language in a fun and meaningful way.