Speaking more than one language is a fantastic skill to have at any age. If you have the chance to bring up your child as bilingual, it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up. Here are some tips on how to raise bilingual kids.
1Start speaking both languages to them from day one
For example, if you are a native Spanish speaker and your partner is English, both of you should speak to your baby in your respective tongues from the moment they are born. Having such early exposure to both languages will be of real benefit to your little one, as opposed to learning English first and then being introduced to Spanish at a later stage. Similarly, it’s helpful if your offspring hears both languages from other family members, so these bilingual habits start to become ingrained.
2Fill your house with both languages
Buy kids’ books, games and flashcards in the second language to bring it alive at home. You can also search out television channels, YouTube videos and radio stations, and get some CDs to listen to in the car. Introducing the second language in as many different ways as possible keeps things fresh, and your child will learn new phrases and vocabulary that you might not have thought to introduce.
3Broaden your child’s lingual horizons
Whether your kid is being raised as a Swedish, French, Japanese or German speaker, it’s important to take them to places where these languages are spoken. This doesn’t necessarily mean travelling abroad; you may find that there are expat enclaves close to home where your son or daughter can get a bit of practice speaking to those outside the family. Of course, spending time in other countries will also help your little one’s language skills immeasurably, even if that’s just listening to waitresses in street cafés or sales staff in shopping malls.
4Investigate clubs and classes
Especially if you live in quite a multicultural area, it may be that there are toddler groups held in your second language nearby, or after-school courses for older children. Youngsters learn so much from spending time with other kids anyway, and it will give them a real boost to meet peers who also speak their second language. It’s also a great way for you to get to know other parents in your position, giving you the chance to share your experiences about raising bilingual children.
5Stress the value of being bilingual
As your son or daughter gets older, they may rail against speaking in their second language, especially if their friends only speak English. Tweens and teens always want to fit in, don’t they! So it’s important to highlight just how useful it is to be bilingual. For example, it broadens their career choices; they’ll be able to apply for jobs which ask for knowledge of their second language, and they will find it easier to work abroad if that’s what they’d like to do. Studies have also shown that being bilingual can improve your attention span and ability to multi-task, while it can make learning a third or even fourth language easier.
6Perseverance is key
As time goes on, it may feel less important to ensure that your child is speaking both languages at home, particularly as they get into secondary school and their academic workloads increase. But allowing your offspring to lose the language skills they have developed would be doing them a disservice. And, while they might not care now, it’s something that they may resent you for later down the line. By persevering with the bilingual goal, you’re setting your child up for a very bright future with a huge number of benefits as a result.