Several multiethnic families believe that raising bilingual children is beneficial to their future. Many teach their children themselves at home, starting at a very young age, enabling them to learn the basics before they start school. Later, they enroll their children in language classes or schools that offer language courses. Expats normally send their children to international schools.
For a time it was considered elitist to have children learn a foreign language. Today, it is a bit more common, leading to children growing to be sophisticated and world-savvy.
Whether you want to teach your children to be bilingual or you want to supplement their formal language learning by teaching them, here are several tips for them to learn how to speak the language like a native and switch from the local language and your native language.
For very young children, the best thing to introduce them to another language is to talk to them. Here are the first steps in raising bilingual children.
1. Get agreement from your partner or family
If your partner does not speak your native language, the person might feel insecure and think that you and your children would be developing a secret language. You and your partner should come to a solution that would be acceptable to the two of you. The solution should benefit your children, too.
2. Be realistic and enthusiastic
It is important that you approach the plan to raise your children to be bilingual realistically. They should learn your native language and understand all the languages spoken in your home. Take it easy and do not add more. It is better to start with the language you know and speak very well.
3. Come up with a workable plan
The third step it to agree on who will speak what language. Once you have agreed, you should stick to your plan. Usually, the person spending the most time with the children is the one who would teach them the foreign language. If all the persons in the family are able to speak the foreign language, they can speak to the children in that language while the other one speaks to them in the local language. If no one in the family speaks a foreign language, you should introduce a resource person from outside, such as a bilingual nanny or an au pair, or let your children join a language-learning program suitable to their age.
4. Build a network
It is beneficial to have a support network. Find other families in your neighborhood who are also getting their children to learn your native language. You can share your knowledge, your triumphs and your doubts. You will be providing your children with playmates who speak the same language, which will boost their learning through peers.
5. Exercise patience
If you want to raise bilingual children, it is important to be patient. You have to be committed to the task and learn to accept that difficulties will be encountered throughout the process. It can take time before they can speak some of the words that you painstakingly teach each day. They may be slow learners but once they have absorbed the knowledge, you might be amazed at their progress.
6. Be generous with praises
Focus on your children’s successes. Praise them continuously. Continue to repeat the words that are difficult for them to remember or speak. Teaching them to be bilingual means that you will be repeating the same things over and over. Read to them in the foreign language at a normal pace, even if they cannot understand the entire story. They will be able to pick up some of the easy words in no time. Marvel at their success and praise their smartness and alertness.
7. Cultivate a language learning environment
Remember your own journey to learn your native language, so you’ll understand that foreign language acquisition requires time and practice. Gradually introduce age-appropriate books, games, toys, videos and music in the language you are teaching your children. Add other household items as well.
8. Start with often-used and most common words
While you partner teaches them to say dog, cat, mom, dad or other simple words, you can have those words translated into your native language. In time, they would be able to identify them in both languages. Consistency in your teaching will help them to learn faster and better. As they learn to speak more, you can introduce short phrases like hello, goodbye, please, thank you, good morning and good night.
9. Continue observing your own cultural traditions
Part of learning the language is learning its culture. Be sure to include your children in your traditional celebrations and bring them to festivities where they can observe your own traditions. Prepare your traditional food and let them taste the food. Identify ingredients in your language as well.
10. Play games in the foreign language
Teach your child how to count in the foreign language through games. You can also sing songs, which your child can remember longer. Use puzzles in a foreign language. Identify colors in the other language as you draw, color or paint.
11. Take a trip
When your children are old enough to remember, probably around age four, consider taking a trip to your home country so they will be more exposed to the local language. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is for children to pick up the language while they are playing. Even if they do not understand each other initially, you’ll notice that they would be able to communicate on their own.
12. Consider your children’s interests
Consider what things interest your children and incorporate the foreign language into them. Do not give up and stick with your plan. Give as many opportunities as you can for them to listen to and speak your native language. Continue communicating with them in your own language. As they hear you speak, they will soon be able to learn and become bilingual.
Benefits of raising bilingual children
Many people still do not believe that their children would benefit from being bilingual. In the past, it was all right to speak just one language, for example, English. English is spoken in many parts of the world and it remains the language of business. Still, with globalization, it is important to communicate with other cultures in their own language as you cannot expect other people to speak or understand English. Here are important benefits of having a bilingual child.
1. Educational benefits
Children who are raised to be bilingual at an early age are able to score higher on tests that involve problem-solving and creative thinking. They are able to translate abstract concepts from the local language into the foreign language and vice versa. That ability is carried over to tangible problems in different ways.
Bilingual children find it easier to start reading early. They understand that language is a tool that they can use to control their environment. They are able to understand early that some words can have similar meanings or that a word can be used differently according to the context.
They have an easier time with mental tasks as they received early training to put things together. Learning to focus their attention mentally helps them to deal with abstract reasoning, which is the core of early school education.
Since they are able to communicate in different ways, their overall skills are stronger in both their primary and secondary languages. It may seem that their early language development is slow but the bilingual child will normally develop a higher skill level in the dominant language compared to other children who only speak one language.
2. Cultural benefits
As previously mentioned, learning a language is learning the culture of that language. Raising your children to be bilingual means they are immersed in other cultures and they develop an interest in other cultures. They also develop an interest in other educational activities such as street festivals, fairs and museums that many monolingual children try to veer away from.
Even at a young age, children who are raised bilingual are able to tolerate other cultures. They can play with children who speak languages different from theirs and are able to associate with people from other socioeconomic backgrounds. Because they have more developed social skills, they are often well behaved when they grow up.
When raised bilingual, the children show interest in their heritage culture. Their sense of self-identity is stronger, helping to make them self-reliant and self-confident.
3. Emotional benefits
When your children are bilingual, it is easier for them to communicate with other members of your family. This helps them to stay closer to their families and ask support from them when needed. The stronger bonds will prevent them from feeling marginalized. Parents can be more involved in their growing kids’ lives because they speak the heritage language of their parents.
4. Practical benefits
When your bilingual children are fully grown, they will have more opportunities to find work. Because of the high demand for bilingual persons and the limited supply, a bilingual person can have the choice from a variety of positions. The demand for bilingual professionals increases steadily in the U.S. and other countries.
One thing to note is that it is easier to learn a foreign language during childhood. Being conditioned to the language learning process allows the children to easily learn another language later in life.
Day Translations, Inc. salutes parents who are willing to invest time and effort in their children’s future by raising them to be bilingual. As a language services provider, we understand the value of language. Here at Day Translations, we rely on native speakers to provide the most accurate translation from and into more than 100 languages. Contact us or call us anytime at 1-800-969-6853. Alternatively, download Terpy from iTunes or Google Play and install it on your mobile phone or tablet to connect with us faster. We’re always open to serve you faster and better.
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