Raising bilingual children
To continue from our last blog about the research into the effects of bilingualism, we have a few useful tips for all families- monolingual, bilingual or multilingual- when it comes to language learning in the early years.
1. Keep it natural. Speak to your child in your native language from birth and stick with it as much as you can, especially if you live in a foreign country. Make sure that your child sees you speaking in your language to friends and family, reading, watching films and listening to music in that language. That way your child will feel a closer connection to the language through the parent, as it is a natural part of them.
2. Keep it fun. Children learn through play, and language should be integrated into it. Do role-play, games, puzzle, stories, songs in the language your child is learning, making sure they are really engaged and are enjoying themselves. If it becomes a chore, children will see it in a negative light and it will require a lot more effort and motivation.
3. Keep it necessary. As one language becomes slightly more dominant, make sure to expose your child to situations where they have no choice but to use the other language. The easiest way is to socialise with the grandparents, family, and friends who only speak that one language. Your child will find a way to communicate with them and in return, they can help build up the vocabulary that the child is lacking.
4. Keep cultural elements. Speaking the language should be supplemented by the cultural elements of the country that it comes from. From singing traditional songs and telling stories, to introducing beloved cartoon characters and talking about the history, geography and any specifics of the country will keep it more interesting and fascinating for your child.
5. Keep up the exposure. Whether you are trying to teach your child a new language from scratch, or ensure that they acquire your native language in a foreign country, they will need to be exposed to it as much as possible. Ideally, you would have a combination of family and friends, learning resources, schools and classes, toys and games, books and films and of course visits to the country of that language. Choose a combination that works best for your family, and do not forget to lead by example!