Raising a child to be bilingual provides many lasting benefits that will impact all areas of his/her life. Some of the benefits of bilingualism include broadening a child’s perspective of the world, opening up career opportunities later in life, and having a positive impact on their cognitive development.
The Benefits of Raising a Bilingual Child
According to experts, being bilingual can help individuals be better in many different aspects of life. From learning new words, acquiring new reading skills, categorizing words, listening to others, problem-solving, to connecting with others.
Bilingual children are more likely to have mental flexibility which helps with creativity and outside the box thinking. Young children are programmed to absorb language naturally. However, that doesn’t mean that raising them to be bilingual will be effortless.
There are many benefits to raising bilingual children and it will help them succeed in school. Here are some tips on how you can raise a bilingual child and help them thrive.
How to Raise a Bilingual Child
Early & Constant Language Exposure
Constant exposure to language is important whether learning one or multiple languages. This is why parents are encouraged to read, talk and sing to their children. This helps to develop their language skills as they grow. If you want your child to be bilingual, talk to them, read to them, sing to them in both languages. But start at an early age if possible.
“For everybody trying to raise a bilingual child, whatever your background and reason, it’s very important to realize that acquiring a language requires massive exposure to that language.” Erica Hoff – Developmental Psychologist at Florida University
Children learn through repetition and active engagement. Teach them the names of items around the house. Point to objects in books and repeat the names with them.
As they get older, create engaging activities to reinforce word use around particular subject areas. For example, to learn food-related words, you could have your child follow a recipe and cook with you. Using the language in daily activities helps build their vocabulary.
Create a Need for the Language
According to the Linguistic Society of America, children use language to communicate with people around them. Having a need for language is what helps them to learn and use the language. So if you want your child to learn two languages, create a need for using both languages.
For example, some parents will choose to speak one language at home. As a result, the child is forced to use this language inside the home to communicate with their family. However, they need to use the other language outside the home where that language may be prominent.
There are many ways and different strategies for creating this need; find the one that works for your child.
Choose a Strategy and Be Consistent
One of the most important things you can do is choose a strategy for helping your child learn both languages. Then, stick to that plan. There are many strategies for raising a bilingual child. Do some research and commit to a strategy that makes the most sense for your family and your goals. Changing strategies or not following one at all, will be confusing for your child.
Some popular strategies include the following:
- One parent only uses one language with a child
- The other parent uses the other language
- Both parents using only the second language at home
- Or having a mixed language policy where you interchange words from both languages.
All of these languages require a child to regularly use both languages in order to communicate with others. This helps them regularly engage in the language.
Communicate with Different Speakers of Each Language
Your child should have the opportunity to communicate with others that speak the chosen languages. These interactions with other family members or friends can help boost their proficiency. This is because it provides variability in the use of the language.
Other people may use different vocabulary or speak in a different manner. Not only will that will help your child grow their own vocabulary, but it will help them learn to distinguish the language when spoken by others.
Add Bilingual Education
Consider helping your child succeed by enrolling him/her in language courses or bilingual education programs. Many schools offer two-way immersion programs that place students of two different native languages in the same classroom. The aim is to teach them academic subjects in both languages. This is very beneficial when trying to achieve fluency in both languages.
These may not be an option for everyone, but there are many after-school and weekend enrichment courses available as well. Look for summer camps or special programs offered in your area. Private instruction or tutoring are options as well.
The structured nature of this type of learning can help further your child’s need to use the language. Ultimately it will help them become fluent in both languages.
Don’t Be Afraid to Introduce a Language Later
There is no doubt it is beneficial to introduce children to both languages at an early age. Although it’s not crucial in order for them to become bilingual. With effort and a willingness to learn, a child of any age can learn a second language. Don’t be afraid to introduce a second language at any age.
Keep Children Motivated to Learn Languages
Motivation is key to excelling at anything in life. If you are raising a bilingual child, you probably have a very good reason and strong motivation for doing so. Particularly if you want your child to learn your native language or the native language of a family member. Share this motivation with your child.
Show pride in the heritage and culture that the language represents. Let your children become immersed in the culture to help cultivate interest. Give your child plenty of encouragement and support as they learn both languages.
Create a positive learning environment so it doesn’t feel like a chore. Celebrate small milestones to give them confidence and encourage them to learn more and use both languages!
By raising a bilingual child, you will be giving them an incredible gift that will extend beyond academics and cognitive abilities. They may feel a stronger connection to their heritage and family.
You’ll give them the numerous opportunities. They’ll be able to have meaningful interactions with people who they may have otherwise been unable to communicate with. This can only broaden their horizons and view of the world.
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