The opportunity to raise your child speaking more than one language is one that should not be missed. Beginning at about age one, a child has the greatest capacity for learning languages. Besides the close connection they’ll feel to their heritage, speaking a second language has been shown to help children learn to read earlier, have improved problem-solving skills, and higher SAT scores, leading to more career opportunities as well.
But how do you go about teaching your child another language? Here are some expert tips for raising a bilingual child:
Get the whole family on the same page. If your plan is for one parent to consistently speak another language, both partners have to be in agreement. If one parent doesn’t speak the language, he/she could feel left out, leading to disagreements down the line. But it’s crucial that each parent is completely consistent in whatever language he or she speaks to the child.
Be realistic. Don’t try to teach your child too many languages all at once. Experts say that a child needs to be exposed to a language at least 30 percent of his waking time in order to actively speak it.
Build a support network. Seek out other parents who are raising bilingual children in the same languages as your child. The parents will offer you tips and support while the interaction with other kids will help your child grasp the language even further.
Make a bilingual environment. Ensure that your child watches movies and television in the less dominant language and has books and toys that also help to reinforce it.
Don’t expect perfection. Even thought you’re actively teaching your child a language, he will still speak like a child and make typical mistakes. While it’s important to correct him, it’s also important not to make him feel insecure for these mistakes, which will most likely correct themselves as he gets older.
Be patient. Raising your child to be bilingual is a long term commitment, and he may not master the languages as quickly or adeptly as other children. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay the course. The outcome will benefit him for the rest of his life, and he’ll be thankful that you took the time and put in the work to teach him.
Do you have any other tips for raising bi- or multilingual children? Tell us in the comments section below!
Sources: omniglot.com, babyzone.com, and parenting.com