Or, raising your child to be bilingual
Teaching your child to be bilingual may seem daunting, but it’s easier than you think and has SO many benefits.
Bilingual children are better at complex problem solving and creative thinking. Later in life, a second language will enhance their career opportunities and help them to connect with other cultures.
In this article we cover 6 easy tips for teaching your baby a second language. We give practical examples that you can start putting to use straight away.
So let's get into it...
1. Start now
The earlier you introduce a second language to your child, the easier it will be for them to pick up its unique sounds. The best time to introduce a second language is when your baby is learning to speak. Kids who learn a language from a young age are likely to have a larger vocabulary and better grasp of the language. In short, your kids will learn faster and easier when they start early.
2. Expose your child to both languages as much as possible
Talk to your baby in the desired language as much as you can. Describe what you are doing, point out objects and animals around them, sing songs. Give them praise when they try to copy your sounds. It can be easy to revert back to English, but try to persist!
One recommended approach is the "one parent-one language" method. This is where one parent speaks to the baby in English, while the other only speaks to them in the foreign language. Some people prefer for both parents to speak both languages. As your child learns new words, tell him what they're called in the second language too.
3. Find a bilingual babysitter
One of the best ways for a child to start understanding a new language is for him to hear it spoken fluently. This will help him to pick up the correct sounds and a natural accent.
Look for a bilingual babysitter and encourage her to speak exclusively in her native language to your child. If your baby is in childcare, ask if any of the educators speak the language (you'd be surprised!).
This will help to expose your baby to the language from a young age, and can have lasting effects into adulthood. You may also consider joining a foreign language community group.
4. Use educational resources and books
Make use of interactive learning toys and foreign language books to help your baby learn new words and phrases. Check out the foreign language section at your local library (most have foreign language children's books), and ask friends and family to bring books next time they visit.
Many DVDs have multiple language options, or you can stream TV shows in your language of choice. Flashcards and even some boardgames can be very useful and help make learning fun. YouTube has plenty of educational videos for free. And don't forget to search for resources and ideas online. Just make sure that words are spoken clearly and with a proper accent, ideally by a native speaker.
We love these beautifully illustrated Bilingual Alphabet Charts from Then You Came Along, which display the English word for each letter as well as a word in your language of choice (available in Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, Danish, Dutch and Swedish).
5. Expose them to the culture of the language
We learn languages quicker when we are exposed to the culture behind them. For example, if you're teaching your child Italian then you might want to:
- cook an Italian meal every week
- begin each meal with "Buon appetito!"
- celebrate Italian traditions like onomastico (their name-day).
- point to Italy on the map and tell them about where you or your grandparents grew up
- play traditional Italian music for them
- incorporate Italian traditions at Christmas, such as panettone and other foods, a nativity scene and la bafana
- teach them about Italian history when they are older.
6. Bilingual play dates
Organise play time with other children who speak the same second language. This will give your child a chance to practice the language in a relaxed and non-structured setting. You can find these groups online (e.g. Facebook) or at your local foreign language institute.
Bilingual parenting is well within your reach. If you're thinking about teaching a second language to your baby, then why not get started today. Choose some of these tips and start putting them into practice... the best time to start is always now!
Let your baby learn at their own pace and most importantly, enjoy the process!
Over to you
Does your family speak two languages at home? What is your favourite tip for raising bilingual children? Please post in the comments below.
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