Concerned About How To Raise A Bilingual Child? Here are Top 10 Tips!
by Samridhi Khandelwal,
Are you a monolingual parent? Are you worried about how to raise a bilingual child? Don’t worry, we are right here to help. Read on, we will share some exciting tips and tricks with you!
India is a bilingual country! The new-age Indians are all bilinguals. Being bilingual refers to the ability to use two languages or dialects in everyday life. The more you know, the better. Similarly, the more languages you know the better.
Does your neighbor know a language different from you? Ask them if they can teach your child some new words every day. Does your child’s school offer a language course? Don’t give it too much thought, sign them up.
Table Of Contents
- Benefits Of Raising A Bilingual Child
- 1. Communication Skills
- 2. Personality
- 3. Cognitive Advantages
- 4. Health Advantages
- 5. Career Advantages
- Tips for Monolingual Parents to Raise a Bilingual Child
- 1. Learn the Language Yourself
- 2. Watch Cartoons/ Shows in the Target Language
- 3. Design Personalized Activities
- 4. Spend Time with Friends/Relatives who Speak the Target Language
- 5. Dedicated Immersive Programs
- 6. Reading out loud
- 7. Start Early
- 8. Focus on the Target Language
- 9. Activities
- 10. Be consistent
- Final Thoughts!
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Benefits Of Raising A Bilingual Child
First things first, when we talk about bilingualism, the first language to pop up in our minds is English. As much as English is an important language, it is not the only one. Teaching your child regional languages is equally important. It is primarily because it helps in preserving the language. But more importantly, a language does not only help in communicating but also helps in understanding culture and its people. The more a child understands, the more insightful they are.
Parents who raise their children to be bilingual benefit them in several ways. Of course, the child knowing more than one language is the first. However, there are many more advantages of being bilingual or better yet multilingual. Let’s take a look at some of these benefits.
1. Communication Skills
A study published in Psychological Science concluded that children from multilingual environments are better at interpreting a speaker’s meaning than children who are exposed only to their native tongue. A language does not only communicate thoughts but also the perspective of those thoughts. Bilingual children are better at understanding the perspective of the speaker. Thus, they can communicate more effectively. Well, that gives us one less person who misunderstands!
Now this one may be surprising but it’s actually true. Bilingual children are not only more accepting but also more empathetic. A study explained that more monolingual children believed that everything is natural whereas more bilingual children believed that everything can be learned. As a result, bilingual children are more accepting.
Another study by the University of Chicago discovered that bilingual children are more empathetic as they are better at understanding the perspectives of others.
3. Cognitive Advantages
Bilingualism enhances other cognitive functions as well. Bilinguals tend to be more creative. They can focus better and have an innate talent for multitasking and abstract thinking. The reason is that their brains are very active and flexible. Bilingual children have an easier time understanding math concepts and solving word problems. I guess these reasons are enough to get you excited to raise a bilingual child.
4. Health Advantages
Who could have thought that bilingualism can have health benefits too? Bilingual brains are more resilient to dementia caused by Alzheimer’s disease. The symptoms develop five years later in bilinguals on average. Thus, raising your child to be bilingual has lifelong benefits. They are not only smarter but also healthier.
5. Career Advantages
Last but not least are career advantages. More and more of the global population is becoming bilingual. The more languages you know, the more job opportunities you get. Two or more languages will definitely look better than one language on your child’s resume. Thus, increasing their employability. Your child is definitely going to thank you for this one.
Now that we have looked at the benefits of raising a bilingual child, let’s look at how to do bilingual parenting. It is especially challenging for monolingual parents to raise bilingual children. Certain strategies can be used to create an environment where the child can learn two or more languages. Some of the tips for monolingual parents to raise a bilingual child are as follows.
Tips for Monolingual Parents to Raise a Bilingual Child
1. Learn the Language Yourself
The first way to teach your child a language is to learn it yourself first. You can enroll in a language program to learn the language. Thereafter, you can converse with your child in the target language. You need to be patient and persistent in your pursuit to learn the language. This way you can learn a language together with your child.
2. Watch Cartoons/ Shows in the Target Language
An interesting and entertaining way to learn a language is to watch cartoons and shows in that language. This can help your child in not only learning the language but also understanding the culture associated with the language.
3. Design Personalized Activities
An interesting and exciting way to teach your child a language is to involve them in targeted activities. These are some of the activities we recommend you try.
- Play catch with your children while counting in the target language.
- Point to pictures and call out the name of the objects while you read to them.
- Point to objects in a picture book and name them. Then ask them what the object is.
- You can play mini puzzles with your kid where they need to match the object with its name.
You can design other activities personalized to your specific needs. Ensure that you show excitement and appreciate your children when they use a new word. A little appreciation can go a long way!
4. Spend Time with Friends/Relatives who Speak the Target Language
Community engagement is a good source for learning a language. If you or your family has this opportunity then this can be your way to teach your child a language. Your child can pick up the language from your neighbors, friends, or grandparents.
5. Dedicated Immersive Programs
You can enroll your children into language programs that are designed especially for children of their age. Such programs use various strategies to teach language to the children. They may use immersive technologies, movies, or even games to teach the language. It will be even better if you practice the language with your child.
6. Reading out loud
If you are using a dedicated immersive program to teach your child a language, this strategy can be used to improve the results. Ask your child to read out loud from the books of the target language. This will complement their learning from the immersive program.
A bilingual child can be raised in a monolingual or multilingual home and even vice versa. Are you wondering how you raise a child in a multilingual home? The strategies for raising a bilingual child in a multilingual home are different from the ones we discussed. Here are some of the strategies which can be used to raise a bilingual or multilingual child in a multilingual home.
One Person - One Language
If both the parents know different languages, each can talk to the children in one language. It means both parents can decide on a language which they will use while talking to the children. If one parent is talking in French with the children, the other can talk in English. The parents can further decide to choose one language as the family language like Hindi or Bengali. This language can be used when the entire family is involved in a conversation.
Minority Language at Home
This strategy can be used if your child has started going to school. If the school teaches in the majority language of the area, you can speak in the minority language at home. This way the child can learn and practice the two different languages in the two different environments.
Two Parents - Two languages
If both the parents are comfortable in speaking both or all the languages, they can decide to speak in both languages with their children. Switching from one language to another is inevitable in bilingual environments. The minority language can suffer due to this. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the minority language is used sufficiently.
Looking at these strategies can be overwhelming. Raising a bilingual child is a mammoth task but trust the process. Here are some more tips and tricks to raising a bilingual child.
7. Start Early
Expose your children to multiple languages from an early age. It is easier for children to learn at a young age as they do not have set ways. As we grow older, it becomes tougher to learn a language because we get set in our ways.
Therefore, it is better to start teaching your children at an early age so that they can learn more quickly and easily.
8. Focus on the Target Language
A minority language can easily be overtaken by the use of a majority language. Therefore, it is necessary to make deliberate efforts to use the minority language. You can decide to only use the minority language at home. Otherwise, you can decide to set hours to practice the minority language. This way you can save the minority language from being overtaken by the majority language.
Engage in activities with your children which promote learning the target language. The activities can include listening or singing songs, reading bedtime stories, watching cartoon programs, or hanging out with friends who are fluent in the target language. Such activities can help develop an interest in your child towards the language.
10. Be consistent
Lastly, you need to be consistent in your efforts to raise your child bilingually. Teaching your child multiple languages will be a long and sometimes tiring process. You need to be patient during such times and believe in the results. Eventually, the practice will settle down in your routine. Consistency yields results!
Raising your child bilingually is a long-term project which will not yield results in a day or two. Therefore, you must acknowledge the small steps towards progress. The benefits of raising a bilingual child far outweigh the problems you face to achieve it. Be patient and consistent.
All the best to the parents!