So, you’ve read about the advantages of bilingualism and decided to raise your children bilingually. Here’s an honest truth. Teaching bilingual kids can be challenging, confusing, and yet, rewarding. The advantages they’ll reap in the future are endless and they’ll thank you for it. 🙂
Why do I say “truly” bilingual kids, you ask. That’s because they are being spoken at, read at and being taught two languages simultaneously in a household. Where they speak, read, write, and have the proficiency of two languages as their first, or native. If you’ve read my post on What It’s Like Raising Bilingual Kids. You’ll get the idea.
1. The OPOL method – One Person, One Language
Truthfully, I didn’t know such a method existed in the first place. We were comfortable speaking our dominant language to her; me in English and my husband in German. But it’s what we did from the day our daughter was born till today. Basically, if you plan to raise or teach your kids bilingually, do it as early as possible. You don’t have to wait for them to first master one language and then another. Looking at my own daughters, I’d say they’re native in two languages instead of one.
2. Lots of reading, singing and communication
Though screens do teach kids languages, don’t rely on them completely. Communication with another person is important. Children need the 2-way interaction. I did those things mentioned above a lot and am still doing it. Not to mention, don’t shy-away from reading or singing with your child in your second, third or fourth language. My German wasn’t perfect in the beginning (and it’s still not now) but I still read, sing and teach in German. It helps to keep the bilingual learning on course.
This is a no-brainer. Only difference is you need to have materials available in two languages. Yupe, double materials mean double the mess. But hey, if it’s for the best, then mess it is. Browse through your local bookshops or on the internet, and provide books, games, posters, songs, TV Shows (in their favourite characters), apps, whatever you can find to help them improve their language skills.
4. Social environment
Mixing around with other kids is important. Especially, if you think your child is a little weak in one language or is mixing languages. Social environment do help to increase their vocabulary and eventually stop the code-switching. They’ll realize that no one will understand them when they start to mix two languages in a sentence.
For example, my now 9 year old were mixing languages all the time until she started kindergarten. Somehow, out of the blue, I found her talking her to her friends totally in German, WITHOUT the mixing. However, when she’s back home, she’ll start mixing here and there. And that’s totally fine by me. I myself, speak in various languages in a sentence among families and friends back in Malaysia. We do know how to monolingualize when we’re needed to.
As we’re not a fan of putting our children in daycare or kindergarten so early, there are many other ways to interact for little kids as young as 1.5 years. There are music playgroups, sports, little gymnastics, dance / ballet for litte ones, yoga, swimming, etc. You could even organize your own playgroup with neighbours’ or friends’ kids. The options are endless.
5. Prepare yourself
It’s a challenging journey and giving-up is something you want to avoid. Don’t expect fast results. Just like it takes time learning a language. It takes double the time learning two languages. Fortunately, for kids, toddlers or infants so to speak, their ability to absorb languages or anything for that matter is remarkable. Don’t listen to all the misconceptions you listen or read. A positive frame of mind, patience, and persistence is key.
If you have any questions, please leave a comment or contact me. I’m more than happy to answer them. All the best! 🙂