Bilingualism is a growing trend for children. Some parents raise bilingual children out of necessity because there are two languages the children will be exposed to through relatives. But others are making bilingualism a priority because they want their child to have an edge in the future when it comes to college applications and the job market.
Even if you aren’t thinking that far ahead, there are other compelling reasons to teach your child a second language. Some research shows that children who know more than one language are more creative thinkers. There also appears to be a cognitive advantage, according to research. While it doesn’t guarantee your child will be a genius who thinks outside of the box if you teach them another language, it definitely will help them in a number of ways.
Plus, bilingualism can introduce your child to other cultures. That’s a great side perk because it can teach your child to be more accepting of others, which is always a welcome trait.
If you’re considering introducing a second language to your young child, there are some things you need to keep in mind. These five tips will set the stage for success in your mission for a bilingual child.
Figure Out Which Language to Teach
For some parents, it’s a cinch to figure out which language to implement. If you come from or have relatives from a foreign-speaking country, that’s likely the one you’ll choose.
But if you don’t have a language in mind, ask yourself these questions to help you choose one.
- Do you want a language that’s widely spoken to increase its future usefulness to your child? If so, you might want to choose something like Spanish, Chinese, French, or German.
- How do you plan to teach your child? Are you hiring an instructor or are you going to learn the language along with your child? If you plan to hire someone and you live in a smaller community, your language choices might be limited.
- Did you ever take a foreign language in school? If so, this may be the language your child should learn. You’ll have rudimentary knowledge about pronunciation, even if it’s been years since you used it.
- If your child is older and you’re just starting to introduce a second language, let them pick which one to learn. They’ll be more on board with learning it if it’s their idea.
Starting your child on a second language is easiest when it is introduced as early as possible, even while your baby is still learning their primary language. Parents worry that having two different languages will confuse a child, but that isn’t the case. They are incredibly smart and adept at picking things up so they will be able to handle learning both.
Be Consistent with Exposure
If you want your child to be bilingual, you have to realize it won’t happen without a concerted effort. You’re going to have to put in real effort, and it has to be frequent. You can’t introduce a new word or concept and not use it again for a month and expect your child to remember it.
Consistency is going to be key. You should opt for daily exposure to the language. That might mean setting aside a designated time every day when you and your child do a mini lesson or when you only speak in the secondary language.
Make It Fun
Kids enjoy learning so much more when it’s fun and it doesn’t feel like work. You can play games incorporating the new language, such as hide and seek. Instead of counting to ten as the other person hides, the rule can be you have to use the secondary language for counting. That will reinforce their vocabulary and you’ll also get to spend quality time bonding with your child.
Another way to make learning the language fun is by singing and dancing. Kids love music – it’s why many preschools use simple songs to teach children key facts they have to remember.
If you think your child should be fluent soon in their secondary language, you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Learning a language is complicated and it takes time. And it’s one of those things in life where you only get out as much as you put in.
You can help your child grasp the new language quickly by being consistent and starting to teach them at a young age. But you should avoid putting pressure on your child – just as you wouldn’t put pressure upon them to begin learning their first language before they were ready to do so.