Did you know that almost two-thirds of children worldwide are raised bilingual? The ability to communicate in more than one language is now more important than ever. Raising bilingual children not only sets them up for a bright future but has wider cognitive benefits too.
While having your child attend a bilingual nursery is the first step in creating little polyglots, learning multiple languages needs to be a holistic process, rather than being something purely confined to the classroom. Fostering a child’s bilingualism in the home is essential if you truly want your kids to achieve real fluency, while actively engaging in the process of teaching children languages has multifaceted benefits. And here are a few top tips to help you on your way:
Creating time to read with your child is not only a lovely bonding experience but it helps them increase vocabulary and learn grammar. Try to make a regular habit of reading every day, especially in the minority language. Children love stories so this is a wonderful way to have them engage meaningfully using both their languages.
We live in a technological age so you’ll find that swiping on the screen of a smartphone comes quite naturally to kids these days. Using media and technology to make learning fun is another great way to foster bilingualism, be it through animated movies in the minority language or interactive Online lessons in a second language. Entertaining resources will increase the child’s motivation to make sense of the language. That said, there is a caveat. Technology alone is not an adequate language teacher so be sure to critically engage with your child too – ask them to tell you about the movie they watched or ask quiz them on the games they’ve played to check that the resources are having the desired impact.
Remember that languages exist within a wider cultural context. An enjoyable way to provide this sort of background is to celebrate traditions from both cultures. Be it Chinese New Year, Christmas, Mid-Autumn Festivals or St. Georges Day. Doing so, in fun and creative ways such as making traditional food, listening to local music or doing appropriate craft activities will give children a deeper understanding as to the purpose of each language,
As the famous proverb goes ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ and the same goes for fostering bilingualism at home. Build a strong support network of others that’ll help expose your child to the language. Perhaps this structure will involve family, finding friends who are also raising bilingual kids or maybe consider hiring a bilingual nanny. Whatever the case, the natural exposure this network will provide is going to be invaluable and they are guaranteed to be the ultimate language teachers.
Of course, there with the technological resources at our disposal there is a great deal we can do in terms of teaching children languages from the comfort of our own home. That said, travelling to places where the minority language is spoken will offer an additional dimension to your child’s learning experience. Not only will this allow them to be immersed in the language but it’ll also give them a further degree of context.
Clearly the task of raising a bilingual child is in no way likely to be an easy task. The role of parents in fostering bilingualism in the home is crucial in the child becoming fluent. It is a job that not only requires masses of patience but one which requires parents to be pragmatic in order to find out what works best for each individual child. For more insights into bilingual education explore our website.