- Category: Language Development
- Last Modified: 11 February 2012
Raising Bilingual Children
The world is getting smaller globally and families that are of mixed cultures are becoming more common. Both parents then want their culture and language transferred to their children even in a country that speak a different language away from where they natively grew up in. So the question is how does one keep the pride of their culture and pass this on to their child, pass on a part of their identity.
Most parents are concerned that speaking to their child in different languages will confuse them and result in a delay in language development. With current studies this is found to be a myth. Studies have found that bilingualism does not cause a language delay in children.
In fact exposing them to many languages are beneficial for their learning in the later years with current research saying children will benefit with increased creativity, be able to communicate with more people, better at solving complex problems and advantages in thinking skills.
Gone are the days in which educators may say that bilingualism can cause language delays in children. If so it will be minimal and insignificant in the grand scheme of things of being able to speak several languages which can be beneficial in this modern world.
As Montessori has observed the critical period for language is from 7 months in utero until 6 years of age. One should talk to their children as they can absorb languages much more easily and learn a 2nd or 3rd language as a child rather than as an adult. It is a unique gift you can give to them. Teaching a child a new language can never start too early, as in different stages it develops from learning the pronunciation to learning proper grammar.
If you want to raise your children bilingual one has to have a plan or a goal as to what degree of bilingualism do you want your children to learn and of course consistency is needed. It is not easy especially if the language at home will be different from the language of the community or you and your partner speak a different language which both is ideal to be learned by the child.
If both parents speak the same language at home and is different as that of the community- keep speaking the home language to your child. Keep this consistent and do no fear that the child will not learn the community language. When the child gets exposed to the community or school the community language will be learned just as quickly. A child that is exposed to a new language completely can learn it quickly and even try to speak it within a short period of time. Unlike adults learning a new language, children will have more courage trying out a new language with no fear of mispronunciations.
Speaking to your child in your native language starting from birth will help with keeping to the consistency of speaking to them in a new language. You do not even have to formally “teach’ them your language but using them in everyday conversation swill simply pass this on. If you want the child to learn the language with more proficiency or another language in which is another language the parent speaks besides their native language books, videos and music can also be introduced.
It can be awkward and difficult if the child has to learn 3 different languages- the mother’s the fathers and the community’s. This can remain consistent with each parent speaking only their native language to the child only. Try not to mix it up so as to avoid confusion of vocabulary and grammar usage for the child. It will also avoid the child using both languages as one and can affect their language fluency. Even if the other parent is around speak in your native language to the child. It is rude to speak in a language in which the other cannot understand but for this case it is needed for consistency. A brief translation can be provided after if need be or it can also be a way for the partner to learn a bit of another language.
If the parent speaks 2 languages it should be decided as well if you want the child to learn that language. If it is not your native language but decide the child to learn another language that you might speak as well, try to set aside a time or several days in which that language is spoken to them to keep consistent and avoid confusion of languages.
As the child gets older and more sociable, your child may avoid speaking the home language as it is seen not being part of the community or to fit in with their peers. The attitude and importance given to the language can affect the development of the language development. This is considered normal and again just keep on speaking to them in your own language even if they do not seem interested. This phase is expected and will pass with proper management. Try not to give up though it may seem hopeless at times. They will later appreciate these lessons you have imparted on them.
The key to teaching your child to be bilingual is to remember to try not to mix the languages and be consistent at all times.