TOP 7 TIPS ON RAISING BILINGUAL KIDS
Interethnic relationships and marriages are not uncommon these days. While many people have numerous reasons for searching for love outside of their countries and cultures, others were fated to happen. Interethnic and intercultural relationships are exciting, even though they pose unique challenges.
Couples or partners who find themselves in these sorts of relationships will have to raise bilingual kids to learn to speak and hear both languages and be exposed to both cultures, norms, and ways of life. Raising your children to be bilingual will also help them gain exposure and increase their chances of adapting to our increasingly global world.
Raising bilingual children comes with some drawbacks, but whether it’s in a monolingual or multilingual family, teaching the kids a second language will be hugely beneficial to them. In childhood, childrens’ brains are more receptive and adaptable to learning than at any other point in their lives, so starting the learning process earlier is the way to go.
In this article, you’ll be exposed to tips and practices you can follow to make raising your children bilingual easier.
One Person, One Language
The one-person/one-language method of raising bilingual kids, popularly referred to as OPOL, is as simple as the name. This method requires each parent to speak their language to the child consistently without using the other or to ‘simplify’ it to the child. As parents, you must first realize that in talking to the child, you’re not actively ‘teaching’ the child to speak any more than you teach them to laugh, cry, or walk. All you have to do is to talk to them in your language, and they will catch on. This method is especially effective in many cases, especially in a family that already speaks more than one language. The children will grow up and get used to hearing both languages.
Invest in Books, Music, and Games
Getting the kids exposed to books, music, and games in the language you want them to learn fosters better language learning. If you and your partner already speak the same language but want your children to know a different one, this tip could come in handy too. Get the kids some board games, puzzles, and toys in that language and expose them to songs and books too. This method also applies to a multilingual home; feel free to use the OPOL rule in speech and books, music, and games.
Expose Them to People that Speak the Target Language
Charity begins at home, but it does not end there. Another meaningful and highly effective way of raising bilingual kids is exposing them to people and groups who speak the language you want them to learn. Family gatherings, peers, events, and activities where the language is spoken will foster their interest in learning the language. Exposing them to the language outside the house will make them realize that it is ‘important’ and essential if they interact with others. This will make them learn it more keenly, consciously, or unconsciously.
Speak the ‘More Important’ Language at Home
Children instinctively perceive the language most spoken to them at home as more essential or needful, so they tend to learn it out of the need to communicate. So, for example, if you and your partner are Arabs living in England, speaking Arabic at home to the children will make them want to learn it as they perceive it as more important to them than the English used in school and other places. That helps foster their bilingual learning, so they speak the ‘more important’ language at home and speak the other in school and society to interact with peers and colleagues. Raising bilingual kids will be very suitable for a monolingual family who lives in a country where a different language is spoken.
Don’t Be Worried If They Mix Languages or Pick Up a Language Late
In many cases, bilingual children at early stages tend to mix both languages up when speaking, while in other cases, they fail to start speaking as soon as is expected. Whatever the case may be, do not panic as childrens’ cognitive and formative processes could differ. Let them mix it up, but don’t stop following the OPOL rule judiciously; eventually, they’ll learn to differentiate one language from the other and speak better.
Start speaking the target language to the kids from when they are born. Children are very aware of sounds, expressions, and body language even at a very tender age, so when talking to them, you have to be very clear in yours words and actions. Avoid the temptation of making baby sounds. Speak actual words instead and try as much as possible to demonstrate the meaning of the words through gesticulations, expressions, or body language—visual inputs such as those help drive the spoken words home and improve communication.
Ignore the Myths
Some popular myths surround the raising of bilingual children. One of the more widespread ones is that the child will be confused and be unable to learn two languages at a tender age. This myth suggests that the child should learn one language at a tender age and the other when they have grown. Another myth says that teaching the child two languages simultaneously will stunt their development in one or both languages. These are just baseless myths without any biological or scientific backings. Please pay no attention to them.
Raising bilingual kids in either a monolingual or multilingual home can be challenging, but when done the right way, you’ll find out that it’s as easy as raising them to speak one language. Choosing to raise bilingual kids is a very positive parenting decision. It sets the children up for better opportunities in the future, open-mindedness, and confidence, so make the most of it while at it.
These seven tips for raising bilingual kids will make the process fun and seamless, and in no time, your kids will be fluent in the languages you want them to speak.