Is it beneficial to teach your child more than one language?
People have been arguing about this subject, in which they said that teaching a child two languages at a time will make them confused and cause delays in their learning.
However, teaching your child bilingual is advantageous according to the majority of scientific research.
Additionally, in the recent research conducted by the Linguistic Society of America, it stated that children are extremely sensitive when it comes to distinguishing between two languages.
There has also been an escalation in the number of bilingual people in the United States, at about more than 12 million kids speaking more than one language.
As a result, many parents want to raise their children as “bilingual babies”.
Here are some guides to provide their parents with the methods of teaching your child bilingual:
1. Starting early as your child speaks his first words
The sooner you expose your child to another language, the faster it will be for your child to absorb it.
To explain, children between 6 months and 4 years old are the ones that have the greatest ability to hear the different phonetic pronunciation.
At this stage, their vocabulary for languages will also increase steadily.
As we get older, we will lose the capacity of hearing and producing certain sounds, which makes it more difficult for us if we have to learn another language.
What’s more, learning to speak more than one language at an early stage will provide children with huge benefits such as boosting problem-solving skills, critical thinking which leads to enhancing creativity and flexibility.
When learning a second language, children are usually not afraid to make mistakes because of their joyful mindset, which is different from older beginners who are always fear of failures.
Being taught a foreign language will help children in their academic performance later at school. They can improve reading, writing and listening skills and score higher on examinations.
Children could also develop an open-minded, positive attitude about various cultures, and may have a sense of curiosity towards the world.
If parents are still skeptical about whether you should teach your child another language at an early age or not, check out this study from Harvard University and reconsider your decision.
2. Creating a learning environment surrounded by different languages
It is recommended that parents should provide children with the chance of being exposed to daily conversations.
By doing this regularly at home, children will start to pick up the sounds and develop their accents.
You can start with basic words every day such as numbers, shapes, and colors to make your children get accustomed to a new language.
Afterward, parents can enhance the level by embarking on more complex sentences.
Remember to try other ways to help your child learn another language through books, TV shows or music.
To be more specific, music is the simplest way to instill the sound of another language into your children’s mind.
Listening to songs in a foreign language and sing along to them is an excellent way to get used to the language.
Children love to mimic what they hear and want to have fun, so no need to sit at the desk and do homework or force them to learn new words by heart.
Reading aloud for at least 15 minutes a day has proven to be beneficial for the cognitive development of your child.
Books which are written in two or more languages are sold largely on the internet or in bookshops, so parents can purchase them with ease.
Kids nowadays are into watching videos on the internet. You can also choose a TV show that your child watches on a daily basis in the second language to keep his spirit up without thinking too much about learning a new one.
Playing games is an indispensable part of educating a child, especially in terms of a new language.
Do not hesitate to buy board games or puzzles to encourage your child to speak more.
Make use of your child’s natural curiosity to learn a second language without realizing it.
For more information on games for bilingual children, here are 5 Games to Get Your Bilingual Child Talking by InCultureParent.
Another method is using flashcards. Although it used to gain a bad reputation for being boring and formal, parents can turn them into fun games that are intriguing for kids.
If you want to know more about what those games are, check out this article from Bilingual Kidspot.
3. Trying out “One person, one language”
To explain, this is the strategy that requires each parent to always address their child in a different language.
This method is widely advised as it is one of the most effective ways to teach your child bilingual.
For example, if the mother speaks her native language with her child, the father will be the person to talk to his child in a second language.
The advantages of this strategy are enormous, such as it is easy to implement especially if each parent is speaking their native language.
It is also ensured that your kid will have regular exposure to both languages, thus contributing to better language skills for the child.
To fully make use of this method, parents are suggested to spend an equal amount of their time for children.
The key to a successful “One person one language” rule requires a lot of effort and dedication from parents to prevent themselves from mixing languages together.
According to a research conducted by Annick De Houwer, who studied more than 2000 families, concluded that 75% of the children brought up with this approach became bilingual depending on how strictly the rule was followed.
As a consequence, parents need to be consistent in terms of speaking only one language to your child and never switch to another.
Don’t worry if your child makes mistakes in the first place.
By complying with the rule consistently, children will start to understand which parent they should talk to in which language.
In some cases, parents may find it difficult to apply this “One person one language” rule, especially outside their home.
However, you can control these problems by setting a fixed amount of time, for example, 5 hours a day talking to your child in one language for each parent.
4. Implementing “Minority Language at Home”
This approach is about using the majority language in the community while using the minority language at home.
Families who are migrants may find it easier to utilize this method because they have moved abroad to another country where the main language is different from their native language.
The minority language will be used at home by both parents with their children.
Using this way of teaching can have huge pros, such as creating a lot of exposure to the minority language since children spend a large amount of time at home with parents.
Professor Francois Grosjean has confirmed the advantage of this approach is that the home language will receive much more input than if only one parent uses it.
However, for this strategy to work best, both parents have to speak the minority language and are comfortable using it continuously.
As the most important element of language is communication, if one parent feels confused and afraid to use the minority language, using this method may not be a good choice.
Some parents worry that when their children enter school, they may fall behind their peers due to the lack of the main language in the community.
But children have the ability to pick up languages quickly. Children can also adapt easily when being surrounded by the language of the community.
To avoid this, parents are advised to start immersing their children in a social group, so that they will no longer be shocked when starting school.
5. Using “Time and Place”
This method relies on fixed scheduling to encourage the use of different languages.
For example, everyone in the family speaks one language in the morning, then switches to another language in the afternoon.
Or it also means that the family uses the majority language in the community and the minority language is used primarily at home.
Because of the strict schedule of this model, “Time and Place” is more widely adopted in bilingual schools, where the environment is natural for children to develop with ease.
Keep in mind that this model is not appropriate for busy families or families who have young children.
If a child is not taught to tell time, he cannot understand why his language has to be shifted in certain times of day, which lead to this approach become arbitrary and may cause a reverse result.
For more information on the “Time and Place” method, parents can refer to this blog from Bilingual Kids Rock.
Teaching your child bilingual is a prolonged and arduous process, and the key to raising a bilingual child lies in a suitable system.
Your child will develop to the fullest if he has enough time to be exposed to language and practices it regularly and continuously.
Concerning parents, it is crucial that parents should be patient and consistent, as well as strictly stick to the rules of teaching language to provide their children with the best environment they can have.