What is Bilingualism?
Bilingualism means a person can speak two languages as his/her native languages without letting one affecting his/her accent of another. They have to speak both languages fluently. According to world statistics, 43% of the people in the world are bilingual speakers. Considering that we live in such a global society, it's not that surprising.
Knowing two languages definitely gives yourself an advantage than knowing just one. But it can't also be difficult if you want to raise your kids to be bilingual. Here we will talk about what parenting methods you can use to raise a bilingual child!
Parenting methods on how to raise bilingual child
Many parents want their kids to be bilingual because it'll be very useful for them when they grow up in the future. There are many reason as to why parents want their kids to be bilingual, maybe the parents speak two different languages, maybe they are immigrants, or maybe they just want their kid to know one more language. Whatever the reason is, parents will seem to face challenges along the way.
We have found some solutions for you that you may consider if you're struggling at raising a bilingual kid!
1. Enrol them in a school that teaches in your preferred language
Say if you're a German family living in the US and you really want your kids to be fluent in German, send them to a German school so they can study it in their daily life. The thing about raising a bilingual kid is that, if you only speak to your kid in German at home, your kid will only grow up learning household German. He/she may not be able to actually work professionally in Germany per se because the kid will only know how to speak household things that are usually spoken at home.
In order to train them so they can practise outside of home, enrolling them in a German school is essential. Being in a school that teaches German doesn't mean your kid will not speak English. They will also teach in English. The purpose is to strength the German part because your kid will grow up speaking English to everyone else and only speak German to you. That's why you need to consider how to give he/she an all-rounded bilingual development when enrolling in schools.
2. Saturday school
Commonly, many kids used to go to Saturday school and this will definitely come in handy. Being in Saturday school meant that there were plenty of opportunities to practice more with kids coming from the same background and it hones your child's confidence. Your kid may not feel perfectly comfortable speaking in home language because everyone else outside is speaking another language.
Besides letting your kid practice the home language, it's also important to let him/her meet people with the same background. Human interaction is very important. It helps strengthen your kid's sense of belonging to the language and can encourage him/her to want to learn more about it and be proud to speak it.
Usually, Saturday schools are much more relaxed than regular schools. They only aim to let kids have fun while practicing their language. If you don't want to enroll your kid in a regular school that teaches in your preferred language, Saturday schools are always a good choice.
3. Be supportive, don't compare your bilingual kid to kids that speak only one language
This always seems easier said than done. Many parents tend to compare their kids to the other. They will think that their kid is a slow learner because other kids that speak only one language can already make sentences or paragraphs etc. Please understand that it's very unrealistic to expect your kid to perform the same or even outperform other kids that speak only one language. You only give 50% of the time of that language, you can't expect them to be 100% like other kids.
Quite a few bilingual kids lag behind at school for the first few years because they can't fully grasp the idea of languages and not know which language to speak at times. You should be supportive when they're confused. Guide them and help them realize that he/she is speaking two languages. Don't compare your kid to another, every kid is special. And comparing them really hurt their self-esteem a lot.
4. Try to speak your second language to your kid
You kid may be fluent in two languages but maybe you're only fluent in one. Either way, you should try to speak your second language to your kid. It will give them confidence and understand that he/she is not the weird kid that speaks two languages.
It's all about taking care of their feelings. Every kid wants to feel they belong somewhere. If they don't, it's easy for them to reject a language.
5. Let your kid finish the sentence before you have to correct them
This is not just a tip for bilingual parents, but for all. Kids struggle a lot when finishing a sentence, and usually make a lot of pauses and stops. Don't feel the need to correct them instantly when they say something in the wrong language.
Bilingual kids are very likely to mix up words between languages until they are at least 7. Not being able to distinguish which language they're speaking doesn't make them weaker. Just patiently let them finish and slowly tell them the right word in the right language. You don't want to rush a kid when they're learning, it will do him/her no good.
6. Label their toys in both languages
It's always easy to get kids' attention with toys. Trying putting up stickers on the shelf with both languages so the kid can understand in the easiest way that at home, mommy and daddy understand the name on the blue sticker, while at school, friends and teacher understand the name on the orange sticker.
It saves you a lot of trouble by teaching them one by one as it's very easy to put up stickers on the shelf. You can even have a quiz session with your kid to see who can get more names right in both languages (you might want to pretend you know less than you actually do on this one though).
7. Make them proud of speaking two languages
Try taking your kids to some cultural festivals, watch some local movies and teach them about the origin of the language. Make them feel that they belong to that part of the world even though it may be ten thousand miles away.
8. Introduce the two languages as early as possible
It's a myth among parents that if you introduce two languages to your kid too early, he/she will end up mixing the two languages and lead to speech delay. It's far from the truth. Introduce the two languages to your kid as early as possible so they can get used to listening and distinguishing between languages.
Kids are way more perceptive to languages than we think. If you introduce the other language too late in their life, they will end up speaking it as a second language only. Get started as early as possible, even when they're still a baby you can try to read bedtime stories in different language just to get them to absorb. You'd be surprised how fast kids can learn.
9. Encourage them to teach others
Maybe it's a playdate when your son/daughter realised his/her friend doesn't understand what he/she was saying that they had to change the language. It can be an awkward and confusing moment for the kids. Don't let it be. Just smile and walk up to them and tell you kid, 'Hey! Maybe it's time to teach your friend something, what do you say?'
Let your kid proudly teach the others their language is also a great way to strength their memory and allow them to distinguish between languages easier.
We all want to be bilingual in this globalised world. More and more parents are putting in effort to raise a bilingual kid. While entirely relying only on school may not be enough, there're many easy, hassel-free way to raise a bilingual kid easily.
Get started and try out our tips today and see the amazing results!