You can give your child not only the gift of communication, but also of increased use of brain functions — all by raising them in a bilingual environment. Many people have concerns that speaking to their child in two different languages beginning at birth will confuse the baby. However, the results are quite the contrary. Although the child may take longer to speak, when she does, she will speak in both languages. In addition, a recent study in Singapore showed that even at the age of 6 months old, bilingual children show signs of elevated intelligence when compared to monolingual peers. These benefits have been found regardless of which languages are spoken.
So, how can you raise your child bilingually? There are some easy ways to go about this:
One Parent, One Language
Arguably the most easy way to raise your child bilingually, this method is simple and straightforward. If you and your spouse speak different native languages or are both fully bilingual, you have it made. Preferably, one parent speaks their native language to the child, say, English. And the other parent speaks their native language to the child, say, Filipino. If both parents are fluent in both languages, it can be simpler to have each parent choose one to speak to the child. That way, the languages should have similar opportunities to be practiced when interacting with each parent.
Amazingly, children growing up in these environments pick-up both languages at the same time. If one language is generally used less in the home – say, the parents speak in Spanish to each other and the father speaks in Spanish with the children and only the mother speaks in English to the children. In this case, English is heard and spoken less. To compensate, the parents can read books, watch movies and sing songs in English.
Home and School
If both parents are monolingual and only speak one language themselves, but wish to raise a bilingual child, they’ll need to look for outside sources. It’s important that parents don’t speak a language they “sort of” know to their children – they’ll teach the mistakes too! One way to achieve a child becoming bilingual is to send them to a school where a different language is spoken.
Practice Early On
Another option for parents who are monolingual is to practice a second language with their child, but only at special times. A child benefits most from hearing their parents’ native language as they will learn this language fully and correctly. However, you can have special “practice sessions” with your child in a second language that you may speak. You can read books, watch movies, sing songs and point out vocabulary in this second language. Using our app, Nell, will help your child develop an ear for English. It will also teach her English vocabulary and to read and write. Then, when your child is older, you can try to provide her with formal lessons to solidify the knowledge.
Are you raising a bilingual child? Write us with your questions and tell us about your strategies, tips and tricks!