Raise bilingual children: every parent and carer wishes the best for their child, and helping them learn a second language such as English is a priceless, lifelong gift.
Children gain so many benefits by becoming bilingual. Learning English early, for instance, helps them in so many ways throughout their education opening a myriad of possibilities. And learning any second language has been shown to increase mental performance – even before they can speak their first word!
Raising a bilingual child is something for which you (and they) will always be glad. But it doesn’t just “happen”. That’s why Pingu’s English – the world-famous English learning course for children – is delighted to bring you this eight-point guide to getting it right:
- Know that learning a second language doesn’t just happen naturally
It’s tempting, and very common, for parents to believe that just because they speak another language, it will be automatically passed on to their child. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. To raising a bilingual child successfully requires effort and a great deal of patience. Without focused work to teach this language, your child can end up being “passive bilingual”, which means they can understand what you’re saying, but can’t speak back.
The first way to raise a bilingual child successfully is to spend time with them talking, reading, playing, and doing anything else that encourages them to speak in this other language.
- Remember it’s never too late
Don’t worry if you didn’t start teaching them a second language when they were toddlers (although younger is easier). There are still many way you can introduce them to another language and provide them with enough exposure to become fully bilingual. Rest assured that children can learn a language at any age – and so can grown-ups.
- Don’t worry about mistakes
Although you of course need to correct important mistakes, it’s equally important just to let many mistakes go. Try not to correct your child each time they make a mistake because otherwise you’ll be disrupting the flow of talking – and their learning. Also, they may remember the fact they got something wrong more deeply than what they were supposed to be learning!
- Don’t assume TV will do the teaching
It’s a proven fact that all children require interaction with people to learn a language. If your child already has a basic understanding of a second language, then some TV time can certainly help improve it. But speaking, reading, and playing with your child using another language is the best method. Simply putting them in front of a TV won’t work.
- Just ignore the doubters
You’ll hopefully receive lots of encouragement in your efforts, but there’ll always be some people who don’t agree that it’s a good idea to raise your child to speak another language. They may try to tell you there’s no point, or that it won’t work. Others may say you’re expecting too much from your children, or that you’re confusing your child. Just ignore them! Scientifically Proven researches say differently.
- Plan for bilingual success
How fluent do you want your child to be? Do you want them to read and write that language as well? It’s important to discuss this as a family and agree on your teaching goals. Planning ahead gives you the best chance of bringing up a bilingual child successfully.
- Give your child enough exposure to that language
Once you have your plan, you’ll need to assess how much exposure your child gets to that language. As a very general guide (all children are different) your child needs to be exposed to a second language for at least one third of their waking time to become bilingual naturally. Remember, this is only a rough guide. Depending on the type of exposure, your child, may need more or less time to learn their second language.
- Put in the extra time (and sometimes extra money)
Learning a second language takes time. Not just for your child, but for you. You’ll need to find the time to talk to them in this language. A lot. And to do the reading and to find resources such as Pingu’s English to help your child learn even faster. One great way to boost your child’s motivation to speak this other language is to use your holidays to make a trip to place where it’s spoken.
By following these 8 tips, and persevering with good humour and kindness, your child will have more chances to learn their second language successfully. And enjoy the benefits of that for the rest of their life!