Frequently Asked Questions — Bilingual Children
I’m not really sure how to raise my child with more than one language
Actually, you just speak to her. The more interaction she gets in the different languages the better. In the end, multilingual children learn exactly the same way
as monolinguals, they just assimilate more than one language. Here is a list
of ten steps you may want to think about before starting out.
What is the best way to raise a multilingual child?
There are many methods to raise a child with multiple languages. Whatever method you choose, the more consistent you are the easier for the child. Here are some different methods and examples
of how some families have done it.
But don’t the children get confused with many languages?
That is a common but old misconception. Actually there are many myths like that about raising multilingual kids. Take a look here to help you sort fact from fiction.
So, what are the advantages to raising multilingual children?
Aside from the obvious advantage of being able to speak more than one language, it impacts your child positively in the sense of self esteem, future job opportunities and ability to live and travel abroad. Additionally, countless studies show that both analytical, social and and literacy skills are improved when growing up with several languages. Here you can take a look at both the pros and cons (yes, there are some cons too, but probably not the one’s you’d think.)
When is the best time to start?
Now! Seriously, the sooner you get going the better. The best is even before birth of your child. But, it is not just because of developmental reasons children who start later have a harder time with foreign languages. See here why now is the perfect time
My child already speaks one language, is it too late to start another?
Absolutely not. Kids of all ages are language sponges. However, it will take a bit more resolve on our end, and some motivation for you child. We’ve put together some pointers
on how to introduce language to kids beyond infancy.
My child just turned two and he still doesn’t speak, is that normal?
Absolutely, even some monolinguals are late bloomers and don’t start to talk until the age of two, or even later. However, if you are concerned
you can read more here.
How do I know if my child is on track in their speech development?
Unlike motor skills, for example, speech development is much more secretive — regardless of one or several languages. Additionally, it remains highly individual, so comparisons are always tricky. But, here are some indicators
to keep tabs on your child’s progress.
Why is it easier for children to learn a foreign language than for adults?
Children’s brains are primed for language learning during the first years of life and assimilate language markedly different than adults, particularly relative to pronunciation
and grammar. So, if you want to raise your child speaking like a native
you’ll want to read this.
I hear a lot about ‘critical period’, what is it?
Although children can learn a foreign language at any age, taking advantage of the critical period (when the brain is primed for language) making it even easer. Take a look here on what takes place
during that time and how long it lasts.
What can I do when my child refuses to speak the minority language?
What it really means is that the child has no perceived need
for the language. So, being consistent with your language system and providing enough minority language interaction helps create that need for the language. These pointers
should get your child back on track again, and more here for motivating older kids
I don’t spend enough time with my child for her to learn my language
Many parents feel that way, but it is not all quantity. Quality matters too. Make the most of what time you have, and use these ideas to maximize
the time you do have. If you still want more ‘quantity’, these tips
provide several ways to find more language interaction that you may not have thought of.
I’d like to start a play-group, do you have any tips?
Absolutely. And congrats, it is really one of the best things you can do for your child. Here is your play-group resources
page. Also, don’t miss our Classifieds
section. That is the ultimate place to notify other parents if you have a playgroup, or if you are looking for one.
Is it really a good idea to join an immersion school or program?
Certainly — if you are lucky enough to have either a daycare, pre-school or school in your language where you live, take the opportunity. It is astonishing how much it helps your child develop her minority language. Here is what you can expect
from immersion programs.
Where can I find more ideas to encourage the minority language?
Sing together, read books, play games and most importantly have fun. But, when you’ve run out of ideas on how you can keep the language progressing, check out this tip sheet
Can you recommend books or material for bilingual children?
Actually, we have a whole section of recommended book
, not just for your own education, but your child’s too. For a great collection of foreign language shops look in our Resource Directory
. There you can also find bilingual schools, immersion child care, language play groups, speech therapists, blogs, forums, book sellers, expat resources and much more.
Can I speak to my child in a language that is not my own?
Yes you can! By the time child is old enough for sophisticated conversations, your own second language will have improved massively. And, don’t worry about your less than perfect grammar, or not finding the exact word. You are still providing priceless language foundation for your child, that can be ‘polished’ by native speakers later in life. Here is information for non-native speakers
and this section of the forum
is specifically for you.
How do I deal with speaking a foreign language with my child in public?
This is really a highly individual issue. And, it usually varies depending on the specific situation as well. Here are a few strategies to help
you set up your own ‘etiquette rules’.
Should I teach literacy skills in the second language?
First off, what are your goals and what is realistic? This should help you make an assessment of what’s right
for your child. If reading and writing is what you want, homeschooling
is usually the most practical solution.
Is it possible to raise special needs children bilingually?
Contrary to common belief — yes. Many families have succeeded beyond their wildest hopes, but it should always be done together with an expert
experienced in bilingualism. These examples and tips
will help you to decide what is right for your child.
I’m looking for other bilingual families, how can I find them?
Always keep a look-out in our forum
for other families speaking your language, but to find families where you live, the absolutely best way is our classifieds section
. It has many other great ‘wanted and offered’ listings where you can post events, advertise your playgroup or look for one, do house exchanges, trade or sell kids language materials, look for native speaking child care, etc.
Just curious, what are the most common mistakes parents make?
The number one mistake is discouragement. Seriously, many parents think they can’t succeed if their children ‘just understands’ the second language, and don’t speak it. Passive understanding of a language is tremendously overlooked, and can easily be turned into active language use later in life. The other common mistakes
I have written about multilingual children, would you publish that here?
Absolutely, we are actually looking for both parents, educators and experts to share their experience and expertise. Please contact
us! Also, if you have written extensively on the topic we now offer the opportunity to create you own column on this site. More information in our article submission
Can I use some of your text on this site?
Please do! Provided you include the specified resource box
, feel free to use any text on this web site free of charge. We’d appreciate it if you’d let us know about it.