A Guide to Raising Bilingual Kids

More and more couples from different ethnic groups are setting up home together and this introduces the multilingual aspect, as any children will be exposed to two separate languages. There are certain things one must understand when bringing up a child in a multilingual environment and we will examine them.

Consistency Is Everything

Some parents mistakenly think that a child cannot process learning two languages at the same time. In fact, this is not an issue. If, for example, the mother is Spanish and the father is English and the family lives in Thailand, then the child will actually develop the 3 languages simultaneously, yet only if there is a high level of consistency. The mother would only speak Spanish with the child and the father only use English and because the family is living in Thailand, then the child would also develop a fluency in the local language. Mixing languages around when communicating with the child will only confuse them, at least for the first few years and in no time at all, the child will naturally respond in the correct language. If you would like some more information on multiple language learning, there are useful articles available online that examine several best practices to ensure the child has no problems.

Establishing a Primary Language

This is important and the language of the country you are living in should become the main form of communication. It is natural for a parent to worry that their child will have a problem learning more than one language at the same time, yet research shows us that the child actually excels in a multilingual environment. When your son or daughter starts child care, he or she will likely be introduced to children from diverse ethnic backgrounds and this is an excellent foundation to promote multilanguage use at home. Many families qualify for government assistance with child care costs and you can obtain child care rebate information from Guardian, one of the most popular early learning providers in Australia who have many branches across the country.

Start as You Mean to Go On

It is imperative to start using both languages from day one and it is best if each parent sticks to his or her native tongue as much as possible. This establishes consistency and the child will have no problem using two languages at the same time as he or she has a natural ability to do this from birth and with both mum and dad speaking their native tongue, the child has the desired models he or she needs.

It is likely the children will ask about things they do not fully understand and this gives you an opportunity to help them develop a level of fluency in both languages. Being fluent in two languages gives a child an advantage that can be exploited when it is time for career choices and by considering all of the above, your child should have no problems with learning two languages simultaneously. 

Post contributed by Katrina Fernandez


Photo Credit: Aaron Burden Nathaniel Shuman

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