In previous blogs, we’ve talked about the benefits of bilingualism and teaching second languages to children at an early age, but if your child isn’t enrolled in a school that teaches other languages, it can be more difficult to learn them.
We define bilingualism as the regular use of two or more different languages in daily life. Bilingual people can communicate, think, and reflect in at least two different languages, even if one language remains dominant.
In this blog, we’ll discuss a few ways parents and others can help to raise multilingual children.
Practice, practice, practice
The best way for children to learn new languages is by practicing speaking. If each parent speaks a different language, the child can eventually learn both, called simultaneous language acquisition. Many parents use the One Parent, One Language strategy, even if a child may spend more time with one parent than the other. If a child learns one language first—such as one primarily spoken at home—they can learn a second from age three. This is called sequential language acquisition. Many children become bilingual if they’re speaking another language at school.
The more words children hear, the larger their vocabulary. Make it commonplace to talk about body parts, objects around the house, adjectives, and give or receive instructions in other languages. Rather than correcting their mistakes, it’s more ideal to encourage them to practice. This will allow them to learn to correct themselves and gain confidence in speaking with others.
Conversations with grandparents, extended family, and friends who speak another language can further benefit children’s language development. If these family members and friends live in other areas, hop on video calls so your child can practice their skills with them. Older children can join foreign language clubs at schools.
If you aren’t speaking the language your child is learning, take classes and learn to speak along with them. You can also hire language tutors if need be.
Encourage multilingual reading
Along with speaking, encouraging your child to read books in other languages will help with their reading and spelling skills. Read books to your child in a different language (or have them read to you!) and make sure they know where they can pick up more multilingual books at the library. You can find popular books or collections in over one language.
When you watch television or movies, put on subtitles in the other language if possible. Children can do well learning to read two languages at once.
Speak as you play
For younger children, motivating language learning games like Simon Says will help them enhance their multilingualism. They can grow their vocabulary through mobile games, arts, crafts, and cooking. High quality educational children’s programmes can be helpful in other languages too. You can also change your TV settings to another language if that option exists, but make no mistake—person-to-person conversations are best for learning.
One popular online programme is Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, which offers skits performed by children in one language. Children learn by seeing other kids model the language in everyday life, with a funny and engaging storyline.
Knowing your child’s interests can help you tailor bilingual learning in other ways to make it fun for them.
Get immersed in the culture
Cooking or eating cultural cuisines, watching foreign movies, and listening to foreign music are all ways to get immersed in the culture of the language your child is learning. Exposing them to fun songs in another language will help them learn, and you can watch popular movies they like in that language too.
Teaching your child about the people, places, and history of other languages can also go a long way. Look out for museum exhibitions that could offer an opportunity for them to enhance their language learning.
By far, the best way to get immersed in a foreign culture is to travel as much as possible so your child can further develop their language skills. Quality time with family and friends who speak other languages is positive, and there may be camps in other countries that can be a fun and effective learning experience for your child.
Even a temporary relocation can provide an excellent opportunity for cultural immersion and the opportunity to speak different languages.
SISD offers two fully immersive bilingual streams: English/French and English/German. We designed our bilingual programmes to offer learners the chance to develop international-mindedness, broaden their skills and capabilities and acquire the information needed to access other cultures. Students learn in a multilingual and multicultural environment that provides them with a wide range of opportunities.
For more information about our multilingual programmes, contact our Admissions team at firstname.lastname@example.org.