In this post, I want to discuss why you should raise your children bilingual. In the world we live in,
the job market is becoming more and more competitive. Your children will have to have the better skills, the
more experience, and more speed. On top of that, more and more employers are looking for bilingual employees.
Why? It’s simply due to the fact that there are so many languages in the world, and that makes it a lot harder for monolingual people to compete. Even if monolingual people have jobs, a bilingual person will always be preferred and if one competes, he or she will likely get the job first.
You might think it is impossible to raise bilingual children if you are not bilingual yourself. Indeed, it is more of a challenge, but a parent who is serious about this early on can achieve great results. Here are just a number of things you can do to raise a bilingual child:
1. Learn the language yourself. That may seem difficult. A lot of people think that you need to be a certain age to succeed at a language. This is not the case. In fact, this is a myth! I started learning Spanish at the age of 15. Will a non-native ever speak like a native? Possibly not.
Your goal is not to be a native. Your goal is simply to learn as much as possible. The more you learn, the more you can teach your child. I can’t stress enough. The belief is very widespread that older people cannot learn a new language. Anyone who wants to learn a new language can learn a new language.
It is a question of will power. Again, you won’t speak the language like a native. You may always make some mistakes. That’s okay. It is better for your child to learn to speak a language somewhat imperfectly than to not know the language at all.
2. Try to find a native who can mentor your child, or possibly a nanny. There may be a bilingual adult who is willing to spend some time with your child. Have that person speak to your child in the target language only.
3. Look for media/audio that your child can listen to. This includes television, youtube videos, music, and books. If you are unable to read to your child in that language, try to find a native who will. If Spanish is your target language, see if your local library hosts a Spanish or bilingual story time. You can also take advantage of Bilingual Story Time on Youtube.
4. Take your child on a trip if possible, and possibly make it frequent. If you are able to travel, try taking your child places where your child can be exposed to natives who speak the language. Bring back media items that will help the child remember language what he or she has learned.
5. Try to find playmates who speak the language. This may be difficult because a lot of children born in America may start off knowing their native language a little, but they eventually develop a preference for English. Still, see if you can find a child who speaks the language that you are looking to teach your child.
6. Make your child request items in that language. So, if your child wants something, be sure that your child makes the request in the target language. This will ensure that your child gets plenty of practice.
7. If you speak the language, try to speak to your child most of the time. If possible, have one parent speak English and the other child speak the native language. Or, forget English, because if your child attends school, he or she will likely learn English at school anyway. Besides that, if your child lives in the US, his entire world is English. So focus on the other language.
8. Don’t give up. My children have a Hispanic father and still have a very strong preference toward English. Children may resist another language, but don’t let that stop you from putting forth every effort to submerge the child into a language. If you are able, you may even want to give your teen the opportunity to travel abroad. This is always a more exciting way to learn a new language (not to mention, the most effective).
Obviously, the easiest time to start learning a new language is when a child is young. This is because small children’s brains are designed to absorb a new language like a sponge. However, this does not mean that an older child cannot learn a new language!
Again, I diligently taught myself Spanish from the age of 15. It is always nice if the older child actually desires to learn the language. But it is important that the child understand that learning the language is extremely important even if it is not on his high priority list.
You can teach a child another language if you show some diligence in learning the language yourself, or, if you already know the language, if you make it your top priority to speak the language with that child and surround the child with sufficient media, books, and music.
Finally, I want to address a common struggle that many American mothers face. That is having a spouse who speaks Spanish who refuses to speak Spanish to you and the children. Unfortunately, this was my situation as well. This makes it very hard to teach your multicultural child Spanish because your child may already be resistant to learning a new language as it is, and if the other parent is not being supportive this can make things extra challenging.
This is why I stress that learning the language yourself can benefit your child a lot. I was very fortunate to already have known lots and lots of Spanish by the time I had my children. By reading to my daughter daily I not only helped her but I improved my own Spanish simply reading Arthur and Olivia books as I discuss in my Story Time Spanish For Kids post. If Spanish is your goal language, read Arthur and Olivia books!
I hope that these tips help you to succeed in teaching your child a new language! I wish you the best of success!