Education starts at home – and this is especially true when it comes to language.
It’s very rare that children acquire new language skills from somewhere other than their close circle. This is why, if you’re hoping to raise a bilingual child, it’s so important to create a comfortable, welcoming, and safe learning environment that starts at home and expands to the other many areas of their life.
The benefits of a bilingual and multilingual upbringing and education have been discussed at length by psychologists and experts who agree that growing up surrounded by multiple languages offers a lot of benefits for kids as they mature into adults. Just to name a few, bilingual and multilingual children tend to be quite open-minded, creative, better problem solvers, more apt multitaskers, and even more proud of themselves, their family roots, and their heritage.
Providing a young child with a space where they can learn, practice, and improve on their language skills is essential to help them feel more comfortable about hearing and speaking said language.
As a parent or guardian, here are a few steps you can take in order to create this environment and start helping your child embrace a second language from a young age!
- Use the power of music
Music is a fun and exciting way to get children acquainted with a new language. Depending on their age, you can choose from nursery rhymes to more pop-style tunes to help them get started in hearing certain words, accents, and phrases.
Not only that, but playing these songs will make the learning experience much more dynamic and engaging. Come up with a dance routine, sing along to the words…get involved and your child will soon do the same!
- Find bilingual books
If your child is getting started in the world of reading, encourage them to look beyond English-written books and pick something out in their second language. Not only will this help them learn about pronunciation and spelling, but it will also introduce them to new stories about heritage and family that they can begin to connect with.
Leave books around the house and celebrate your child for choosing to read one. Motivating them and praising them when they choose something in a different language will make them feel appreciated for trying.
- Use visuals
Once kids get to a reading and writing age, you can play around with certain visual elements like key cards and posters to help them practice the language. A great way to do this is by labeling everyday household items in English and their second language.
Teaching through real-life examples, like asking your child to pass you the azúcar will help bring the language into a more engaging situation that’s not just merely educational but also real life.
- Set a daily “language hour”
Practice is key when it comes to learning a new language. In order to create an environment that motivates and teaches your child, you also need to be willing to put in some extra effort to lead by example.
Choose a time during the day when you, your family, and your child can practice the language together. It doesn’t have to be a formal setting: it can be sporadic, at the dinner table, while playing a game, etc.
By showing your child that everyone else at home is happy to learn and practice with them, they’ll feel more comfortable when it comes to speaking, listening, or writing in a new language.
- Be patient
Think back to when you were trying to learn a second language. It might seem easy now, but it most likely wasn’t back then – and your child is now feeling the same way. Whatever you do, always make sure to stay patient and understanding with the process.
Grasping a new language won’t happen overnight. It’s a process that takes time and practice, and making sure that your child understands you don’t want to pressure them is essential. Otherwise, they might feel nervous, scared, or bored…and they’ll want to stop learning altogether.
Creating a bilingual environment goes beyond the material things: it’s about how you interact with your child when the time comes to practice a new language.
How many languages do you speak and what helped you the most when you were learning them? Share some tips in the comments section below! 🗣