A bilingual is someone who speaks two languages fluently. Around 70% of the world’s population communicates in more than one language. Some countries have multiple official languages, and citizens are fluent in them. Let’s discuss some wonderful tips about raising a bilingual baby or child successfully.
There are two main types of bilingualism: natural and artificial.
Natural bilingualism is formed as a result of:
- Growing up in a bilingual (international) family;
- Emigration to another country;
- The existence and close contacts of several languages in one state (Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, India, etc.);
- Living in several countries due to work or other circumstances.
Artificial bilingualism appears only as a result of training. Parents in a monolingual country from a monolingual family decide to raise their child bilingual and work with him using certain methods.
Nowadays, speaking multiple languages is a wonderful skill. It gives freedom of communication while travelling and a huge advantage when looking for a job. Raising a bilingual child can be a challenge, but it can also come with many benefits.
Here are tips to help you raise a bilingual child.
1 Start speaking your native language with your bilingual right now. The melodic features of the native language are acquired by the child even before birth. It is known that language acquisition and recognition of the mother’s voice begins during the third or fourth month of pregnancy.
2 Make sure that both mom and dad are willing to consistently adhere to the model you have chosen and set clear language rules: when choosing the “One Parent – One Language” model, mom speaks only “Mom’s language” and dad speaks only “Dad’s language”.
A bilingual person will speak their native language outside the language environment if the mother, from the first days of the child’s life, speaks to him only in her native language. Do not mix your native and foreign languages. Early bilingualism with harmonious development leads to the child’s ability to speak with each parent in one of two languages.
3 Prepare both your foreign and your relatives for the birth of a bilingual child. Involve grandparents and other relatives: talk to them about the importance of their presence in the life of your future bilingual, as well as the importance of their conversations with the child. Tell them that this connection will motivate the child to learn the language spoken by grandparents and aunts and uncles.
4 Start collecting information about other families living in the neighbourhood with bilingual children, about mothers and children gathering at playgrounds or in cafes, about children’s clubs in your native language. It is important for a child to see children around him speaking one of his languages; it is important and useful to communicate with children like him.
5 Linguistic environment should not be confused with foreign language lessons, which the child attends a certain number of times a week. The spontaneity of communication topics and situations is important for the environment: when communication occurs in a second language, it takes the child by surprise in a positive way, forcing him to think, make his first decisions and look at the world differently.
Classes with a qualified teacher who knows modern methods of working with children can be an excellent addition to life in a foreign language, but they will not replace communication with parents and other immediate surroundings of the child.
6 But continuing the previous point, foreign language classes for children are very important. Parents do not always have enough time to properly develop their child’s second language. For example, many children and teenagers have become interested in Korean culture following the release of the Squid Game series, the spread of K-pop music, and the increased popularity of anime. This prompts a request to learn Korean.
If you want your child to learn the Korean language properly, then online Korean tutors from LiveXP can become guides to the world of competent foreign speech. After all, despite the fact that parents create an environment for immersion and rapid mastery of a new language, they may not have learning skills and also do not know grammar and vocabulary perfectly.
7 Teaching a child two languages is a very long process and sometimes you may lose motivation, in which case you will have to come up with your own methods and techniques. For example, if a child does not want to continue speaking one of two languages, then you can buy him a toy and tell him that this toy really likes when people speak to it in this language. Or if the parents and child are ready, you can even get a real pet and use the same technique.
8 Don’t think that a parent’s lack of language proficiency is a barrier. Of course, the higher the language level, the easier it is, but a low language level is not a good reason against bilingual education. On the contrary, it gives a chance to develop together and motivate each other depending on the age of the child. There is a high probability that parents will face criticism and misunderstanding from the environment, but it is important not to doubt the chosen decision, not to try to wait for approval or to convince others.
9 Don’t be afraid that the child will get confused and mix languages, but support him. When we imagine childhood bilingualism, we mean a child who speaks, reads, writes and, most importantly, understands another language at a level sufficient for high-quality communication with others. Experts try not to identify objective criteria for measuring bilingualism, giving preference to communication situations and the reasons why bilingual children use one language or another.
It is this uncontrolled alternation that often causes parental anxiety. And in vain: in the process of learning and using two languages, the child will use a peculiar mix, not because of poor assimilation of information. At this natural stage of language development, not all children are initially able to differentiate between two languages and the situations in which one should be used.
In addition, sometimes a child tries to make up for the lack of vocabulary in one language at the expense of another. It is important to provide him with support, ask clarifying questions to the word or phrase that he decided to replace and practise them together so that the child closes lexical gaps.
The world we are living in is not monolingual. The number of people who speak two or more languages exceeds those who use only one language as a means of constant communication. Our thinking and mentality are highly influenced by the languages in which we live and communicate; in a sense, these are coordinate systems that help us, literally and figuratively, make decisions about where to move. By giving your child the opportunity to communicate using two languages at an early age, you, first of all, give him the opportunity to think more broadly, freely and better!
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