Raising your child to be bilingual gives them a bevy of advantages over children who are only able to speak one language. Bilingual children often exhibit a greater understanding of words and enhanced reading skills. Many developmental specialists observe increased cognitive and academic abilities in children who are exposed to even a small amount of a language other than their native tongue. Children that are bilingual are also frequently able to master third and fourth languages with less difficulty than monolingual children attempting to acquire a second language. Learning additional languages is an excellent way to learn more about different cultures, ancestors, and global perspective.
Parents do not need to speak an additional language in order to have children who are bilingual. Many parents find learning a new language alongside their children to be extremely rewarding. In addition to modeling a new language, parents have the ability to demonstrate patience and persistence while achieving proficiency in the new tongue. Employing tutors or enrolling your children in language classes is a viable alternative to having to also learn the language, but be forewarned many Moms and Dads must then resort to trying to catch up with their children’s growing vocabulary just to understand the conversation at the dinner table.
There are several programs that directly teach languages including Rosetta Stone, The Learnables, Power Glide, Transparent Language, and Tell Me More. Young children can begin to learn a second language through incorporation of the language into their daily routine. Around the home, simply label items such as the door, refrigerator, toilet, and television with the corresponding word in each language and speak the words as you travel through the house. Sing songs, play games, and read books in the new language. An excellent resource for acquiring multilingual materials familiar to many homeschoolers is Amazon.com. Clicking on the links for international sites provides the user with the ability to purchase books, music, and other materials in different languages. Skipping Stones is also an excellent resource for finding award winning bilingual books devoted to multiculturalism.
Providing children access to native speakers who are willing to engage them in conversation is key to developing and maintaining proficiency. Consider facilitating a pen pal or Skype relationship with a child who is a native speaker of the language your child is learning. Look for cultural events or local happenings that are being conducted in the language in your area. For instance, many Catholic churches now offer Spanish masses and most Chinese restaurants employ native speakers, many of whom are more than happy to indulge your child by letting them order in Chinese. Other methods of supporting your child’s bilingual development include employing an au pair or bilingual caregiver, and spending extended time in communities where the language being learned is the primary language. The following resources may also be beneficial to parents planning to raise bilingual children: Nanduti and Multilingual Children’s Association.
What language would you love for your kids to learn? Do you have a favorite resource to share for that language?