Raising Bilingual Children

Raising children can be a very stressful task. It requires a lot of skill, patience, and most importantly, love. It takes dedication and lots of experience because it is a full-time job, one which comes with a few tears, laughs, and the rewards outweigh all. Due to the world being interconnected more than previous generations, parents tend to travel more and might end up settling in a different country. This global migration often leads to people settling in a country that has a different language from their native tongue. Another widespread situation happening right now is intercultural/interracial marriages.

In situations like these, there will most probably be two languages being spoken in the home; that is the parents’ language and the local language. It can be very challenging when the child understands both languages, and the parents barely understand a word of the second one. Strict rules have to be made by the parents, so that there can be proper communication and that the child’s learning is not hindered.

Do’s and Don’ts

As mentioned above, the trick to raising bilingual children is to set rules and to follow them, even if it might prove to be tough. To start with, children should be encouraged to speak another language. Children learn best when they have support and love from people they look up to. The second language should be introduced to the children at a very early stage. Parents can add this second language even before the child can speak so that they start getting familiar with it.

It is essential to stick to the language preferences which you set. If for example, both parents speak Spanish, and the local language is English, the parents can opt to speak Spanish at home with the child and let the child speak English outside the house. Where it becomes tricky, is when both parents have different languages, that is perhaps a mother who speaks French, and the father speaks Swahili. If the local community speaks both English and French, both parents can speak in their own language to the child.

Another way to help children learn a second language well is by reading bedtime stories to them in that language. This helps them learn faster because they identify quickly with their favourite characters, plus the illustrations play a significant role. Travelling with children to learn about the minority language helps them greatly because some things can only be learned from experience and not from books. This will also help them gain an understanding of the culture and a sense of pride in the language.

There are so many ways to help the children grow and to learn a second language, just as there are ways to confuse and hinder their progress. The following things should not be done. Parents should stick to their rules and enforce them. For example, if they speak Arabic at home, they must not switch and start speaking English. This will cause the child to think that English is more important and will, therefore, stop learning Arabic.

If parents have two different languages which they speak to their children, they should not suddenly switch and use a different language. This causes confusion in the children, and they will fail to understand which situation requires which language.

If the child makes a mistake while using one language, parents should not be hard on them or fail to correct the child.