Raising A Child In A Bilingual Household

Raising a Child in a Bilingual Household

If you and/or your spouse speak multiple languages, then one of the things you’ll need to decide is which ones you’ll use when speaking to your child. Many parents like the idea of raising bilingual children, but there are also those who believe it’s better to start with one language.

Here’s everything you need to know about raising children in a bilingual household, from whether it’s smart to the different ways you can do it.

raising a child in a bilingual household

Is It a Good Idea to Teach Children Multiple Languages?

This question can be answered with a resounding yes. There’s a misconception some parents have that children will become confused by hearing more than one language from an early age. In reality, children can distinguish one language from another very early on, especially when each language is much different.

The idea that children will become confused if they grow up hearing, say, English and Spanish, is a myth. The only other potential drawback people worry about is that their children could be behind when they get to preschool or kindergarten. This could happen, but it all depends on how much exposure the children get to each language. If you give them a good balance, they’ll be fine.

Now, let’s look at the benefits of learning more than one language as a kid. Being multilingual will be a huge advantage for your kid as they get older. They’ll have an easier time in school, and proficiency with another language could open up more job opportunities for them.

The idea that children can learn a language with ease is also a bit of a myth, but it’s certainly easier at a young age than it is later in life. And the best part is that by learning a second language while they’re young, children will be more likely to speak it naturally and like a native would, especially if one parent is a native speaker.

Methods to Raise Your Child Bilingually

Once you’ve decided that you’d like to raise your children bilingually, the next step is deciding how you will do it. There are several options here.

tips for raising your child to be bilingual

Each Parent Speaks One Language

This is a very popular approach for its simplicity. Children hear a different language from each parent and talk to that parent in the same language they use. With this method, each parent can use their native tongue (if those are different), which helps the children learn the language like natives would.

The potential issue is when kid interact with one parent much more than the other, in which case they’ll have far greater proficiency in one language.

One Language at Home, One Language Elsewhere

In this method, the family uses one language at home, and another language everywhere else. It’s sometimes used by immigrant families, and it’s nice because it allows everyone to speak with each other at home. Kids also get an excellent understanding of their parents’ native tongue this way.

There are two issues with this method. The first is that the kids will likely not be as proficient in their outside-the-home language, and that will put them at a disadvantage when they start school. If one of the parents only has a limited proficiency with the language spoken in the home, then they could make mistakes and cause their children to learn the language the wrong way.

Determining the Language Based on the Situation

This involves switching between each language. Children will use the language that fits who they’re speaking to and where they are. That could mean speaking one language with one set of relatives and the other with another set of relatives. Parents can also help their children learn how to do this by changing what language is spoken at home each day.

Learning this way is a bit more challenging for the children and requires more effort on the part of the parents. But it’s also a balanced approach that will help children communicate well no matter what they’re speaking.

Switching from Language to Language at Any Time

For parents who don’t want to be too rigid with how they speak, there’s this method. The family switches what they’re speaking whenever they want. Like the method above, this is a good way for children to learn how to communicate in either language, and it’s a very natural approach.

With this method, there is the possibility that children like one language more. That could lead to them using it more and not being as proficient with the other language.

As you can see, there are plenty of ways to raise children to be bilingual, and the right method varies for each family. Whichever method you choose, you’ll be making the right choice in teaching your children another language from the beginning.

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2 thoughts on “Raising A Child In A Bilingual Household

  1. I was so utterly determined for our daughter to learn both English (American father) and Dutch (me, the mother). Not because Dutch is so important, but because we all know how good it is to know another language, and the culture that goes with it, and of course my family all lived and lives in the Netherlands. She was born when my husband and I lived in Ghana, West Africa. We had English speaking friends with children and Dutch friends with children, so she was exposed to both languages outside the house as well. It was no problem. By the time she was 3.5 years old, she spoke as much English as Dutch. Then we moved to the US. Problem. I was the only one speaking Dutch to her. We had no Dutch friends there (before internet to go search for them, but I could have put an ad in the paper maybe?) So after about 6 months or so she decided it was not worth the trouble to speak to me in Dutch and kept answering me in English. It was such a struggle to keep trying that after months of this I gave up. Maybe I shouldn’t have. Now that she is grown up she blames me (hah!).

  2. My dad (Italian) and mum (Spanish) could speak multiple languages but we always spoke English at the house. I think it was because neither could speak the other’s language so we all had to use English. Up to now I cannot speak either Italian or Spanish.

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