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.
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.
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.