Many parents already know that raising a bilingual child can come with a number of benefits that will not only help their kid growing up, but that will help them long into adulthood as well. However, some parents are understandably apprehensive about teaching their child two languages at once and don’t even know where to begin.
The good news is that teaching two languages at once is encouraged, as studies prove children are capable of differentiating between both languages even at the earliest ages. Additionally, introducing a second language is something that all parents can do, you just need to know where to start.
Here at Binibi, we know that teaching any language can come with certain obstacles and challenges. This is why we have partnered with Bilingual Speech Therapist, Jaqueline Lopez SLP from Thinking Out Loud Speech Therapy for some practical tips that parents can use when attempting to teach children to be bilingual at home.
Utilizing her years of experience in helping children learn multiple languages, Jaqueline has crafted some of her best tips for parents teaching a second language at home.
Model Both Languages At Home
For little kids, so much of learning either a primary, or secondary, language comes from hearing others talk. This is how babies learn their first words, and how toddlers sometimes pick up words they shouldn’t. It is also how kids start learning the proper way to use new vocabulary words in everyday conversation.
So, when parents are spending time around the home, if possible, they should try to model both languages.
For example, when teaching Spanish in the home you can say “dame el zapato” or “give me the shoe” to start introducing Spanish into everyday situations.
Don’t Try To Mix Languages in the Same Sentence
When modeling language, try not to mix languages in the same phrase or sentence. This is called “code-switching.” While this is a normal part of language acquisition, as parents, educators and caretakers, we should model the appropriate way of using language so that children learn the rules of each language. As your child starts to master languages, code-switching will naturally occur, and should be celebrated!
Here is an example.
Do: “Bring me the ball.”
Don’t: “Bring me la pelota.”
Label Items With Both Languages
Labeling is a great way to help your child learn new vocabulary words. You can label rooms around the house, toys, or even everyday items in your child’s room. When labeling items, make sure to use both languages.
For example, you can label your child’s ball with “Ball/Pelota” or label their favorite barnyard toy figurine “Cow/Vaca.”
You can use this labeling approach during everyday conversations as well and incorporate this approach during play or reading. If your child is reading a book and points at a picture of a dog, make sure to use both “dog” and “perro” out loud to label the picture.
Encourage Your Child to Use Both Languages
If you want to help your child become more confident with their bilingual efforts, then encourage them to use both languages openly and freely in their own natural, social contexts. Children should be encouraged to speak in both languages with other adults and their peers.
This gives kids plenty of opportunity to practice their newfound language skills in real-life settings. Their “second” language shouldn’t only be saved for studying or home time—your child should be encouraged to use any language whenever they feel comfortable doing so.
Keep Things Interesting!
Remember, when little ones are this young, learning should be fun! Don’t be afraid to add music, games and language programs to your at-home teaching efforts. The more multifaceted the approach is, the better! This keeps learning interesting and prevents your child from getting bored, confused or overwhelmed by the process.
Plus, this helps stimulate different areas of the brain. You may also find that different children respond better to different types of learning tools. Of course, our favorite tool to incorporate into your child’s bilingual efforts is a great book! Books are already such an important teaching tool for kids and using the right books in the right way can also help them with learning a second language.
Remember, you don’t have to be a language expert, or fluent in a second language in order to raise a bilingual child. You can start with simple, everyday tips such as these to help your child get started on their bilingual journey. Also know that teaching a second language is not a “one size fits all” model, and every family needs to find what works best for them. These are just a few tips that may work for you but we’ll be sharing more tips on different ways to raise bilingual soon, so stay tuned!
Here at Binibi, we are passionate about helping children (and parents) have fun while learning a second language. This is why we have created bilingual books and resources to help little ones start learning dual languages right at home!