bilingual children, raising bilingual children, bilingualism, teaching a second language

“The more languages you know, the less likely you are to become a terrorist” – Upamanyu Chatterjee

While I don’t usually worry about my children becoming terrorists, I have many other reasons why I’ve chosen to teach them a second language. I want to share with them as much of my cultural heritage as I can. I want them to be able to communicate with their grandparents. And, selfishly, I want to have someone by my side that can speak my own language, the language I grew up with. Teaching kids another language may feel like just another thing on our overfull plate of parenting responsibilities, but it can also be fun and very rewarding. Not sure where to start?

Talk to your children

Speak to your child in the second language as soon as they are born or even before that, while they are still in the womb. You may feel silly at first, but you never know how much your baby will pick up in these early moths plus it helps you to create a habit for yourself.

On the other hand, if you didn’t start when your child was a tiny baby, don’t worry that you’ve missed the boat. Explain what you’re doing and start talking in the second language as soon as you can. It may be more challenging with an older child and it’ll take longer to get to a stage where they understand everything you say, but it’s never too late. Even adults can learn a language!

Stock up on books

Reading together is a great way to bond with your children through words. It’s also an opportunity for your kids to expand their vocabulary beyond the phrases you’d use in a day-to-day conversation.

Teach through games and songs

Kids learn best through play and learning another language is no exception. Simple games from your childhood will bring lots of joy for both you and your children, and they will want play them again and again. Sing in the car or just leave a CD playing in the background, you’ll find your kids singing along and learning the words in no time.

Join language playgroups, schools or communities

Children get excited when they get use their second language somewhere other than home, participate in events and dress up in national costumes. It also helps to have someone else teach them, especially when it comes to reading and writing. Maybe I’m just not good at teaching, but the teachers at the language school can hold my children’s attention much longer than I can.

Don’t give up

Sometimes you may not see much evidence that your children are learning and it may seem like you’re wasting your time and energy. Keep on going. Your kids may not respond to you in the second language, but they are still listening and soaking up everything you say, and they will be able to access that knowledge when they need it.

My children would only speak English to me until we travelled to visit their grandparents. They found themselves in an environment where no one could understand them and they started speaking their second language on the very first day. Their grammar was bad and sometimes they struggled to find the right words, but they understood everything and they made themselves understood.

“The limits of my language are the limits of my world” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

What better way to stretch the limits of our children’s world than to offer them the gift of a second language.

Photo by Marjan Lazarewski via Flickr

By Tatiana Apostolova