MomsGetReal Guest Contributor Adrienne Erin
As a parent you want to offer your children every possibility imaginable to eventually become a successful adult. If you are thinking about raising your child to be bilingual, there are both challenges and advantages that you need to consider. Raising a bilingual child can offer a tremendous advantage in today’s society and offer a plethora of future employment opportunities. Although there is a considerable amount of research available, sifting through the information can leave you still uncertain about your choice. Knowing your options before making the decision will leave you better informed and give you a better understanding on how to raise a bilingual child.
Better Late Than Never (But Early is Best)
Studies show that teaching your children a second language should begin at an early age, but even if you don’t start teaching your child from birth it is still possible for them to become bilingual. Nevertheless, young children are much more receptive and adapt easily to multi-tasking. They harbor the ability to gain a better understanding of language concepts.
When my husband and I were making the decision to raise our daughter to be bilingual (fluent in both English and French), we did not really begin to focus on it until she was starting kindergarten. Now, we try to speak a lot of French around her at home, especially during mealtimes, and though she started at age five she’s really been picking it up over the past three years!
Challenges and Concerns
Research suggests that raising your child to be bilingual offers enhanced reading and writing skills along with strong analytical and academic skills. Children who are learning a second language often have a broader knowledge of cross-cultural understanding and communication.
If you do not fluently speak a second language — or even if you used to but are a little rusty — raising your child to be bilingual will be a learning curve for the both of you! There are many options available to parents without strong language abilities to choose from. From tutors to educational facilities that offer bilingual services, there are several options to choose from. My family looked into sending our daughter to a bilingual elementary school, but we don’t live close enough to one to make this practical. This is definitely a good idea if you live in a larger city, however!
Make it a Team Effort
Everyone in your family, including extended family, should be on board and supportive about your decision to raise a child to be bilingual. If you do not have this support, it could become very difficult to cultivate the language speaking skills you are hoping for and make teaching an uphill battle. Speak with all family members about your choice and make sure they support your decision.
My husband’s family is partially French, so they were extremely happy to learn of our decision, but my own family was a little hesitant. Some were concerned that French was not a practical choice; some thought our daughter should be able to choose her own language to study when it became a class option in 7th grade. We asserted that any second language is better than no second language – it still opens more doors than a single language ever will! Also, we aren’t planning to pressure her into studying French in middle school – if she would like to take German or Spanish and learn something completely new, she is more than welcome to!
Much like learning anything else, being persistent is going to be one of the most fundamental requirements to teaching your child a second language. If you waver from your plan and teachings, you could find yourself starting all over again.
Something we have found to work well for us is having French dinner nights. During these meals, which we try to have at least four nights per week, everyone at the table is required to speak French. This has worked really well for us!
Make it Fun
Playing games, reading books and singing songs in the language you are teaching is an excellent way to engage your child in learning while making it fun. There are so many television shows — such as Dora The Explorer — that are available for your child that incorporate second languages.
Since we have a satellite TV, we get a number of French-language Canadian channels. My husband’s French family members have also made it a habit to send our daughter French postcards – which she is always delighted to respond to!
Teaching your child a second language from birth, especially if you yourself are unfamiliar with the language, can be frustrating. Some children will pick up the language quickly, others will go back and forth between the two, others will just struggle consistently, but most will have a good handle on it by age 4 or 5. Don’t scold your child if they choose not to speak the language or be concerned if they go back and forth. Remember to stay positive and provide the best learning environment you can to encourage their bilingualism.
Transitioning Into Adulthood
Your child’s future employers are sure to value the dimensionality bilingualism provides. Employers are constantly on the hunt for employees with a diverse range of skills and abilities. Morningside document translation services, for example, offers professional services through a global network of language consultants. This is just one of the many companies that require second language knowledge, and raising your child to be bilingual can be one of the best things you can do to ensure their future success.
This post was contributed by Adrienne Erin on behalf of Morningside document translation