A bilingual person can be described as someone who is able to think, speak and eventually read and write in two or more languages. There are many factors to keep in mind when raising a bilingual child, in order to encourage and motivate them to succeed.
Do I have to be bilingual to raise a Bilingual Child?
You don't necessarily have to be bilingual yourself, in order to raise a bilingual child. If you clearly see the benefits of bilingualism for your child, your family and your current or future situation, it is perfectly viable to teach your child a second language without being proficient in it yourself. Of course, it is more challenging. However, there are a multitude of resources, learning programs and techniques to help your child along their way.
Bilingual Goal Setting
Before you start out on the road to raising a bilingual child, make sure you have your goals and priorities clear. Are you expecting oral fluency? Are you Interested in reading and writing skills? Or do you expect your child to use their bilingualism in an academic or professional capacity in the long run? These are important questions to ask yourself, so that you know clearly what the language learning goals and expectations are. This will help you and your child to meet your goals reasonably, with the rig ht level of commitment from both of you.
Encouraging Second Language Learning
Adopt a strategy for your child's language learning and stick to it. Young children who are learning a second language may take time to reveal the fruits of their labor, as they internalise the language before using it. So don't get frustrated at first if it seems they are not learning or producing little functional language. You can decide between using either an immersion style at home (where the c hild learns the minority language at home and the primary language from the community) or direct instruction from one parent (usually whether both parents speak their native language consistently at home). Both approaches are equally effective, as long as your child receives daily input from the new language and recognises a purpose for learning it.
Exposure to the New Language
Learning a new language is long-term process and does not happen overnight. A young child learning a second language will pick it up slowly at first, on a day-to-day basis. Without you noticing it, the minority language is developing and taking form in the bilingual child's brain. So it is important to be relentless and encouraging in immersing your child in the new language.
Language Learning Capabilities
It is essential to recognize the link between your child's language learning capabilities and their overall development. When a child is learning their first language they follow what seems like a biologically wired pattern for developing language skills at certain ages. Whether this is babbling and imitating sounds at 6 months old, or structuring sentences at 3 years old, most children achieve the same language learning goals at the same developmental age. So it is important to consider these developmental milestones when raising a bilingual child, in order to know what they are capable of achieving at each stage of their development. This will help you to have realistic expectations of their language development and support and encourage them along the way.
Experimenting with Language.
Young children experiment all the time with language. This perfectly normal. It is how they learn how it works and how to use it. It is not uncommon to hear them use language incorrectly and while it may seem that they are not learning, this is how they internalize chunks or bunches of speech. So while it is important to model correct language use for them, outright correcting their speech can be de-motivating.
Make Language Learning Fun!
It's essential to make second language learning fun for your child and yourself. The more you can find ways to connect it to their everyday lives, needs and even their first language, the more re relevant and enjoyable it will be. After all, young children learn to use language skills in their first language, because there is a need to communicate. So it is important to be playful and serious. To relate the new language to their interests and needs through using books, songs, stories, games and riddles to capture their attention and make the language real!
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