There’s no denying the benefits that come with knowing how to speak more than one language fluently. Immigrants make up approximately 13% of the total U.S. population, and bilingual individuals have more job opportunities, learning experiences, and forms of effective communication than those who know just one language. But even if it’s too late for you to learn a second language for yourself, it’s never too late to inspire your child to develop a thirst for language learning. With the help of some innovative technology as well as basic parenting tricks, you can ease your child’s mind into learning a second language as they grow up. Here’s what you need to know about educational strategies to help you raise a bilingual child, or even a multilingual child:
Start as Young as Possible
First, you should know that the brain makes the most connections among its cells before your child turns 10. This means that it’s best to start using these tips and resources with your child when they’re younger for maximum retention. Think of how many words a toddler knows by age three or four — they can do the same while incorporating words from other languages, as long as the parent starts early enough and sticks with it.
Consider Your Immersion Strategy
Once you’ve made decisions about language, it’s time to decide how you’ll enforce them. The Huffington Post offers some charts that break down different strategies based on the languages parents already know. For example, if each parent’s native language is different, it makes the most sense to ‘assign’ each parent with one language and stick to it. Similarly, if both parents are already bilingual, you can establish different locations where each language is spoken, e.g., speaking English at school and Spanish at home.
A child’s peer group is very important. If they have similar linguistic practices and weave languages together when they speak to each other, the likelihood of raising multilingual children is much higher.
Use Both Physical and Virtual Resources
As you implement various educational strategies, it’s often best to combine both physical and virtual resources. This is because you may not be able to tell how your child learns best, and combining these learning methods makes for maximum retention and memory.
Check out your local library to gather some books, videos, CDs, and DVDs involving the language. Or, take to the Internet: U.S. e-commerce revenue is about $423.3 billion and is steadily climbing, and there are countless resources dedicated to helping children develop their second language skills. Let them watch their favorite television shows or listen to their favorite music in the second language you want them to learn. If you’re looking for hands-on virtual resources like apps, make sure they’re age appropriate for your child’s language level and sufficient enough to keep your child focused.
Similarly, if you’re trying to get your child to pick up on second language skills that neither parent has, you’ll have to go the extra mile to make sure they’re exposed to some sort of one-on-one interactive conversation as opposed to a repetitive song or DVD. Tutors are a great option for this: according to Upwork’s 2018 Future Workforce Report, 38% of hiring managers predict that their employees will work predominantly remotely in the next 10 years, and whether you hire a local tutor in the area or find one online to teach your child remotely, they’re bound to reap the same benefits as they would if both parents were also native speakers. Try browsing Care.com for a tutor in your area, or try online tutoring resources like Vivaling and PandaTree.
While raising your child to be bilingual certainly takes dedication and persistence, there’s no limit to the astounding benefits that come with second language development. If you ever feel overwhelmed, take the advice of Kevin M. Wong from the Huffington Post:
“Raising bilingual children requires a lot of intentional planning and can be a lot of work…To persist, keep the long-term benefits of multilingualism in sight, create multilingual norms and routines around the home, celebrate bilingual milestones with your children, and find families who raise children in a similar way. Though raising children is often a thankless job, bilingualism is a gift that they will undoubtedly thank you for one day.”