Raising bilingual children may be a necessity if you are taking children to a new country. Children can acquire languages much more effectively that adults and it is useful to begin their language learning as soon as possible.
Children who are able to at least attempt the language of their host country will be better equipped to deal with the challenges of moving abroad and will find it much easier to settle into their new life. In the long term their ability to speak more than one language can only ever serve them as an advantage and living abroad may offer them the ability to acquire even more language skills.
Here's our top tips for raising children bilingually.
Children will often replicate the values of their parents, so it is important that you act positively towards the new language and do not present it as being something that will be impossible to achieve. Explain why learning a new language will be useful to them and try and make language learning as fun as possible.
According to research children need to be exposed to language 30% of his or her waking time in order to actively learn how to speak it. It is therefore important that you create as many opportunities for them to gain exposure to the new language as possible. Raising children bilingually means surrounding them with opportunities to learn. Encourage them to watch cartoons and children’s television shows in a foreign language, play word games with them and make everyday trips to the supermarket or school an opportunity to learn vocabulary by discussing the words that they see there.
Form a social group with other people who are also raising their children bilingually. This will give you a network with which you can share ideas and tips and you will benefit from the learning experiences of others. You can also arrange play dates and encourage the children to converse with one another in their new language. This will provide a safe environment within which they can practice their language skills while also having fun.
Although children are believed to find learning a new language easier than adults, it is still something that is hard to do and it will take patience and commitment. Raising children bilingually means viewing your child’s acquisition of a second language as a long-term commitment and recognizing that it will not always run smoothly. Focus on your child’s success and constantly praise any attempts them make to speak in the minor language. Do not make fun of them if they make mistakes. If your child has a bad day and doesn’t want to learn or speak the second language do not grow disheartened. Tomorrow is another day.
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