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How to Raise Bilingual Children
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May 29, 2014  |  Written by Carlota Nelson

Have you decided to raise bilingual children? Congratulations! Not only will it stimulate their linguistic development but their intellect as well. Here, we´ll tell you about the challenges you may face, the myths, which must be demystified and all the benefits and tips on how to live with 2 languages at home.

Let´s start by differentiating types of bilingualism. The first one is when the child learns two languages at the same time, since birth. If this is your case, experts recommend that each parent consistently speak one language each and together decide what language they will use to communicate with each other.

Another type of bilingualism is when one language is used at home and another at school or in the community.

A third type is when the child learns how to speak one language and then incorporates another at school or in the community. Whichever the case may be, the key is to be consistent and perseverant.

Some of the challenges of raising bilingual children include:

Your child refuses to talk in the language used at home. Be patient and even though your child insists on talking in the language used at school, keep his mother tongue alive at home. He´ll eventually start using both.

Bilingual children tend to mix. Yes, but this is temporary and disappears when the child develops vocabulary in both languages. The reasons why your son or daughter might mix languages is because that is what they see and hear at home or because they don´t know the word they need in the language they are speaking in. Again, be patient and an example for your child. Never mix languages and help him or her find that word, repeat it and incorporate it into his discourse.

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When raising bilingual children there are certain myths that need to be discarded. Bilingual parents often wonder whether their children will fall behind at school, become confused or if it´s too late to start. The truth is that some bilingual children start speaking later than those who only learn one language but this, again, is temporary. According to Roxana A. Soto, journalist and co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com, parents should know that children who learn two languages do it faster, get better grades and are usually more creative when it comes to thinking because they have more than 1 word to use for each concept.

Christina Bosemark, founder of Multilingual Children’s Association recommends playing, singing, reading books and watching educational programs and movies in both languages. Today, there are plenty of bilingual apps for tablets that combine fun and learning.

It´s also important to travel to the country of origin and motivate your son and daughter to communicate with other family members and children in that language.

Play dates with bilingual children. They say that there is no better language teacher for children than other children. Playing and friendship make learning much easier.

Be creative. When it comes down to anything that has to do with education, the key is to make it fun. Motivate your child to invent stories in both languages. Apart from being fun, playing and creating also generates more vocabulary.

When is a good time to start? According to the experts, the best time is from the moment they are born since you´ll make good use of their brain plasticity. But if they´ve already turned two, you´re still OK because children between the ages of 2 and 7 are still capable of processing two languages.

Do you have bilingual children? How do you manage 2 languages at home? We´d love to hear what your experience is.

Photo Credits: US Department of Education

 

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