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Raising Bilingual Children

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bilingual children It's likely that every bilingual family wishes to offer the gift of a second language to their children. It is largely accepted that bilingual children are later talkers, but when they start talking, they start in both languages with native fluency. It is indeed a wonderful gift to give to a child for the rest of his life. Until then, you could go through hell and back trying to persevere in your determination to go on with it. There are several ways of raising children bilingually.

Approaches to raising bilingual children

Language and development specialists have located a few effective methods to help your child acquire a second language. You can use the one parent - one language method, i.e. each parent speaks in only one language to the children and to his/her partner. It can be an odd situation, not easy to achieve and maintain, especially when out and you speak to your partner in English and he/she

speaks back in French to you and to the children. It is probably the most efficient method, although the toughest. It takes loads of perseverance and sometimes you might be tempted to give up, but the results are said to come quicker than in other approaches. Besides, this approach works better against the words and languages mixing which are both difficulties to be expected in the process of teaching bilingual children.


Another approach is minority language parent speaks majority language in the family, but minority language only when children are present. Less effective than the one parent - one language approach, this approach leaves room for choice to children. Expect a day when they would refuse to answer in the minority language, knowing very well that you can speak the majority language and you can deal with it with anyway. Around the age of 2, when the tantrums start, this phase usually arises.

Finally, you can try and speak both languages to your child. Probably the most comfortable, it is as well the least effective. It will take longer for the child to acquire the minority language and there will probably be an asymmetrical acquisition of languages, leaving room for the unwanted situation when the child never achieves native fluency for the minority language.

  • First, start as soon as you can! That is the very day your baby is born. It is believed that, by the age of six months, children get used to the specific sounds of the native language and can tell the difference if a conversation is led in a different language.
  • Start with domestic vocabulary. Touching objects that children can see and associate with sounds. Like cat, dog, table, nappy. Continue with relations, such as sister, mum, dad, brother, followed by actions, such as kiss, come, go, watch, point etc. in both languages alternatively. Soon you will be surprised to see that your baby will give you a kiss when you say "Give me a kiss!" in your language and he/she will give your partner a kiss too, when he/she says "Give me a kiss!" in his/her language. This particular moment was a moment to treasure in our case.
  • Try and balance the amount of exposure to both languages by speaking more at home the language that is not spoken at school or in the community. It would help greatly finding a childminder, a nanny or an au pair native of the minority language for consistent and constant exposure to the language.
  • Talk to the children as much as you can, read to them, sing to them, play games with them, any excuse to use the minority language will do. Soon, your children will start talking, reading, singing and playing with you in the minority language and this is one of the most rewarding things that could happen to a bilingual parent.

Don't worry if your child starts mixing words from both languages and creating sentences that start in one language and end in another. This actually proves you are doing the right thing and the child is progressing in both languages at the same time. Just as a monolingual child starts learning the right wording and correcting his mistakes, the bilingual child will make the right choice in the end.

And whatever it takes, go on with it. What it might seem against all odds now, will turn into a wonderful and extremely rewarding experience. Moreover, certainly your bilingual children will be grateful for the gift you have offered them.