I was raised in a bilingual home where my parents spoke both English and Spanish. Growing up in this bilingual environment instilled in me a passion for language and culture. My husband and I are raising our children in the same manner and even though my husband was not raised in a bilingual home, he wants our children to experience the benefits of growing up bilingual!
Why should you raise a bilingual child? There are numerous benefits to introducing second language learning at an early age.
Children perform better in school!
Experts agree that foreign language learning is much more a cognitive problem solving activity than a linguistic activity. Studies have repeatedly shown that foreign language learning increases critical thinking skills, creativity, and flexibility of mind in young children. Students who are learning a foreign language out-score their non-foreign language learning peers in the verbal and, surprisingly to some, the math sections of standardized tests.
Children learn a 3rd language more easily!
Children who master a second language by the time school begins will master a 3rd much easier than non-bilingual children.
Children are less likely to become prejudiced!
Bilingual children are sensitive to other cultures and languages. They also feel empathy towards other kids who are learning a second language.
How should I introduce my child to another language? Integrating another language in the home can be especially daunting for non-native speakers. The second language should be introduced in a very authentic and natural way. When we were first introduced to English, we weren’t taught by practicing words in isolation, therefore you shouldn’t introduce a second language in that manner. Here are some ways you can begin to expose your child to a second language.
Language immersion programs
These are great options. Just be sure that the class is age appropriate for your child. For example, preschool programs should incorporate a good bit of play-based learning in their curriculum, while programs geared towards elementary aged children should have lots of cooperative, interactive age appropriate games, books and activities integrated into the class.
Hire a private tutor
Someone who specializes in the specific language is good way to give your child that authentic exposure to the second language.
Utilize Multi-media and technological resources
There are so many on-line age appropriate resources available for your children. You may also want to listen to music or watch a movie in that second language.
Play any and all games you can think of in that second language at home. It’s a fun way to incorporate and support the new language being taught.
Introducing a second language in the home is not as difficult as you might think. These ideas should get you going in the right direction. Before you know it, your little one will be on their way to becoming bilingual!