Updated: Dec 16, 2022
All children learn at least one language.
Research has shown that children who are fluent in two languages also have cognitive advantages in comparison to those who speak only one language. They have improved memory and concentration, and are better at solving problems. Practical benefits for your child include better communication, and career opportunities in an ever-increasing global market.
At what age should parents start speaking to their child in the language?
Research on bilingualism and second language learning converges robustly on a simple take-home point: earlier is better. Infact, as soon as the baby is born. Our brains may be more receptive to language earlier in life. Linguistic experts believe that children have the ability to learn multiple languages just by hearing them, even when they are too young to utter a word. Young children experience a very rich language environment during the first years of life. They hear language in attention-grabbing, digestible bundles that are targeted skillfully at their developmental level.
Do children get confused when exposed to more than one language?
One misunderstood behavior, which is often taken as evidence for confusion, is when bilingual children mix words from two languages in the same sentence. This is known as code mixing. In fact, code mixing is a normal part of bilingual development, and bilingual children actually have good reasons to code mix. Mixing languages is perfectly normal – all bilinguals do it, even adults.
Research on children has shown that most bilingual children keep their languages separate most of the time. When they mix it is often to fill in gaps in their vocabulary in one or the other language. For e.g., if a child inserts a word from one language saying something in the other language, he will insert the word in a place in the sentence that is grammatically correct according to both languages. Or if a child switches from one language to the other partway through a sentence, she will do it at a point in the sentence do not break the grammatical rules of either language when they mix languages. Rather than being a sign of confusion, code mixing can be seen as a path of least resistance: a sign of bilingual children’s ingenuity.
What are some tips in helping to raise my bilingual child?
Children need continuous, sustained, and enriched exposure to both languages if they plan to acquire full competence in both. It is important for parents to devise strategies which motivates their child to use the language.
1. Make learning fun! Enrol them in a play-based language class with a native teacher.
Play is one of the most important ways that children learn about the world. When children learn through play, they grasp the concept of the new language more effectively.
For e.g., In Exploart, we believe in the power of learning through play. By teaching Chinese through engaging activities, it is an effective way to boost motivation and drives result. By shaping learning activities into games, focus is moved from language form to language function.
2. Visit cultural sites where the language is spoken. First-hand experience with the culture and interaction with other people speaking the language will help enhance your child’s understanding and fluency in the language.
3. As soon as your children reach a suitable age and language level, bring in “home run books”. “Home run books” are books that children not only like a lot, they also inspire, more profoundly, a love for reading.
The more of these books you’re able to bring into your home, throughout the stages of childhood, the more your children will likely grow to become eager readers. And by helping your children find favorite books and develop a passion for reading, their minority language will continuously benefit, now and into the future.
4. Enrich your home with exposure. Make an effort to fuel your child’s passions via resources and opportunities in the minority language. If your son loves super heroes, or your daughter loves horses, seek out suitable books or shows on these subjects in their target language.
The challenge of raising a bilingual child is a marathon and reaching the farther goal requires determination. Supporting a long-term language development of a bilingual child is a process that can only be addressed in small, persistent steps, day after day.
At the end of the day, never lose sight on the focus on raising a happy child.
That's what that truly matters isn't it?