How to Raise a Bilingual ChildFebruary 21, 2017
By Jessica Vician
Today, more people in the world are bilingual or multilingual than monolingual, according to an article published by The Dana Foundation. And no wonder—in such a multicultural and globalized environment, many parents want their children to be able to speak more than one language.
The YOU Program recognizes the importance of bilingualism in families, which is one reason we offer our books and workshops in English and Spanish. We encounter many families who speak two languages with their children, and know of many who wish they could speak more than one language with their children. Whatever your language skills may be right now, you can still raise your child to become bilingual.
When one or both parents speak two languages, raising a bilingual child is a little easier. For example, this Huffington Post article outlines the one-parent, one-language approach: the English-speaking parent (if only one) speaks English to the child, while the parent who speaks another language speaks that language to the child.
If both parents speak a language other than English, they can speak that language at home while the child learns English at school or in the neighborhood.
If you live in a monolingual family (meaning you and your partner only speak one language), there are a few options for teaching your child. Seeking this goal for her child, one mother shared tips in this blog post that include learning a second language yourself and then teaching it to your child, using foreign language media—like TV shows and movies—to introduce the language to your child, and trips for immersion with native speakers.
Whether you live in a bilingual or monolingual household, teaching your child another language can be very helpful in developing his or her academic skills and later in his or her career. You may even consider a bilingual education for your child, in the form of a dual-language school, foreign language classes, or supplemental activities.
Of course, there are myths and fears about speech delays and confusion in young children who are learning two languages, but this article from Baby Center debunks the biggest myths. For instance, some children who are raised bilingual might start talking a little later than other children, but if that delay happens, it is usually temporary. The benefits of being bilingual far outweigh any potential and slight delays. And with such opportunity to travel, even virtually, children who speak more than one language can learn more about other cultures and translate that learning into greater compassion and understanding for others.