Speaking a universal language is certainly advantageous. But, is it enough to be fluent in just one language in a multicultural world? In fact, in many parts of the world, knowledge of a second language has now become a priority.
Also, several research studies have shown that being bilingual has several advantages. It has been found that children with bilingual abilities have better academic and analytical skills. The ability to switch between two languages also helps improve multitasking skills. In addition to this, being familiar with or fluent in more than one language enables a child to understand and become acquainted with different cultures. Besides all these, good knowledge of a second language boosts career prospects as well.
With so many advantages to be gained from becoming bilingual, wouldn’t you want to know how to raise a bilingual child? Here are some tips to help you raise a bilingual child -
- Early exposure: If you decide to teach your child a second language, make sure you start at an early age. Let her experience being spoken to and listening to the second language from the time she is beginning to develop her language and speaking skills. Contrary to popular belief, children don’t get confused when they listen to two languages being spoken. In fact, they can distinguish between the two without much difficulty, and learn and communicate in both.
- Enrol in a class or hire a tutor: Even if you don’t know the second language or there isn’t much opportunity for you to teach your child, your child can still learn it. Enrol your child in an institution where the language is taught or hire a personal tutor to provide your child with one-to-one attention. If you are unable to find a resource yourself, you can always turn to the Internet for help.
- Make learning fun: Engage your child in interesting activities to inject an element of fun in the process of learning a language. You could read him short and simple stories in the second language, teach him songs that he can sing along with you, or play simple word games. Another exciting option is to include something he is passionate about in the learning process. For instance, if he is passionate about a certain sport, let him listen to the commentary in the language he is learning. If possible, you could even organise a trip to the place where the language is spoken.
- Practise at home: If both you and your spouse are familiar with the second language, you could choose to interact with each other and your child in that language. You can also invite guests who are fluent in that language or help your child connect with another who is a native speaker.
- Get involved in the community: Involve your family in cultural activities where proceedings are conducted in the language you want your child to learn. This would give your child more opportunities to practise interacting in the language.
- Stay committed: Teaching a child a second language is a time-consuming process. So, stay committed. Communicate in the language you intend to teach at every opportunity, even though speaking in your primary language might seem easier. However, avoid forcing your child to communicate in the second language in a public place or social setting if she is uncomfortable about it. There will be plenty of other opportunities to practise.
Although the process of teaching your child a second language might seem like a long-drawn process, do keep in mind the several benefits of being bilingual. At times, your child might not display as much enthusiasm or any interest in learning another language, but don’t give up. Your perseverance will most certainly pay off.
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