Speaking from experience: Eight tips for raising a bi-lingual child

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Raising a bilingual (or trilingual) child in a monolingual country can be challenging but don’t give up! I was very fortunate as a child. My babcia Krysia spoke Polish to me all the time, and taught me songs and stories in her native language. She also read to me and showed me how to write and read in Polish. From a very young age, I was exposed to books, films and cultural events that she used to take me to. I simply loved it and lapped it up because she did it with love, patience and devotion. I was never forced to study grammar or speak Polish, she just made it fun and accessible. She’d correct me from time to time, and allowed me to respond in English when I simply couldn’t express myself in English, or in emergencies, like a broken cup!

As not everybody has a grandmother as wonderful as mine, here are my top tips for teaching your bambino to speak another language. They were prepared with the help of my babcia Krysia, who is no longer around but who I’m sure would be very proud of me for passing this knowledge on.

1. Start early

The earlier you start teaching your child a second language the better. When kids are young, as the cliche states, they absorb everything like a sponge.

2. Get everybody involved

It does make it easier if a child is surrounded by family and friends who also speak the language. If everyone speaks the second language to the child even a few minutes a day, it will build a pretty strong basis for future learning.

3. Watch movies and T.V shows in the language

Children love watching television! It is a great way to incorporate something they like doing with learning more of the desired language.

4. Take them to a country where the language is natively spoken

By seeing many other people speaking the second language, the idea of bilingualism becomes less abstract to children. This is also a great way for them to have fun whilst actively picking up new phrases and words. Playing with other children and being immersed in the language is another fantastic way to learn.

5. Hire a babysitter or nanny who speaks the language    

Get as many people as possible around your child that speak the second language. If grandparents are not around, perhaps you can “adopt” some, or get an au pair.

6. Rewards

Praise and reward your child when they use the second language. Kids love positive reinforcement, I mean, who doesn’t?

7. Enroll your child in a language school    

This may option not be available in your city or your child may prefer a less formal learning setting, however, this is a good way to immerse your child in a structured environment with a trained teacher at hand.

8. Have FUN!

If your child is having fun, they will learn faster. Try playing games, reading books and sing songs.

Don’t worry if your child drops all but one of the languages. Every little bit counts with language acquisition. Be persistent and don’t give up! Good luck everybody.

by Emily Hussain, Media and Administration Coordinator                                                                                                         Polaron Language Services 

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