Raising a child in a bilingual home has become a priority for many parents, due to our world’s increased connectivity and the globalization of much of culture, finance and society. But how should parents go about raising a child in a bilingual home? Creating a bilingual environment for your child involves the parents’ example, using the local library effectively, and spending your money wisely.
The first important thing to consider in raising a child in a bilingual home is the modeling that the parents do. If both parents speak the same language as their native and primary language, modeling a different language can be challenging. However, it can be done. It helps if both parents speak the same second language, but if they do not, it can still be done. Parents can designate one day to be a day set aside for the target second language. They could also designate an hour to two hours each day for work in the target second language. Furthermore, when listening to CD’s, tapes, or other audio input, parents can model repeating after the demonstrations. They can then engage their child in simple exchanges using the information gleaned from the input. So if the parent is engaged in this second language and shows how it can be used in natural, normal situations, a child will become comfortable trying things out with the language.
A second issue to examine in creating a bilingual environment for your child is using the library effectively. Many of us have limited funds, and our local library can be a wonderful resource for us. Using all of the audio and video resources that the library has in the target second language can create an organic, natural semi-immersion in the second language. Particularly you want to find material that is aimed at children.
So find children’s songs in the language and kids movies or videos. If you are lucky and have chosen a second language that is common, like Spanish and French, one wonderful option is to borrow kids’ animated movies on DVD and choose the Spanish or French audio track. Additionally, it is useful to check out kids’ books in the target language and read them to the kids regularly. Here again looms the fact that the parent needs to be able to use the language well enough to model.
A final consideration in creating the bilingual home is using your money wisely. Don’t get suddenly sold on a language program that you can buy or enroll your child in. Ask around, get online and find discussion forums, and generally investigate any program you are considering. Too often we leap into spending our money so that we can feel good about our pro-activity in reaching our goals. And too often we have ill-considered this important step. So be wise.
So as we work to raise our children in a bilingual home, we must remember to be wise financially, use the library effectively, and model good use of the language. It is a certainty that any strong exposure to a second language will be helpful for our children, and so as parents we have a duty to do such things. After all, everyone needs a step-up at times, most particularly our children.