Raising a bilingual child is an admirable goal, and many studies have proven the benefits. However, introducing and teaching a second language to your kids is a whole family endeavor. If you want your child to be truly bilingual, you will be devoting significant effort, consistency and commitment.
Between ages 0 and 8 is the magic window to teach your kids a second language. Up to the age of 8, children have high auditory plasticity, which makes introducing a new language to your kids intuitive to their brains. Unfortunately, there is a constant decline in this ability, and brains lose most of their audio plasticity by age 8.
The earlier you can start, the more likely your child is to become truly bilingual. That means music in the second language and baby talk is an excellent place to begin while your child is in the crib. As they grow, you can add conversations and reading stories too.
There are many tested strategies for raising bilingual children. The one parent one language approach delivers the most consistent results, but it requires significant investment on your part. The strategy may also be more difficult if both parents are not fluent in both languages.
The strategy you choose to teach your kids a second language is less important than how consistently you use it. If you introduce a language to your kids, your kids need to know when they’re expected to use the language. Typically, kids do best when they know what to expect.
The quality of language exposure is a critical factor in whether your kids end up with true bilingualism. Quantity is next on the list as it will help build vocabulary and grammatical development. There is no secret, the more you speak the language to your child, the larger the vocabulary size. With these two things in mind, you should focus on fun as you teach your kids a second language.
Conversation and other interactive teaching methods like reading together are the best choices. That way, you know your kids are engaged. Meanwhile, low quality television shows are not particularly helpful for introducing a second language to your kids.
While you can teach your kids a second language alone, it is easier with help. Ask your family to interact with your children in the language you are trying to teach. You can also ask your neighbors to help, particularly if you agree to do the same with their children.
Asking for help promotes variety in the second language. Your kids will have more opportunities to engage with more people, thus introducing a language to your kids in different ways. Not only does this build second language vocabulary, but it also helps them understand how the language works on a fundamental level.
The classroom is another opportunity to teach your kids a second language. Working with a bilingual program from an early age helps immerse your kids in the language when their brain can best integrate it.
Programs like Bilingual Bebe offer online bilingual preschool and after-school programs with small interactive class sizes and native teachers. Parents can increase the quantity of quality language exposure their child receives every day as early as 3 years old by choosing these programs.