Having a second language gives children a boost.
The early years are the perfect time for a child to learn a second language. Remember how difficult it was for you to learn Spanish in high school? Your child will pick up that same language effortlessly if you expose her to the language early. Fluency in a second language can help your child interact with family members who don't speak English or simply prepare her for life in a global community.
1Seek separate instruction. If you and your partner speak different languages, you're starting out at a distinct advantage, but this isn't the only way to make your child bilingual. Many preschools offer language immersion programs for a child to learn a second language. If those aren't available, you might find a company that offers weekly lessons or a private tutor who has experience with young children.
2Establish the language boundaries. Children should be exposed to both languages as frequently as possible. How you do this depends on your particular situation, but it's important to set boundaries. For example, your child might speak English at home and French at school, or she might speak English with you and Chinese with her father. You might also have a "Spanish hour" at home, where you and her speak Spanish together. Do whatever works for you.
3Expose your child to the second language as much as you can. Videos or audio books in the second language can really help, especially if you are not bilingual yourself. Still, it's not necessarily important to have a native speaker using the second language. You might fumble through reading a picture book in Spanish, but your child is still learning new vocabulary words.
4Connect with others who have bilingual children. Your child will feel more confident if she has others around her who speak both languages because she'll be able to communicate. Even if you can't find someone who speaks the same languages as your family, it can be helpful to connect with other parents of bilingual children because these parents will respect and understand your decisions. Sometimes, the issues you face are the same even though the languages are different.
5Loosen up about your child's mistakes. It's normal for your child to make mistakes in both languages, including combining the languages. You don't have to worry about your child using English and Chinese in the same sentence. As she realizes that some people don't understand what she's saying, she'll begin to compartmentalize the two languages.
- It's normal for children to have a dominant language and the dominant language can shift over time. Children might even understand when someone is speaking the second language, but respond to questions in the dominant language. Don't fret over this. It will improve over time.
Things You'll Need
- Books and movies in both languages