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Children have an amazing capacity to learn a second or even third language, and it’s a wonderful way to access your host country and its culture.

A recent Concordia study reveals an interesting difference in thinking among multilingual children and those who only speak their native tongue. Young children tend to see everything as pre-existing, including characteristics, traits and languages spoken. They perceive all of these influencing factors as being innate and unchangeable. However, a bilingual child understands that all of these are learned. Thus, children are more open to change. They will be better equipped to deal with the challenges of moving abroad and find it much easier to settle into their new home.

Shaila Gidwani, Crown’s Intercultural Services Manager, has raised two bilingual children in Hong Kong, said: “Learning the local language is valuable. Bilingual children will find it easier to understand other cultures and relate to people in a much deeper, sensitive and efficient way. Plus, if they are able to converse with other children in the school’s playground, they will have a better chance of integrating and feeling more at home.”

Following are our top 5 tips for raising children multilingually:

  1. Make the bilingual language a family decision – it is important that everyone is on board. A parent who is hostile towards the idea of speaking more than one language at home risks creating a tense and stressful learning environment. It is also important to ensure that equal balance is placed on both languages.
  2. A stable user of the second language with whom the child can speak is crucial – for example, one parent or grandparent.
  3. Form a social group with other children – interaction with other children in the second language is important, and it will allow your child to enjoy the relationship building advantages of bilingualism.
  4. Support your child in reading lots to discover new vocabulary and grammar structures.

Ensure you expose your child to the second language using a number of mediums – for example, engage in daily conversation at home or watch TV or YouTube videos in the second language. Make it fun – read, watch, listen and play!

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