Top tips for raising successful bilingual children
October 29, 2015
Children have an amazing capacity to learn a second language and it’s a wonderful way to access a new country and culture. It’s also a great way to boost confidence if you can speak the language of your new home country on a basic level.
A Concordia study highlights an interesting difference in thinking among bilingual children and those who only speak their native tongue. Young children tend to see everything as pre-existing, including characteristics, traits and language spoken. They perceive all of these as being innate and unchangeable. However, a bilingual child understands that all of these are learned, and is therefore, open to change. Children who are open to change 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 World Mobility’s Intercultural Services Manager, who has raised two bilingual children in Hong Kong, adds: “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.”
Here are Shaila’s top tips for raising children bilingually:
- Make bilingualism a family decision – it is important to ensure 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. This is also important to ensure that equal balance is placed on both languages.
- There must be a stable user of the second language with whom the child can speak – for example, a parent or grandparent.
- Try to form a social group of other children – interaction with other children in the second language is key. This will allow your child to enjoy the relationship building advantages of bilingualism.
- Encourage your child to read lots to discover new vocabulary and grammar structures.
- Make sure you expose your child to the second language using a number of mediums – for example, engage in daily conversation at home or watch TV/movies in the second language. Make it fun – read, watch, listen and play!