How to raise bilingual children?
March 6, 2018
Moving abroad is an enriching experience for anyone, included your children. In a period when kids learn with incredible ease – they are sponges-, moving to another country isn’t just an opportunity to gain intercultural skills, but also to excel in a foreign language. In this month’s article, we tell you how to prepare your children for being future bilingual – or polyglot- adults.
Living in another country is an excellent opportunity to boost your child’s development. Learning another culture, integrating into another society, experiencing a different education system… An international move is also a unique opportunity for them to master another language and hopefully, become fully bilingual in a short period of time. And being bilingual has plenty of advantages – not just related to the foreign languages skills, but also with the child’s development and successful adaptation in another culture.
Monolingual vs. bilingual children
A study carried out by Concordia University to a group of five- and six-year-olds indicates that there is a significant difference in the way monolingual and bilingual children perceive their surroundings.
According to the study, monolingual children – children who only speak one language- tend to see things as innate, and not acquired. This could mean, for example, that they perceive the language they speak or even their clothes preferences as something pre-existing and unchangeable
On the contrary, children who speak more than one language – such as most of the expat children- understand that all these are learned. Thus, these children are more open to change and better equipped to deal with the challenges of moving abroad.
Advice for raising bilingual children
Having seen the advantages of being bilingual for your kids, you might be wondering: How can I help my child becoming bilingual during our international move?
Here our top tips:
1. Having bilingual children is a family decision and it’s 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.
2. Ensure your child’s exposure to both languages is balanced.
3. Make sure your child is in touch with at least one stable user of the second language with whom he or she can speak.
4. Try to set up a social group with other kids – interaction with other children in the second language is important, and it will allow your child to enjoy the relationship building advantages of bilingualism.
5. Support your children in reading lots of books to discover new vocabulary and grammar structures.
6. Don’t limit your child exposure to the second language media. Apart from books and face-to-face conversations, try buying games in the second languages, watch the TV, play Youtube videos… Luckily, nowadays, the options are almost unlimited!
First-hand experience: Having bilingual kids is possible!
Shaila Gidwani, Crown’s Intercultural Services Manager, has raised herself two bilingual children in Hong Kong, and she recommends: “If children are able to converse with other children in the school’s playground, they will have a better chance of integrating, learning the language, and feeling more at home”.
With plenty of expat families having raised bilingual children, we can reassure you that the fact that your child speaks two languages fluently is just a matter of time.
Would you like to have personalized relocation support? Would you like to prepare your child’s schooling before your international move? Check our services or directly contact us, so we can give you the right solution to your needs.