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List: Posted: 01/16/12
Raising a bilingual child is challenging, but it is the most wonderful gift you can give to your child. There are a few steps to follow that will ensure your child grows up to be bilingual.
First, your whole family should be in agreement that you want your child to be bilingual. If your partner feels they might be excluded because of a language barrier, try to develop a compromise. Ensure that there will be no gossiping about the excluded person with the second language, and if you spouse wishes to join in the foreign language classes you give, give them the option to do so. The same goes for other siblings who may become jealous and wish to learn also.
Additionally, be realistic about your decision to raise a bilingual child. Once you determine that your child is getting a good grasp on two languages, it can be tempting to introduce them to more than one, but research has indicated that a child should be around a language 30 percent of the time in order to speak it fluently. If the language is not already spoken in your home by one or more family members, you may find it hard to keep up the discipline needed to maintain the language as your child grows older.
Furthermore, develop some sort of plan for teaching your child this second language. Decide whether each partner will speak to the child in a different language or if your whole family will become bilingual. In the case of an older child, you may with to hire a language tutor, or enroll them early in school or community language classes.
In terms of their social development, it’s also good to introduce your child to other children who speak this new language. He or she will be excited to meet other children who speak 'their' special language and will have fun communicating. Purchase books, toys, and movies in the new language. You can even invest in place mats and other items for your household that will keep the written word in your child's mind at all times.
Lastly, remember that you child is still a child. It is easiest to teach the second language from the age they first start to talk. Older children can still be taught, but they may be more resistant to learning the older they get, and may even resent your efforts if it is not made clear to them why you are doing this. Patience and perseverance, as with all things in life, is key to raising your child to be bilingual.
Communikids offers language-immersion preschool, after school programs, and summer camps for young children interested in learning a second language.
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