Tips for Raising a Bilingual Kid

Wanna bring up your kid bilingual? Well, I can say I have a some experience in such matter, and I would like to share some tips with you all. Four years and two kids ago, I started noticing a pattern concerning my behavior as a parent-language teacher. This pattern became into the following suggestions:

Mother Tongue: Know what you are getting into. Research says that the most influential tongue for children is the language of their mother. This fact would restrict the amount of English my children would speak up to a certain level. Even though I knew this, I did not get discouraged, and kept talking to them in English.

Be consistent. Since early stimulation is key in language matters, I decided to speak to my children in English before they were born. We, as a couple, agreed on this. My wife would speak to them in Spanish while I would speak in English. I have spoken in English to them since we knew we were pregnant.

Assign a “language-face”. My wife says languages have faces: she says she cannot speak in Spanish to her father when she sees him. It sounds too formal and hence, distant to her. She speaks to her father in Guarani, our official language here in Paraguay. Therefore, she assigns a language to people surrounding her. Interesting fact: our children have a Spanish face to her, not a Guarani one, even though Guarani is my wife’s mother tongue.

Do not get frustrated. Many times, after stimulating my kids in different ways, they wouldn’t produce the language expected. Never mind. I know they will eventually do it. So, I let time do its perfect work.

Have fun! The most enjoyable part of witnessing your kids’ language learning process is to learn with them. Virtually everything we do is surrounded by language, so, enjoy!!

Following, enjoy watching two-year-old Max speaking  jopara /ʒɔpɑˈrɑ/Guarani word for “mixture”

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Tips for Raising a Bilingual Kid

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Me and my husband are really looking forward to follow your advise when raising our kids in the future! 🙂

  2. My daughter is married to a Spanish-speaking man. They have four children. The first 3 were born in Paraguay. Knowing that their children would be exposed to Spanish more than English because of the sociolinguistic context of their environment, they decided they would both speak to their children in English. Both boys spoke their first words in English, but recognized many Spanish words. The oldest would change the pronunciation of his name, depending on the language used to ask him what his name was. The third child, a little girl, began speaking after they moved to the USA. When they made this move, my daughter and her husband decided to Speak Spanish to their children as much as possible since English was the most common language in the area. The oldest boy still speaks Spanish when spoken to in that language, although with some difficulty. He has learned to read Spanish. The second boy understands Spanish, but responds in English. The oldest girl understands both and uses both, but she chooses the language in accordance with the specific goal of the communication. Some things are always referred to by the English term and some by the Spanish term. It will be interesting to see how the language of the youngest develops!

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