ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Raising a Bilingual or Multilingual Child

Updated on October 30, 2019

Raising a bilingual or a multilingual child can be fun and should be fun for both the kid and the parents. However, it all depends on the parents who may turn the language acquisition process into an unforgettable experience or into a real hell. Making your child a polyglot requires a lot of commitment and perseverance but let me assure you, it is possible!

In order to succeed in making your kid bilingual or multilingual you need four things: a family agreement, a clear action plan, a strong commitment to your plan and lastly, never forget to have fun.

The first basic thing that you need is a family agreement on the languages you will use in your family and the languages that you want your kids to acquire. This is very important because if one of the parents doesn’t agree that it is necessary for the kid to learn a certain language, this parent can undermine the efforts of the other one.

Once you reach an agreement that you want your kid to be bilingual or multilingual, you have to sit together, make a practical plan for achieving your linguistic goal. The best tip I can give you for your practical plan is to be realistic! You have to be able to answer clearly who, when, where, how and how many languages you will practice with your kid. You may want to teach your kid 10 languages simultaneously but research shows that a kid absorbs up to 4 languages at the same time. A key issue to solve is who will introduce the languages to the kid?! According to linguists a kid needs to be exposed to at least 7-12 hours per week to a language to be able to acquire it. You have to take into account of course if you have the necessary time and resources to follow your plan. It is recommendable to buy a reliable book by a professional linguist with practical tips to make sure that you are on the right track and to see the different options and methods to pick the best strategy for your particular case.

Once you have reached a firm family agreement and you have decided what languages you want in your family, how, when and where you want to teach these languages, you may follow our ten tips for raising a multilingual child in order to achieve the other two important objectives: to stick to your plan and have fun.

1. Be consistent and make sure there is enough time for each language

2. Be patient and don’t expect wonders in three days

Be reasonable in your expectations. Don’t expect a kid to become fluent in a language for a few weeks. It takes time to acquire a language.


3. Be persistent but don’t force the kid

It is a mistake to stop talking in Polish to your kid simply because your kid refuses to answer in Polish and prefers to use only English. Very often, the kids overwhelm this initial negative reaction and when they grow up they speak their heritage language too. However, if you stop teaching the other language simply because your kid refuses to respond into it, most probably within a year or two the kid will not have even passive knowledge of that language.

4. Diversify the language exposure.

Don’t count only on one source of teaching a language. Diversify your teaching strategies as much as possible. In terms of speaking, a Mexican mom and an American dad living in Chicago may use the OPOL method, i.e. one person one language, which means that mom talks only in Spanish to the kid and dad talks only in English or they might choose the ML@H method (minority language at home). In this case, the whole family uses only Spanish at home, since the kid learns English in the community without any effort. Both methods are fine but they are not sufficient for achieving linguistic fluency. You need to add more sources of learning: books, TV programs, Internet resources, radio, songs, games, etc., take a babysitter and/or visit friends, cultural centers, churches or any other place where the kid can practice the language. Also, visit a country where the language is spoken if possible. Sending your kids to their grandma’s home in Bulgaria or to a summer camp in Portugal can do wonders.

5. Adapt and adjust your methods according to the age of your kids

You should encourage and develop your children’s linguistic skills until they are 18 in all possible ways.

6. Read, Talk and Share

Read books by professional linguists, talk to multilingual families and share your experiences with other people who have multilingual families or are interested in multilingualism.

7. Provide quality teaching

If you desire your child to be proficient in a language, make sure that you provide quality teaching. If you want your child to speak French with a Parisian accent, a babysitter from rural Quebec is highly unlikely to do the job. Pay attention to the vocabulary and contents of the TV programs, websites, songs and games you use as well. Another important thing is to avoid speaking Spanglish, Chinglish or any other mix of languages to your children. If you speak gibberish, your kid will copycat your speech. Your children will naturally mix the two or three languages you are teaching them until they reach the age of 6 or 7 but instead of confusing them additionally with your own gibberish mixes, you should continue to speak correctly.


8. Follow up your kid’s progress and be flexible

You need to keep track of your kid’s progress all the time to see how your methods work and also to detect any problems that might occur. There is no agreement among linguists whether bilingualism and multilingualism lead to delays in speaking but some bilingual and multilingual children start to speak a bit later, 3 to 6 months later. If all their peers already speak and your child doesn’t say a word, obviously you should consult with a specialist.


9. Ignore the killjoys

Unfortunately, the world is full of know-it-alls who “know” better than you how you should raise your own children and who love to give you tons of “expert” opinions how bad and useless it is for your kid to be bilingual and they might even tell you that speaking Swahili or Slovenian is a completely useless for your children. Don’t argue with them! Just smile, ignore them and stick to your language goals.


10. Have fun

And finally, it is really crucial to remember that language learning is fun for the kids, so don’t turn it into a boot camp! Forget the words “must”, “have to” and “supposed to”, use instead phrases like: “would you like to have some fun?” You don’t need to announce to the kid that this is a learning process and today’s lesson is the colors in Mongolian. Just use your creativity and introduce the colors in all possible ways, don’t yell and don’t be impatient. Turn it into a game. Kids are very enthusiastic to learn, especially when they think that it is a game.

© 2019 Chris Kostov

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)