Thursday, July 27, 2006

Tips for raising bilingual children.

For those parents who are struggling to keep their children speaking their native language, here are some things that have helped us raise our trilingual children. Please add your tips as well.

1) Surround your child with your home language. If you don't have friends and family members who speak the language nearby, be sure to provide books, games, videos and posters that keep your child hearing and seeing the usefulness and importance of their home language.

2) This may seem controversial but it works! Shelter your child from English. Despite not using English at home and sending our children to immersion programs in a third language, they have scored amazingly high in English and have never been behind. How can this be? Their language skills in the other languages not only transfer over into English but they have the added advantage of having expanded their ability to learn languages, vocabulary and grammatical structures by becoming bilingual to begin with. The stronger their home language, the stronger their English will be as well. Also children in the United States soak up English like a sponge. They absorb it quicker than you can imagine. Despite not speaking to any of our children in English, all of them spoke fluent English before starting school. English is all around us and they hear it everywhere.

3) Praise your child for using their home language. Remind them frequently how great it is that they speak it and how special it is to be bilingual. Instill pride in them for their ability to use it.

4) Read to them, A LOT, in their native language. This will help them to expand their vocabulary beyond just everyday words. Increase the level of difficulty of the texts as they get older. Don't force them to read themselves. This should be a fun time to spend together.

5) Don't wait until later. In raising bilingual children, you really only have a couple of years before they are out in the English dominant world. Take advantage of those early years to instill as much of your home language in them as possible. Then, when they are in school, it will just be an issue of maintaining it and increasing their vocabulary. Starting a language from scratch after years of speaking in English will be much more difficult. They will see the use of any other language with you as unnatural.

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