Here at Philly & Friends HQ, we love engaging with other parents, carers, educators and those interested in child development. We are firm believers of the African proverb which says "It takes a village to raise a child". Since I published my first children's book, Who Do I See in the Mirror?, I have met so many amazing women (and men!) doing remarkable things. We have shared tips, ideas, hugs (virtual and physical), encouragement and much more. There's such a great online community of men and women championing each other's lives, businesses, achievements, and so on. To celebrate this, we will be featuring articles from some of the lovely people we have met on our journey. This feature is one of a remarkable woman, Marisa - an educator and author of “Happy within”, a bilingual kids' book teaching them about self-love & diversity. She has insightful thoughts and ideas about raising bilingual babies and in this post, she takes us on a journey centered around her opinions from personal experiences. Enjoy!
Many parents think, because they cannot speak a second language, their kids will not be able to. I do not believe this to be true. Any parent can raise bilingual babies.
I believe anyone can learn a second language, whether parents or children. Whether you are in the respective country or not.
All you need to do is change your mindset, find out how you or your kids learn best, buy the resources and ideally start making friends with people who speak the languages you want to learn.
I, myself, was lucky that I grew up in Germany, went to German school and spoke English at home with my Mom. However, I did also teach myself two other languages fluently. It was a process and you need to be persistent and work at it. Most importantly don’t give up.
The same goes for when you want to teach your kids. Your kids might be little slower at speaking the first language if you incorporate a second, but do not worry, they are soaking up all the information. The trick is to incorporate the languages into your life as if you were living in that country.
Here are my top tips on how to raise bilingual babies:
One parent, one language
Bilingual household: If amongst the parents you speak two languages, make sure you decide which parent speaks what language.
Monolingual household: If amongst the parents you speak one language, decide which parent would like to learn a second one with the child.
In our home I am the language speaker, so my husband speaks English to the kids and I always speak German. If our daughter replies in English, I ask her to reply in German. The parent who reads at night must read in that language. If our daughter wants to read an English book, I translate it in my head and read it to her in German. It is tiring after a long day at work, but persistence is key.
1. Bilingual/language resources
Invest in bilingual resources, books in the language you would like them to learn. This way the child will see the images and hear the words in both languages.
There are various educational resources, such as bilingual picture books, listen-and-learns books, audio books, visual dictionaries, sticker/colouring books, flashcards, etc. Incorporating all these activities are helpful in raising bilingual babies. To see a list of activities I recommend please click here (https://www.amazon.co.uk/shop/jetlifebaby?listId=36KBVPDE1LSO1)
2. Mix it up
As a parent, you know most kids get bored easily so it is important to mix up the activities, to keep it fun and interesting. Try different activities including the language, whether it is singing in the bathtub, or watching a kids’ show. Even if you make mistakes pronouncing something together, laugh about it and make it fun.
All kids love music. Listening and/or dancing to music in a different language is a great way for them to learn. If the kids are old enough, they should read the lyrics as well, that is what helped me learn Portuguese. I loved samba & pagode, I would print the lyrics and sing along.
4. Educational apps & extracurricular activities in a foreign language
There are several educational language apps. A few of them are Fabulingua, Dinolingo, LinguPinguin, Duolingo, etc. This is a great way for kids to learn the basic letters, verbs, numbers, etc. If you have them use the app in both languages and switch it up even better.
5. TV screen time
If you allow screen time, change the Netflix settings to the language you are learning/teaching. Not all shows are available in other languages, but you can check which ones are and create a list. You can also change the settings in YouTube kids and search for kids videos by language.
6. Attend a language school in person or virtual
Try to look for a language school that the child can attend in person or virtually once or twice a week. Or as many times as you like. This will allow them to practice with kids and get to know others who are learning the same language.
7. Make friends with people who speak that language
Make friends with people who speak the language you are learning, when possible meet up, speak over the phone, FaceTime, etc. Kids are motivated by other kids. If they have friends who speak that language, they will most likely enjoy it prefer to continue learning.
When possible, book a holiday to the location where the language you are learning is spoken. Children make friends easily and they pick it up quicker through others and also remember words through activities & actions.
Learning a language is a beautiful thing. The deepest connection to have with someone and their culture can be gotten through learning the language. I highly encourage learning another language and exposing children to another language as it also diminishes prejudice towards those who are different.
Happy Baby, Happy Learning
to find out more about the bilingual books I published recently please click here.