If you’re parenting young children, you may be aware of the benefits of raising them to be bilingual. Bilinguals are better at complex problem solving and critical thinking skills. Bilinguals also have an edge in the job market for high-paying careers that demand bilingual and bicultural skills sets.
We all know that learning another language as a child is easier than struggling to conjugate verbs into the preterite form as an adult. If you are not bilingual, there are still ways to give the gift of another language to your children.
Here are 4 strategies to get you started.
1. Watch dubbed television. If your children watch television, the chances are good that you can get dubbed DVDs or shows with subtitles. Your kids might balk at first at the idea of having to watch in another language. As the parent, you can negotiate with them. They can watch 15 minutes in English (or their native language) or they can watch 1 hour in Spanish. This is an easy choice for most kids!
2. Non-native childcare. If you need a babysitter or nanny, opt for a non-native English speaker, one whose native language is the one you’d like your child to learn. For very young children, even being exposed to the language early on can have lasting effects into adulthood. This is because the neural networks in young minds are busy imprinting the sounds of any language surrounding the child. You’re laying the groundwork for a future bilingual!
3. Language camps. Language camps offer children the traditional summer camp experience, but in an immersion environment. These are a great way to get them excited about learning a foreign language. Some even offer family camps, where the entire family can attend!
4. Dual language immersion schools. Increasingly, public school systems are offering dual language immersion schools. These programs typically offer instruction in two languages, where 50% of each school day is spent in each language. By the end of elementary school, children emerge bilingual and biliterate. These are free public schools! Check to see if your school district has one in your area.
Keep in mind that if you start to raise your child in a bilingual environment when they are very young babies, that this can delay the onset of spoken language. This is perfectly normal as the baby’s brain works out the syntax (structure and word order) and sounds of each language. Rest assured that when your baby does start speaking, it will be amazing!