When we look at children, in that instance, it seems almost impossible to imagine them growing up and becoming a communicating, learning person – let alone one that can speak several languages. Here are four steps to encourage your little one to be a polyglot child.
Family agreement is possibly the most crucial part in this process. An insecure partner might fear being ‘excluded’ from the language that you are conversing in. Talk about this and come to a compromise. It is extremely important that you as a couple can find a solution that is acceptable to yourselves as well as your child.
Be realistic – but enthusiastic
Once the seed of two languages has been planted – the first thing people think is “should I add more?!” For the most part the number of languages spoken within your home is plenty for a child to absorb – though you can actually introduce as many as four languages at the same time (provided you can offer as much support with each one). Research suggests that it takes exposure of 30% of a child’s waking time for them to actively speak it.
The third step is making sure that you have a plan. You need to agree as a couple on who speaks what language and then stick to it. There are many variations of the two successful language systems. The most widely used one is one person always speaks to the child in the ‘foreign’ tongue. The person who is spending the most time with the child is the primary speaker. The second most popular is that the entire family speaks the foreign language.
The most underestimated success factor to your quest is building a support network. Find other families who are raising their children to speak the language you are attempting to teach your child. You will only benefit from their experience and knowledge and you’ll be able to thrive off each others triumphs. It will also ensure playdates that will provide your child with the best kind of language teacher – other children! Movies, books, music and toys in the minority language your child is learning are crucial ways to boost the exposure your child is receiving. Posters, place mats and other similar items are also a great way to subtly encourage your tot. If you already know the language well you can make your own flashcards to help your kids remember new words. If you are both learning a new language then it is easy to purchase resources such as Arabic Flashcards from reputable retailers.
Lastly – be patient
Raising a multilingual child requires a lot of patience and there are always going to be times when doubt is there. This isn’t an uncommon thing with parenting – it is a long term commitment and it won’t always be smooth sailing. But remember, that’s also happening to parents of monolingual kids as well! Don’t panic if your child doesn’t immediately grasp the multiple languages you are teaching them. Just focus on the successes. Don’t forget to praise and encourage and praise again!
Remember – you aren’t alone! Antonio Banderas and Madonna are amongst the many people raising bilingual kids. If they can do it, why can’t you?!