• Questions & Answers

    Q. I'm not really sure how to raise my child with more than one language

    A. Actually, you just speak to her. The more interaction she gets in the different languages the better. In the end, multilingual children learn exactly the same way as monolinguals, they just assimilate more than one language.

    Q. What is the best way to raise a multilingual child?

    A. There are many methods to raise a child with multiple languages. Whatever method you choose, the more consistent you are the easier for the child.

    Q. But don’t the children get confused with many languages?

    A. That is a common but old misconception. Actually there are many myths like that about raising multilingual kids.

    Q. So, what are the advantages to raising multilingual children?

    A. Aside from the obvious advantage of being able to speak more than one language, it impacts your child positively in the sense of self-esteem, future job opportunities and ability to live and travel abroad. Additionally, countless studies show that both analytical, social and literacy skills are improved when growing up with several languages. See below for both the pros and cons (yes, there are some cons too, but probably not the one’s you’d think.)

    Q. When is the best time to start?

    A. Now! Seriously, the sooner you get going the better. The best is even before birth of your child. But, it is not just because of developmental reasons children who start later have a harder time with foreign languages.

    Q. My child already speaks one language, is it too late to start another?

    A. Absolutely not. Kids of all ages are language sponges. However, it will take a bit more resolve on our end, and some motivation for your child. We’ve put together some pointers on how to introduce language to kids beyond infancy. See below.

    Q. My child just turned two and he still doesn’t speak, is that normal?

    A. Absolutely, even some monolinguals are late bloomers and don’t start to talk until the age of two, or even later.

    Q. How do I know if my child is on track in their speech development?

    A. Unlike motor skills, for example, speech development is much more secretive — regardless of one or several languages. Additionally, it remains highly individual, so comparisons are always tricky.

    Q. Why is it easier for children to learn a foreign language than for adults?

    A. Children’s brains are primed for language learning during the first years of life and assimilate language markedly different than adults, particularly relative to pronunciation and grammar.

    Q. I hear a lot about ’critical period’, what is it?

    A. Although children can learn a foreign language at any age, taking advantage of the critical period (when the brain is primed for language) making it even easier.

    Q. What can I do when my child refuses to speak the minority language?

    A. Many parents feel that way, but it is not all quantity. Quality matters too. Make the most of what time you have, and use these ideas to maximize the time you do have. If you still want more quantity, these tips provide several ways to find more language interaction that you may not have thought of.

    Q. Is it really a good idea to join a nursery or an immersion school or program?

    A. Certainly — if you are lucky enough to have either a day care, pre-school or school in your language where you live, take the opportunity. It is astonishing how much it helps your child develop her minority language.

    Q. Where can I find more ideas to encourage the minority language?

    A. Sing together, read books, play games and most importantly have fun. But, when you’ve run out of ideas on how you can keep the language progressing, check out this tip sheet.

    Q. Can I speak to my child in a language that is not my own?

    A. Yes you can! By the time the child is old enough for sophisticated conversations, your own second language will have improved massively. And, don’t worry about your less than perfect grammar, or not finding the exact word. You are still providing priceless language foundation for your child that can be polished by native speakers later in life. Here is information for non-native speakers and this section of the forum is specifically for you.

    Q. Should I teach literacy skills in the second language?

    A. First off, what are your goals and what is realistic? This should help you make an assessment of what’s right for your child. If reading and writing is what you want, home schooling is usually the most practical solution.

    Q. Is it possible to raise special needs children bilingually?

    A. Contrary to common belief — yes. Many families have succeeded beyond their wildest hopes, but it should always be done together with an expert experienced in bilingualism. These examples and tips will help you to decide what is right for your child.

    Q. Just curious, what are the most common mistakes parents make?

    A. The number one mistake is discouragement. Seriously, many parents think they can’t succeed if their children ’just understands’ the second language, and don’t speak it. Passive understanding of a language is tremendously overlooked, and can easily be turned into active language use later in life.