As I live in a foreign country – in which the official language is not English and neither my mother tongue – my little girl is learning languages since an early age. I speak to her in my mother tongue, she goes to nursery where they speak the local language and we do activities with friends in English. It is working, and I am very proud that she can switch quite quickly and naturally among those languages.
It all take a bit of persistence and effort – as it most of the things in life. But not as much as it might look like. Some tips on how to start are:
1. You don’t need to know the second language – but it is helpful. No need to be your mother tongue or that you are proficient, any level will give you some tools to support your children on their chores, find material, etc.
2. Find a community that speaks the language – it can be quite hard to motivate your children to learn a foreign language just based on hypothetical future career benefits. Try to find a community, does not matter the size of it, that your children can join. It can be a play group, a community that meets every Sunday afternoon to play soccer in the park, or even some playdates that you can set up on your own home or in the nearby playground.
3. Diversify – grammar exercises and vocabulary building are very important, but learning a language is a long distance run, so it is more important to keep the children motivated and engaged. Go to the internet, the bookstores, the library and look for music, movies, cartoons, small theater sets, maps, etc.
4. Praise your children – it is hard work to learn a foreign language, even for smart children. The best incentive ever is to praise them – for their efforts and for the results. Do that and your children will feel always more incentive to keep learning.
Do you raise your children bilingual? What are your experiences?