You’ve decided to raise your children as Bilingual Learners, but you don’t know where to start? Keep reading to learn about different methods, resourceful books, and podcasts to get informed on where to start. 

BENEFITS TO RAISING BILINGUAL CHILDREN

Many more parents are choosing to raise their child to become bilingual these days.  Thankfully, there are in-person and online schools that offer bilingual education, where parents can make a choice to best suit their family’s needs.  Parents are also realizing that raising bilingual children has many benefits. Some of those benefits are: 

  • understanding other people’s perspectives 
  • becoming aware and respectful of cultural differences
  • learning to become more empathetic towards others
  • being able to sustain important relationships when with extended family living abroad
  • having better focus and being more creative
  • talented at multitasking
  • perform better at tasks that require conflict management
  • Educational Success and better job opportunities
  • protection from symptoms of dementia later in life

METHODS OF  RAISING BILINGUAL CHILDREN

1. One Parent One Language (OPOL)

This method is when each parent speaks to their children in their own native language. An example of this would be my cousin’s bilingual upbringing. My Tia from Mexico only spoke Spanish, so my cousin learned Spanish from her. My Uncle from Arizona only spoke English, so my cousin learned English from him. Then my cousin only spoke to his mom in Spanish and if he made a mistake then he would be corrected and prompted to try again. Same with my Uncle, he would only speak English with him because my Uncle did not know any English.

An advantage to this method is that your child will pick up both languages closer to a native level. It’s important to note that your child should spend as much time with each parent as possible so they don’t use one language as passive and only understand it, and not be able to speak the language. 

2. Minority Language at Home (MLAH)

This is the method I grew up with, not on purpose but because that was the only method available. This is where both parents speak the native language they want their child to learn. When the child leaves the home to go to school, activities, etc. they learn and speak the second language. In my case, I learned Spanish at home with my two Immigrant Mexican parents, and then I learned English at school with my teacher and my peers. Not only were my parents speaking nothing but Spanish, but we would also listen to Spanish Music, watch Spanish TV Shows, and Read books in Spanish.

The advantage to this method is that both the Native Language and the Second Language are strengthened equally, in my opinion. Note: In my house there was also a conversation that said, “If you don’t learn Spanish, then you won’t be able to communicate with your Grandma or cousins back in Mexico” which is something I did not want to miss out on, especially when we went out to buy snacks in Mexico.

3. Language Immersion Program

More schools are offering the Dual Language Program, where students can learn Spanish and English during their school day. The school that I once taught at had an up and coming Dual Language Program that parents loved because they wanted their children to continue learning Spanish outside of the home. Another version of Language Immersion would be to move to a border town, that’s if your budget and job allows it. I have known people that had Full Time Remote jobs and moved to Rocky Point in Mexico where their children have been fully immersed into Spanish classes, friends, and more. 

4. Language Classes at Home and Online

Yes, I know you come home from work and you are tired! But where there’s a will, there’s a way. One of the podcasts I listened to talks about consistency but also not overwhelming your child. So, if you are too busy to do it everyday, then choose the days that are less busy to dedicate some time to teaching your child the Native Language you want them to learn. If you are teaching them Spanish, I recommend looking into Nacho Books. They have a variety of levels to choose from and if you have any questions, they are quick to respond, especially on their Instagram. For online classes and options you can choose from many, but just to name a few options that are out there: Hola Amigo, Bilingual Birdies, and Bilingual Family, which I found on Facebook.

5. Mixing Languages

This method is more of a natural, laid back method where both the parents and children mix the languages. For me it would be Spanglish, but for other countries it would be comparable to Canada where they know both English and French.  The only set back with this method is that one language will be lacking more than the other. 

6. Using Context (Time & Place)

With this method, it all depends on how much time you have available to teach a Second Language.  You can speak Spanish, for instance, 3 days of the week and English the rest of the week. Or choose a time of the day during the week that you choose to Speak one Language. This method is not my favorite because it doesn’t seem consistent and can cause confusion.  Another example of this method would be if grandparents, for instance, are trying to communicate with their grandchildren who they seldom see and the grandchildren only speak one language. Getting exposure is what’s important and if this method is the one you can at least start with, give it a try. 

BOOKS ABOUT RAISING BILINGUAL CHILDREN

When deciding to choose to raise bilingual children, it is ideal to start with a plan. There are a variety of books on how to help parents navigate raising bilingual children. A few titles that I was able to find are: 

As always, please do your own research  so you can decide what fits your parenting style and capacity. The most important key to all of this is Consistency. 

PODCASTS ABOUT RAISING BILINGUAL CHILDREN

  1. My Bilingual Family – “The Different Methods of Raising Bilingual Children
  2. Into the Story – “Raising Bilingual Children” 
  3. Motherish – “How to Raise Bilingual Babies
  4. The Bilingual Family Cereal Dates “Raising Bilingual Children as Non-Native Speakers”