Five Pieces of Advice for Parents Who Want Their Children to Appreciate Bilingualism
10 Mar 2015
By Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa © 2006
- Explicitly tell your child how important his/her languages are (e.g. “Won’t it be great to be able to visit with Grandma and tell her how much you enjoyed the birthday gift she sent?” “Won’t it be fun to play with your cousins next summer [in English]?” “When you know enough Turkish we can read that story together.”).
- Implicitly hint at the value of knowing more than one language (“Wouldn't’t it be great to play with Alfred next door [who speaks Spanish]?” “Did you know that when you can speak more than one language, more people want to offer you jobs? “Isn’t it funny that when you know more languages, they say you might live longer because your brain is more active?”).
- Celebrate every small success your child demonstrates with language (e.g. each new word, each correct sentence, each attempt at a new structure or joke, etc.)
- Involve all the players. Get siblings, grandparents and friends involved in the language-learning goal. Explicitly ask for collaboration (e.g. “Please only speak to John in French” “When we visit, would you mind only speaking in English, even though I know you speak perfectly in Japanese as well?”)
- Be consistent. Language is a full-time job: Children are very acute at perceiving inconsistencies in strategies. If you have decided that mom will speak English and dad Spanish, then your child’s language acquisition will be stunted by inconsistencies; stick to your guns and stay true to your strategy.