What You Need to Know
In today’s world, being able to speak more than 1 language is a huge advantage for jobs and communicating with others. Research has even shown that speaking multiple languages has a lifelong positive effect on brain health! The brains of babies and young children are wired to learn 2 or more languages easily, especially compared with adults.
If you or other family members speak more than 1 language, you can give your child an amazing gift by following the tips listed below.
You may worry that exposing your child to multiple languages will be confusing and slow down their language growth in English. A child may show a temporary “silent period” – not saying much in either language – when he is just starting to learn 2 languages, but this goes away quickly. Young children are naturally wired to figure out the sounds and patterns unique to each language. Some studies show that bilingual children develop stronger attention, memory, and learning skills. Think of it as extra exercise for the brain at a time when your child will reap the greatest rewards. Believe it or not, speaking 2 languages even seems to protect the brains of older people from developing dementia!
Tips to Help Your Child Learn 2 Languages
A simple way to remember how to support your child in learning 2 languages is to SPEAK!
- Speak your language
- Praise your child
- Engage in reading
- Ask for help
- Keep it fun!
Here is a checklist to help you include a wide range of supportive strategies that will have your child speaking 2 languages with confidence.
Speak your language
- Talk often in both languages – more words are always better
- Tell family stories in each language
- Use only one language at a time (Spanish in the morning, English in the afternoon, for example)
Praise your child
- Encourage and love your child for his efforts to learn 2 languages
Engage in reading
- Read books in both languages, alternating languages each time you read
- Label pictures and objects with their names in both languages
Ask for help
- Ask family and friends to help out with talking in both languages with your child
- Let your child’s doctors and teachers know she is learning 2 languages, so they can communicate well with her and have the right expectations for her language skills
Keep it fun!
- Use expression, gestures, and pictures to help your child understand each language
- Sing songs and play games with each language