In this ever-shrinking world, parents are getting more interested in raising bilingual children. After all, in this modern era, you may have friends and contacts all over the world, and they are no further away than an email or tweet. Thus, knowing another language may give your kids an edge in the future.
Here are some tips for raising bilingual kids.
1. Take advantage of what your child already loves. If there is a favorite cartoon he or she likes, try watching it in Spanish (or whatever language you are learning). The same goes for interests in music, geography, and social studies.
2. Incorporate the culture with hands-on activities. Reading about a French food is not nearly as fun as making it in the kitchen! Learn about the dress, customs, holidays, and so forth in the countries where your target language is spoken. Then spend time living like the people in that culture, and speak the language in the meantime.
3. Take advantage of technology. It’s not a substitute for hands-on activities, but technology offers so many enhancements to your experiential learning. Look for television shows, cartoons, or music in your target language. Fire up Google Earth and take a tour of foreign lands. Download books in your target language. You can even change the default language on your mobile device!
4. Books are still relevant, even in today’s technology-immersed culture. Seeing the written words alongside illustrations is a time-honored way to learn languages. There’s no substitute for good foreign language books for children.
5. Show the relevance of the language you’re learning. Your child, especially if he or she is older, may be less motivated if they don’t understand the relevance of bilingualism. See if you can find a “pen pal” in another country that your child can communicate with. This ties the skill in with peer relationships.
You can also reinforce this lesson in relevance by having your child join a chat room or online forum where your target language is “spoken.”
6. Don’t forget to make it fun! Play games in your target language, such as “I Spy” (this could help with vocabulary words) or even board games.
7. Take advantage of what your kids already know. If you have a favorite poem or story, find that same literature in your target language.
8. Find a native speaker of the target language, or someone who is fluent in the language. See if that person can visit your home or join you on a play date, and let your child hear the language.