Raising Kids in a Bilingual Household
Habla Espanol? Parlez-vous francais? German? Are you hearing or speaking more than one language in your home? If you’re answering “Yes!” to any of these questions, chances are, you are living in a bilingual household.
What is bilingual? Bilingual is defined as “the ability to use two languages with equal or nearly equal fluency.” Depending on where you are in the world, you may feel that by speaking two languages in your home, you and your family are an exception to the norm. Truth is, you’re not alone at all. In fact, statistics note that approximately 45% of those living in European countries are able to carry on a conversation in another language.
Although living in a bilingual household may include a few challenges (i.e. adults in the home do not share a common language), the great news is that raising kids in a bilingual household has many advantages. In fact, some studies have linked being bilingual to the development of skills such as classification, cognitive growth, and creativity.
It’s important to debunk a common myth that a child may be confused or their language development delayed in a bilingual household. The truth? Children living in a bilingual household are not confused by hearing (or speaking) multiple languages. A child’s language development will not be delayed by the presence of multiple languages.
Children brought up immersed in several languages can acquire both languages simultaneously. Of course, it’s always important to keep in mind typical language development: http://www.everydayfamily.com/talkin-baby-talk/ And remember, chances are you will not be perfect in any language. Be prepared to learn and grow in the language with your child.
Some bilingual households find it helpful to establish a routine when certain languages will be used. For instance, using one language only when out and about in the community or using one language during certain routines at home (i.e. dinner). Bilingual families may also find great support and connections by becoming involved with a cultural school/program in the community.
Finally, when living in a bilingual household, be sure to make time to celebrate both languages. Not just words, but stories, songs, and other aspects of the culture that will help bring meaning to the words.