Many parents become frustrated when they want their child to speak English and their native language but their child shows interest in learning only English. Many children choose the path of least resistance when it comes to learning two languages and usually choose to learn the language spoken by the majority of people in the community. However, it is very important that you give your child the opportunity to be bilingual. Being bilingual has many benefits: it benefits the child’s brain development including increasing the brain’s ability to pay attention and in some cases, to work more efficiently. By learning two languages, your child has more opportunities to socialize and interact with more people. And later on in life, your child will have more opportunities professionally. The most important reason though, is that you and your child can communicate when you both speak one, or two of the same languages, fluently. Learning your native language should not be seen as a chore. If children have fun while learning your native language, they are more likely to be motivated to keep talking!
Here are some tips and activities that you can do with your child:
For newborns to three years of age:
- Talk as much and as often as you can with your child in your native language. Talk about things around you. For example, when you are bathing, you can talk about water, parts of the body, shampoo on your hair, etc.
- Repetition. Children learn from repetition. This is very important for children, especially with learning difficulties. During your daily routine, repeat the same phrases, “Let’s eat potatoes. Mmmmm. Potatoes are delicious. This potato is big. This potato is small. ” ·
- Sing throughout your day! Sing nursery rhymes or songs that you heard as a child. Singing and music are great ways to learn a language!
- Turn off the TV. Babies between zero and two should not watch movies or TV or should have very limited exposure. Children who are between two and three years of age should not have more than one or two hours a day. Studies have shown that children who see more t.v. talk less. Why? Because they do not get the back and forth interaction that happens with people. Therefore, limit T.V., even if the programs are so-called “educational” ·
- But when you do choose to watch TV, choose programs in your native language rather than in English. Stop the television occasionally to talk about what your child is watching. This makes watching T.V. slightly more interactive and there is a greater possibility that your child will learn something from the programs they are watching.·
- Read very simple books with your toddler. Remember, young children have very limited attention. Make reading the book fun. If you are reading about animals, growl like the bear, hop jump like the kangaroo, swing like the monkey. ·
- Speak whole sentences in one language. Your child will probably switch from your native language to English by mixing up the whole sentence. It is normal for children to do this. You can respond to your child by saying a complete sentence back to them either in your native language or in English.
Remember that learning a language should be fun. For small children, they do not learn best by being sat at a table and studying flash cards. They learn through hands on experience: touching, smelling, tasting, seeing. Help them to have these experiences and use your native language confidently with them knowing that you are giving them so many benefits in their future.
For Children Three to Five ·
- Watch movies and shows in your native language. You can rent videos from the library. See them together with popcorn. ·
- Find friends who speak your native language and surround your children with their children! This will motivate your child to speak with his little friends in your native language. ·
- Take your child to shops, restaurants, etc. Where they only speak to him in your native langauge. ·
- Play together in your native language and designate play time as a special time. Designate this time as The French Hour or The Chinese Hour (whatever your native language may be). Maybe you and your child can wear a special hat or a colorful scarf to designate this time as an hour specifically to speak in your native language. While playing, if your child does not answer in your native language, pretend you don’t understand him but do it in a funny way.
Try to make learning your native language fun. Include toys, books and activities that are interesting for your child. Do not forget to be persistent and patient with your child. And above all, have fun! We cannot force a child to learn. All we can do is offer a lot of encouragement and opportunities. If we give a child a good reason to learn two languages, he is much more likely to be motivated to do so.