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How to Help Your Child Maintain Their Bilingual Roots

The ability to speak more than one language is not just a cool talent. It is also an incredibly marketable skill. If your child is already bilingual you should encourage them to maintain this ability for those reasons.

Language Begins at Home

If you or others in your home are bilingual or multilingual, speak these other languages when you are at home as often as you can. Children learn language by listening and mimicking. Just hearing both languages being used around the house can give your child’s mind a context on which to build their own vocabulary. Speaking to your child in both languages directly also will help teach your child conversational skills and practical use of the language.

A Little Care and Maintenance Can’t Hurt

Child care centres are another excellent resource for language building. These centres provide a concentrated and more formal learning environment. If you are expatriates (or “expats”) your local network may have some good recommendations. Some centres will divide classes by age while others will divide classes by language skill level. You should decide what format will help your child learn best, depending on where they are in their language developmental milestones. Most children, however, do best in age-specific classes, as they are then exposed to communicating with children both on higher and lower levels than themselves, making it easier for them to learn by example and teach others around them.

Use an App

Technology is everywhere and language learning is no exception. You can apply the principle of “gamification” to helping your child stay bilingual. Gamification provides rewards and incentives for completing everyday tasks. Language learning apps often use points systems if you use them regularly to maintain your abilities. Other apps allow you to “unlock” more advanced vocabulary. Apps can be an easy and fun way to quickly remind your child of common words.

Make it Entertaining

Another great way to learn or maintain a language is by absorbing media. What is a popular show in your country? See if you can find a version of this show that has subtitles. Your child will then begin to associate the language they already know with its foreign equivalent. If your child doesn’t like television, you can try putting words to music instead. Cultures around the world have variations on children’s folk songs. Sing along when you’re in the car together or doing chores. Music can be a great tool for helping words and ideas stick in a child’s mind.

Speaking a language is not just about literal communication. It can also be an act of cultural preservation. Talking to your child in a foreign language brings you closer together. In the process they can learn more about their heritage and “visit” a country they may not know much about.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.
Tim Esterdahl

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