Bilingual Babies
Monolingual Parents

Learning a second language as a teenager or as an adult can be quite a challenge.  Many educators and parents are beginning to see the benefits of learning a second language as a child.

As a college student, I did several research assignments on the benefits of growing up bilingual.  It was incredibly difficult to find information pertaining to the positive effects of learning a second language at a young age.  Instead, the libraries were teaming with information about how confused and slow the bilingual children were!  I felt that I needed to introduce a new way of thinking to my country!  Luckily, a lot has changed since I went to college.  The US  is finally starting to see what many other countries have known for a long time, just how important it is to teach children to understand other languages.

After college I became a second language educator.  I taught Spanish and French to children, 3 year old nursery all the way through the 8th grade Proficiency Exam.  In the years that I spent teaching languages to children, it became more and more clear to me that the younger the children were, the easier they acquired proficiency in the second language.  With the youngest children, up to about third grade, I was able to completely immerse them in the language.  As they matured to beyond childhood and into late elementary and junior high, they retained and improved on their proficiency.  On other hand the children who started learning at older ages had a difficult time becoming interested in the second language and their acquisition was very slow.  It was no longer a case of learning something new, it was a case of learning something foreign.  The key to learning a second language is to make it familiar, and the earlier you start the more familiar the language will be.

So, you're wondering why I think it is possible to raise a bilingual child, especially if you don't know a second language!  I know it is fully possible, why?  Because my parents spoke only English, however I was completely fluent in three languages by the time I graduated from high school, even graduating top of my class in the foreign language classes.

If you'd like to raise your children to be bilingual, you'll have to show some interest in the language and culture that you'd like them to learn.  Start early, as close to newborn as possible!  Learn some vocabulary, nouns especially.  Look up a couple of nouns, maybe start with the food groups, sports, holidays, numbers... and use those words in your daily life.  When you ask your child if he wants an apple, say apple, then repeat it in the second language.  Do this often, eventually you'll not only be able to think of the words in a heartbeat, but your child will also be familiar and accustomed to the words!  Next, use simple phrases in your daily lives; wake up, eat, let's go, what's up...  Let your child become familiar with these words.  When the words are familiar and recognized, the children will then have a much easier time understanding them in context with a fluent speaker.  Just think about it!  How many words do you already know that are foreign, however you are completely familiar with them and can pick them out of a sentence spoken in a foreign language; rendez-vous, hors d'ouevres, hasta luego, adios...

Another important part of learning is immersion.  I had no problem being immersed in languages because I grew up in close proximity to Montreal.  It may be a challenge, though, for most parents to find a way of immersing their children in the language.  Look around in your community for groups that have many bilingual participants.  Buy books in the second language that are also available in the primary language.  Watch videos in the language.  Eat at restaurants that specialize in the foods of that culture.  There are lots of opportunities out there!

Check out the My Second Language Series, MamaRoo's favorite second language books for babies, children, young adults, adults... excellent! 
PS!  MamaRoo is the author of the My Second Language books!

My Second Language Series



Helpful Link: Online retailer of foreign-language products for children, including monolingual and bilingual books, DVDs, games and other products for both beginners & native speakers of French, Spanish, German or Italian.








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