This article is written by one of our parents.
Living in a bilingual household is one of the most rewarding experiences for many families, although it can sometimes be challenging for children. During their developmental years, when children begin to establish their identity and embrace the world around them, it isn't uncommon for them to occasionally be somewhat confused as they adapt to multiple languages. The language we speak isn't just how we communicate, it's how we identify ourselves, and some children may be hesitant to express themselves in multiple languages. While a native language is a great way for children to form close bonds with family and friends, it's entirely normal for them to adapt to bilingual environments at different rates.
This article aims to open a discussion about the joys of living in a bilingual household and ways to help a child feel more comfortable as they adapt to different languages and environments. While a bilingual family allows a child to connect with others on many levels, the challenges bilingual children face may be somewhat different from those who speak the native language. However, this isn't to say that bilingual children are at a disadvantage; learning two languages can enrich a child's ability to process language in an environment that many people don't have the opportunity to experience. Bilingual children learn that there are many different ways to communicate early and maybe be more open-minded when embracing other cultures.
Expose your child to the native language as much as possible
Though it is important to maintain a family’s bond and culture through language, it can also be crucial to acknowledge that your child has to be able to express themselves in the area they're living in. If you speak a language different than what is natively spoken, it can be beneficial to expose a child to the native language so that they can interact with others in their current environment. While many families seek to preserve their culture through language, it is equally important that your child become fluent in the language of those around them. As you support your child while they venture out into the world, it’s vital to make sure that they can comprehend and speak the native language.
It's okay that your child gets confused
Early on, your child will likely be confused about learning two different languages. A baby may not realize that their parents are speaking other languages and may have trouble separating them. In the child's mind, they hear one language. Don't be surprised if your child tends to speak in both languages at the same time. You will be surprised by what positive things they pick up from each language. Give them space to learn, and eventually, they will become more proficient. However, it's essential not to be too aggressive early on, as you will push them away, and they will be more reluctant to learn both languages.
Embrace more than just the languages, share their cultural importance as well
Language and culture go hand in hand. Many people have a problem with second and third languages because they see them only as a method of communication, not as a product of a culture and way of life. Occasionally, it can be essential to step away from the language itself and make sure that your child understands the culture of those who speak it. This is especially important as speaking two languages can give your child an expanded perspective on the world and a stronger appreciation for diversity. When you make a language appear less sterile, you can make it easier for the child to learn. Introduce the region's foods, how people dress, and the other things that make it stand out. Children can grasp concepts better if they can visually see the people and understand the lifestyles of those who use the language.
It's an uphill battle, but you can teach a child two languages from birth
No one will say that teaching a child how to speak two languages is easy, and you do need to understand what the child is going through. Though it can be highly beneficial for children to grow up in a bilingual household, it may be confusing at times, and there may be situations where your child appears to become frustrated. However, children pick up on language much quicker than adults, and any frustration that they experience will be short-lived. Bilingual children have the amazing opportunity to experience two cultures at once within their own home and having caregivers who are supportive and understanding can be a great foundation for their future.
AyiConnect is a platform to connect families with helpers who have a language specialty in addition to care. You can engage with them directly through self service or concierge service. The concierge 1:1 service can provide another option to ensure success matches for busy families who don't have time to search or need language assist. Schedule a free consultation here for our concierge service, or check us out on ayiconnection.com