According to the American Community Survey, one in five Americans speak a second language at home. That number will continue to rise as time goes on. Teaching dual languages is becoming more and more popular at home, daycares, and schools. Some benefits of being a bilingual child include using information in creative ways, maintaining stronger problem solving skills, having increased listening and communication skills, as well as possessing a much broader vocabulary. If you want your child to learn two languages, start as early as possible. The earlier a child is exposed to an additional language, the faster they can master it. The ability to hear and distinguish different phonetic sounds is most profound before age 3.
There are two basic approaches to teaching two languages:
- One person, one language: In this approach, one family member would speak the first language and the other would speak the second language. For example, the mother may only speak Spanish to the child and the father will only speak English. Each person must actively interact with the child on a daily basis. This may include a grandparent, nanny, parent, sibling, or friend. It is important to commit 100% to that language. Do not confuse the baby by switching between both English and Spanish. The child will learn to anticipate one language from one person and the second language from the other.
- One location, one language: In this approach, the child will learn one language at one location and the second language at a different location. For example, he or she may speak French at home but English at school. Be sure to research the school or daycare about their language emersion programs to ensure the best education for your child. In order to adequately master a second language, the child should be emerged in that language. If they only hear French for 2 hours a day and English the rest of the time, they will have a harder time proficiently learning French.
Learning two languages is a difficult, yet rewarding task. It is normal for children to interchange the two languages while speaking during this time of learning. Eventually, the child will be able to separate the two languages. It may take a child longer to build a vocabulary in one language while learning both languages. This does not mean the child necessarily has a speech delay. If you combine the amount of words the child knows from both languages, they should have around the same vocabulary of a child learning one language. If you feel your child is lacking words in both languages, there may be concern of a speech delay. Working with a bilingual speech therapist is the best option if this is the case. Contact Step by Step Care Group for a consultation to determine if your child will benefit from speech therapy.
Cohen, Ilisa. “Bilingual Babes: Teach Your Child A Second Language.” Parents Magazine. Meredith Women’s Network, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016.