Do you have what it takes to raise a bilingual child?
Pretty bold statement, huh? But the reality is that many parents make the decision to not teach their child a second language because they don’t believe they’re capable of doing it or they feel don’t have the resources they need. It could be that they feel that:
- they are not fluent enough in the second language
- their partner or family doesn’t support them
- not enough people around them that speaks the second language
- they did speak to or exposed their child to the second language, but he only responds in English now
These are all valid arguments and I completely understand that every family is unique and there are so many circumstances that can lead to the decisions we make with our kids. So, this is not about passing judgement, but about encouragement and understanding that we’ve all been at that breaking point at some time.
I doubt any of us can deny that to raise a truly bilingual child nowadays you must possess these 5 essentials:
1.Desire. This is a key trait in every parent raising a bilingual child. At least one of the parents must have a clear desire and want for their child to speak two or more languages. The motivation behind the desire can be any, such as a need to connect with the language of your family’s heritage or just to give them an advantage in many aspects of life. This desire will drive every other aspect of your bilingual journey plan.
2. Commitment. Once the desire is cemented, the next step is to make a firm commitment to yourself, your partner and your child to take the steps necessary to immerse him in the second language as much as possible in order to give him the necessary exposure. This commitment will become a way of life for your family. It’s better if it starts from the day the baby is born, or even before that, since research proves that for the bilingual brain to develop, the sooner the better.
3. Strategies. A clear map and plan-of-action guided by your desire and your commitment to raise your child bilingually is a must. You and your partner — as well as any immediate family that will be a key part of the child’s life — should choose a method that works for your home and decide to stick with it. Maybe this means that dad is the one that speaks Spanish to the child and mom speaks English because she’s not fluent, but you both make sure that any media exposure will be in Spanish and you will do everything possible to find other ways to expose her to the language. The scenarios vary, it’s up to you to commit to the strategies that work for you and be consistent.
4. Consistency. This is key. The child must know that any strategy you adopt is the way of the land. Children thrive on consistency in most aspects of their life, and bilingualism is no exception. Stick to the strategies you adopt, and if you’re the one speaking in the second language to her, make sure it’s always that way.
5. Resources/Community Support. Not everyone will have a village to help them raise a bilingual child, but it’s important to feel connected and have some access to asking questions, relating stories and finding resources. We hope to be some of that here and on Facebook, Twitter and SpanglishBaby Playground. You can also find or form local playgroups or find a bilingual preschool or school to place your child in to pretty much guarantee their bilingual upbringing.
So now, tell me, do you have what it takes to raise a bilingual child? You’re here. You’re reading this. I’ll say you totally do!