It’s that time of year when we finally get to pause for a bit, wind down and lay back to gear up for the beginning of a new year full of possibilities and thoughts of abundance. The end of a year is always the best time to reflect on where we’re at, where we want to go and really just count our blessings.
For those of us who have embarked on the journey of raising bilingual kids, this is also a perfect time to take inventory of the progress our kids have done in learning a second (or third!) language and how proactive we were in 2013 to create opportunities to immerse them in the language. But most of all, to be honest with ourselves on how committed and consistent we were, because we know that consistency and passion are key to raising bilingual children.
So let’s seize the energy of these last days of 2013 to refocus our commitment to raise our children in two or more languages with these 5 New Year’s resolutions just for us! If you’ve been committed to raising bilingual kids for a while now, many of these resolutions will be part of your day-to-day life already, but it’s always great to reflect and make sure we stay on the committed path.
1. Commit to your decision
Studies have shown that the parents’ desire to raise bilingual children is of utmost importance. Committing to the bilingual journey requires a real passion and desire to follow-through. Be sure of what your reasons are and let that passion filter through your daily actions to ensure a fun and immersive bilingual home environment for your baby.
2. Talk, talk, talk!
Researchers have also found that the amount of exposure to a language does matter. Meaning, the more a baby hears the sounds of a particular language, the larger his vocabulary in that language will be.
If you speak the target language, talk to your baby all the time in it, even if you think she has no idea what you are saying; she’s absorbing every little sound and they will be the building blocks to her own speech acquisition.
3. Be consistent
Being consistent starts with having a plan and then just sticking to it! We know children learn better through repetition and they thrive on routines. An example of consistency in raising bilingual kids is choosing a method that works for your family and making it a way of life. Let’s say you’re using the One Parent, One Language method (OPOL) and you’re the one that speaks Spanish to the kids and your husband is the English speaker, then stick to your roles at all times so your kids learn who is providing them with the language input. And, no, they will not be confused!
4. Make learning fun and immersive
One of the key elements for bilingualism is for the child to constantly be immersed in a fun and playful environment in the target language. This means the art of immersive play takes on a very important role in any parent’s bilingualism arsenal. Children must never feel they are being forced to learn or do anything. They learn most of their skills through play, and language is no exception.
Reading and singing will also enrich her bilingual environment and get them used to hearing books and songs in the target language.
You can also organize playdates with other families with babies so that your kids listen to the chatter in the language you’re immersing them in while you’re all entertained.
5. Motivate and encourage … and then some more!
Motivation and immersion are key when your child reaches the point where he has figured out the majority language is not the one he’s speaking at home and everyone else responds immediately to him with English. This is when they need to understand and give a meaning to why it’s important for them to learn a second language and emotional connections/motivations are what work best at this stage. Use praise (lots of it!) when they do use the language. Focus on what your child loves and attempt to bring the language into the mix. If you can pull off an actual immersion trip, there’s no better language motivator than that, especially if visiting family is part of the plan.
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Photo credit: DonkeyHotey, Flickr