Raising Bilingual Children: Episode 5

Is there a recipe for raising bilingual children? In Episode 5 of The Language Revolution Podcast we discuss the prevalent myths around bilingualism, such as whether children will get confused learning two or more languages. We explore different methods of introducing languages at home even if parents are not themselves multilingual. What role does language acquisition have to play in a child’s overall development? And can technology be a useful part of the process? 

Let’s talk about talking!

Reading book parent and child
Reading together is an excellent way to learn languages.
Photo credit: Picsea on Unsplash.

Raising bilingual children

Not only is Dr Kat Draper (Kantartzis) a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of Gloucestershire, she grew up speaking Greek and English and is now raising her family with both languages. We discuss whether there is a ‘right way’ to introducing our babies and toddlers to languages, or whether sticking to a strict One Parent, One Language method is essential for raising multilingual children. In Episode 4 we explored how children learn to speak. Catch up here if you haven’t listened to part one of our discussion yet.

Interaction

Kat explains that interaction is the key to learning languages, and we discuss how we can harness the opportunities offered by technology (such as videos and apps) when raising our children with languages. It is important to label and reestablish vocabulary learned from TV shows, for example, when we see a word we have learned in a new context such as a book or in daily life.

Two toddlers playing with tablet.
Can technology help our little ones learn languages?
Photo credit: Jelleke Vanooteghem on Unsplash.

Multilingual myths

There are many myths about multilingualism, and we discuss whether it is problematic to mix up languages when speaking to children. This might be when one parent speaks two languages or when we mix our languages within sentences or even words. Is this ‘normal’?

Non-native speakers

And what about parents who would like raise a bilingual child in a monolingual household? How can parents support language acquisition and create a language-rich environment at home, including a new language for everyone? We look at the top methods for raising bilingual children, even for parents who are not fluent in a second language. Sometimes parents worry about making mistakes, especially if they are not a native speaker, and if this is you then do listen and see why making mistakes is part of the learning process. Being comfortable with making mistakes is good for our children to see too!

Playing with languages

Kat advocates playing with languages and having fun in the process. We chat about animals noises and why sound symbolism and onomatopoeia could be a helpful route into learning a language for young children.

Child playing with animals and other toys.
Introduce languages in every day play with animals, shapes, role play and books.
Photo credit: Shitoa Yuri on Unsplash.

‘Home languages’

Finally, we talk about families who have moved to the UK and who are learning English or helping their children learn English as an additional language (EAL). You may hear negative advice about stopping speaking your native tongue in order to focus on learning English. Is it better to speak English or continue speaking your usual language at home?

Language acquisition is important, but it is only one part of the jigsaw of child development. Listen to Episode 5 and discover how to create a balanced approach to raising bilingual children.

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It's time for a little language revolution, n'est-ce pas?

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