6 Things You Need to Know about Raising a Bilingual Child
If you are thinking of raising your child with multiple languages, I am sure you have read about the many benefits of being bilingual.
From the cognitive benefits to the social and cultural advantages, there are so many reasons to raise your children with a second language.
There are a few things though that parents need to know before deciding to embark on the bilingual journey. A few I wish I knew before my children were born.
Here are 6 things you need to know about raising a bilingual child.
1. It is a long term commitment
It is not just a huge commitment, but it is a long term commitment. From the day your child is born, you have to be prepared to put in a great amount of effort every day to make sure that your children have enough exposure to both languages so that they become fluent in both.
It doesn’t stop once they start speaking either. If you want them to be proficient in reading and writing then you will have to take steps to make sure they become literate in both languages.
It could be giving your child a bilingual education by sending them to an international or bilingual school. It could be by hiring a tutor, or spending extra time teaching them yourself. Either way, you really have to be committed to the language learning journey.
2. Support is vital
It will be quite a challenge going at it alone and a support network is extremely important.
Whether it be support from your family or friends, or speaking to other parents who are raising bilingual children, help from others will make the journey much easier.
Lucky there are some fantastic communities such as the Raising Bilingual Kids & Little Global Citizens Facebook Group, or more specific language groups such as Raising Bilingual Kids in Spanish, or Chinese.
These groups are filled with parents who are raising bilingual kids and looking to share experiences and offer support.
3. It can be expensive but it doesn’t need to be.
Teaching your child an extra language means acquiring extra resources which can at times mean spending extra money.
It can be a smaller amounts like buying resources such as extra books in each language, joining community groups, or sending your child to language lessons. Or it could be larger amounts like sending your child to summer camps or travelling to the places the language is spoken, to give them a bit more exposure and the chance to practice the language.
If you don’t have the budget though, there are also lots of free resources too. Check out these free resources here: Spanish, French, Chinese, English.
Your situation, and what your family language goals are, will help you decide what extra help you need.
4. Everyone will have an opinion
Almost everyone around you will have an opinion. Many will be positive about your decision to raise your child bilingually, but there will be doubters who will have negative opinions and try to put you down.
Not everyone is aware of the benefits of being bilingual, and many believe the various myths about raising bilingual kids.
You may be told that you are confusing your child, or that they will have a speech delay. Some people will probably tell you that you’re wasting your time and that they don’t “need” a second language.
Remember, you don’t need to listen to this type of advice, do your own research and decide for yourself.
5. It’s not always going to be easy
Raising your child with two languages is no easy task and there are challenges that you will be faced with along the way.
Bilingual kids sometimes mix their languages, take a preference to one language, or they may refuse to speak in the minority language altogether.
These challenges can put stress on a family and you must be prepared to deal with them. Check out our post on How to improve kids language skills, which has lots of tips to help language exposure.
6. It will make you so proud you will want to constantly brag about it to the world
Nobody can prepare you for the amount of pride you will have when hearing your child’s first words in both languages.
Watching them speak to different people switching from one language to the other, hearing them have a conversation in a language you don’t speak, or watching them make friends with children from another culture. You will be so proud that you will want to tell the world!
Raising your child bilingually is no easy feat; however it is one of the most rewarding. If you can prepare yourself, you will be giving your child not only the opportunity to be able to express themselves in two different languages, but also the ability to learn about different cultures of the world and lead a life with endless opportunities.
Further reading: Getting started on your bilingual journey
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Hi Alison, yes what you have mentioned in your blog is very true, it is indeed very challenging to raise children bilingual. I tried it with my child and I am successful. Today, I am really proud watching my son speaking fluently in two different languages.
I have already embarked on the bilingual journey with my two children aged 5 & 1 and this article is definitely very true!!
This is a really helpful article, thank you. I can relate to all of these points, in particular no.4. My daughter is 10 months old. She has countless English language baby/toddler books, and I recently bought her some Spanish flashcards (numbers, colors etc). I’ve already been ‘advised’ that because of this she will be confused & won’t be able to understand English numbers ??? I’m sure she’ll understand both just fine!
Yes the “confusion” issue is quite common. Many people don’t realise how the brain works, and how babies especially are able to distinguish between sounds and tones very early on. I am sure your little one will be just fine, you seem very dedicated 🙂