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How To Introduce Your Second Language To Your Toddler


Last Updated on March 26, 2024 by Bilingual Kidspot

How you can introduce your second language to your toddler

If you are a bilingual parent raising a monolingual child you have probably thought about when and how you can introduce your second language. While there is lots of advice to say you should start from birth, it doesn’t mean you can’t start later.

Many parents decide to put off speaking with their children in their second language for a variety of reasons. But you can still introduce a new language once your baby becomes a toddler, or even an older child.

There is no doubt that the earlier you introduce a new language to your child, the easier it will be for them to pick it up and become fluent. 

However, even if your child has started talking already in their first language, there is still a variety of ways to introduce your second language so they can become bilingual.

Introduce the target language as soon as possible

Once you have made the decision to introduce your second language, start talking in the language to your child right away.

Toddlers are usually only starting to speak, so a new language will come quite naturally. You could actually switch to your second language exclusively immediately if you are comfortable with it. Although there might be the initial shock, toddlers are quite adaptable and may welcome the change.

If your toddler has started talking a lot already and you are not comfortable with a complete switch, there are other ways you can introduce your second language slowly if that is what you prefer.

Start with the fun stuff

To break the ice start singing songs to your toddler in your second language. Young children love to sing, and are usually able to pick up new words and phrases before they even start speaking sentences. Introduce nursery rhymes and fun songs in an informal way and make it fun.

Read books and play games together, introducing words and phrases along the way. Teach actions like clap hands, jump up and down, run, skip, and hop. Play around together having fun introducing new words slowly and repeating them over and over.

Use screen time to your advantage allowing your toddler to watch programs in the target language. Watching together  is more effective so you can speak about what is happening.

Use a context to speak your second language

One of the methods of raising a bilingual child, is using a situation or a context to speak with your child. You can choose a time of the day, for example every evening before bed for an hour or two playing and doing activities together. Or perhaps a place in the house which is your special language corner.

Try the “Talking Twice” approach

To avoid the initial shock of a new language, you could start “talking twice”. For example say the sentence first in your child’s first language, and then repeat the same sentence in the language you are trying to teach.

Starting off like this will slowly introduce new words and phrases to your toddler, and you can encourage them to repeat what you say. Eventually, start to use only the target language at times and see how your child reacts.

Start using their first language less and less over time getting your child used to it until you are using only the target language.

Find others who speak your native language

There may be mothers groups or play groups in your area where they speak your target language. By surrounding your child with other people who also speak the language, it will create an immersion effect. Hearing the language from other people other than yourself, may encourage your toddler to start using it.

Be Consistent

All children react differently. While some may welcome the change, some toddlers may resist. If you have been speaking in one language since birth and then all of a sudden change, it may be a bit of a shock to some. However, if you are consistent, your child should eventually start to use your second language. Don’t give up.

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