Preparation to raising a bilingual kid
Ok, now you must have made a decision to raise your kid bilingually. Where do you begin? What should you do? The vast majority of parents worldwide treat it negligently, to say the least. Although, they prefer the term “naturally” or “normally”, which usually means transferring all their biases, misconceptions and childhood traumas to their kids. Quite often they even skip the transferring stage and just delegate parenting to kids’ grandparents. However, since you are reading the article up to this page, you are certainly not this type of a parent. Below you will be able to read a complete step-by-step guide applicable to any language and situation.
You should start with it, because it is going to be a big relief during the first years of your baby, when you will barely have any time to sleep, let alone to plan. While doing it, don’t be too persnickety, the plans are to be changed in the modern world, the main purpose of the plan is to create a vision in your head so you know what to do next without even looking at the plan. Nevertheless, don’t hesitate to amend it every time you decide to make changes in kid’s life.
The most common strategy is one parent – one language. As it can be understood each of the parents speaks a different language. It can also be another caregiver – a nanny or a grandparent. The point is to assign only one language to everyone involved. This strategy is also the only one which was studied and the majority of bilinguals, who were researched in every cited experiment, were raised this way. Because it is easy to implement, since the responsibilities are clearly divided. And it doesn’t confuse the baby. Don’t forget to take into account the languages of the family members involved and the environment so the input of each language is equal or at least 1/3 of all the time.
If you decide to raise your baby trilingually, you can speak one language each to the kid and a third language with each other. It is most convenient to use the dominant language of the place you live in.
Since you have started raising your baby in one manner, it is very important to keep it this way at least until your kid reaches the age of five. So if you move from country to country, where dominant language coincides with one of yours, do not switch the languages you speak to your kid to keep the same level of exposure. It’s better to find a target language-speaking nanny than frustrate your kid. So keep in mind your occupation for the first five years of your baby and adjust your strategy plan accordingly.
Speaking of a place you live in, think about the conventional educational institutions. Are there bilingual kindergartens you can afford? Schools? Which language do they teach? If you move from place to place a lot, you may consider a boarding school or homeschooling. You can combine homeschooling with online schools (there are plenty in English) and a local public school. Think ahead which universities your kid would like to attend so you can prepare to it.
Language is a tool of communication first of all, so interaction with other speakers is crucial. Another important thing is identity, where language plays a key role. If a kid interacts only in one language which differs from languages spoken at home, he/she can refuse to communicate in languages other than dominant. It is a very common occurrence among bilingual families. Therefore, you need to maintain the sense of necessity of every language. The best tool is to cooperate with like-minded parents and conduct events with their kids in the target language and related to culture. Watching a cartoon made in your home country followed with discussion. Celebration of national holidays, feasts, parties, culinary lessons, hiring tutors, inviting guests for a cup of tea and talk etc. The goal is to show that not only one person in kid’s life speaks this language, but many other people too. And that the languages have value and speaking more than one makes your kid unique.
Books are very important since one of our main goals is developing baby’s literacy skills so that in the era of information the kid will sooner or later be able to educate him/herself. Here are the type of books for certain uses and periods:
Picture story books – have simplistic pictures on every page (sometimes black and white) and very little text (one sentence per page). Every page is sturdy and thick to help a baby turn pages easily, throw it with zero damage, and even bite.
One or just a few very big books “My first words”, with vocabulary arranged in categories and sets of pictures for repetitive pronunciation. It’s nice if it has pictures of babies. It may have textures for a baby to touch. You are going to use this book routinely, teach counting and word relations.
Children classic literature your kid is going to read before 10. Something like Harry Potter, Arabian Nights, Tales of Mother Goose, etc. The task here is to have them on the shelves while your kid is growing up. He/she is going to look at them from time to time, getting more and more interested in the content, and eventually will open and read it without your pressure. But don’t hurry to put them on the shelf and wait ten years, you still can read it to your kid when going to bed and when got tired of the previous two types of books. By reading them, you will implant some words into baby’s memory so that a “discovery” of that story after acquiring literacy will be even more exciting due to familiarity.
3. Other materials
Kids love to engage in activities their parents do often. Therefore, one of the best toys are the ones which represent daily things (like keys, fruits, animals, etc.) so you can play and comment. For literacy development I recommend using ABC shapes, made of wood or magnets, so you can vary approaches to your kid’s literacy development.
Montessori sensorial materials
They are great examples of what are the best toys to help kid understand the basics of shapes, materials, textures and how to interact with them
Writing and drawing
A whiteboard and a set of markers to conduct your mini lessons without wasting paper.
Tablet or/and TV or/and computer. We live in a digital era and electronic gadgets are a huge part of our lives. Thus, it is unreasonable and even harmful to deprive your kids of it. But, as with books, staring at close objects for long periods of time is unnatural and our bodies are not evolutionary adapted to it, so it can lead to nearsightedness. Therefore, make sure to implement reading-watching discipline since early age. With all necessary restrictions and wise management gadgets become a powerful tool of self-educating with games and videos. And they help maintain motivation, critical in children’s language development.
Which movies in the target language would you like your kid to watch? Which games to play? If you don’t choose, then kid’s peers, TV, and ads will. And you had better start making the list now. Keep in mind copyright laws – the majority of any content is not commercially available in languages other than official in the country. E.g. some movies on Netflix are available in the USA and not available in Europe. So the most reliable way to secure desired content is to download it and keep in your home digital storage.