1. Does speaking more than one language confuse your child?
No. Linguistic research has long established that switching or speaking more than one language at home does not cause confusion. Children can learn languages with very easily and it doesn’t do them harm. Mixing languages (also called code-switching) is natural in a bilingual way of living. The more your child hears the different languages you speak, the more he will learn something out of it.
2. What is the best way to raise a child with multiple languages?
There is no “best way” or “best method” in teaching your child multiple languages. The most important things in language development are exposure and consistency. If your child is exposed enough to multiple languages over a period of many years, he/she will likely learn them. In fact, parents teach children to speak the same way as they teach them how to walk or smile - naturally. If you are committed to keep a clear structure on the use of languages in your house, your child will likely learn to speak multiple languages. Keep at it and it will be a success.
3. Are bilingual children late talkers?
No. Every developing child vary immensely in the speed at which they learn to talk. It does not matter whether they are monolingual or bilingual. It may take longer to learn as many words compared to monolinguals but there shouldn’t be any significant language development delays because of being bilingual.
4. What language should I use at home?
Speak in the language that you are most comfortable with at home. It will reflect to your child as being confident that you know what you are saying. It is also an opportunity for your children to be exposed to the language that you wish for them to learn. You are providing input and interaction with your child.
5. Can a child with language or learning difficulties learn more than one language?
Yes, definitely. Recent research shows that children with language or learning difficulties, such as but not limited to Specific Language Impairment (SLI), Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) etc. do not have more difficulties or challenges in learning another language compared to monolingual fellows with similar disabilities.
6. Would it be better to start teaching the second language after children have a good start on the first?
No. Give your children equal opportunities for them to learn the two languages. Do not delay the start of teaching the second language but start it together with the first language. Introducing the second language later may make them think that it is not important, therefore they won’t exert much effort in learning the language compared to the first one. However, if this is the case now, in order to manage the situation, make sure you put your children in situations where only the second language is used or in situations where they need to communicate with people using the second language.
7. I didn’t start at birth. Is it too late now?
It is never too late to start to learn new things. Even adults can learn new language when they like to. But as a parent, you will need to find the right time to introduce to your children a new language, considering that they are now very comfortable speaking the language they knew since birth. A great strategy is to use songs, nursery rhymes, books, and games. Start gently. Make it fun and exciting to gain your children’s interest. And be consistent at it.
8. If I expose my child to another language from birth, will my child become bilingual just like that?
Probably not. Research shows that for your children to develop any language, it takes interaction. Talk to your children using the language. Ask your monolingual grandparent to talk to your kids using native language. Engage them in activities using the language. That way it will be hard-wired into their brain. The next thing you know they are now fluent with the language.
9. Why does my child refuse to speak my language?
Your child must find it boring speaking the language. You should provide enough and strong need for them to speak that language. Playing a show on TV in another language will not guarantee your children in learning the language. Find other kids, playgroups, activities, anything to make them need the language.
10. What if there will be a second child in the family?
It will be kind of tricky when the second child arrives in the family. Parents should think about this beforehand. If you want your second child to be as fluent as your first child in the languages you chose, apply the same method to your second child. If you have been successful with the first child, surely you can do the same for your second child. But make some room for flexibility. As we know, every child is different and special. Another bonus with this situation, you now have your first child to join you in teaching the second child the languages. Not only does it create an avenue for learning, but it is also a way for them to share the experience together, bonding time between siblings and certainly it will be an exciting time for both of them.
Teaching your child to be bilingual is a long game. People often say, “it’s a marathon; not a sprint”, meaning; language learning takes time. It takes commitment, perseverance and a lot of patience especially that you are dealing with kids. Hang on, a small progress is still a progress. Take it a step at a time.