Bilingual Babies

Bilingual Babies: why you should encourage a second language at home

How can I encourage my baby to speak my mother tongue at home?

This is one of the most common questions asked by Latin moms like me who are living in a non-Spanish speaking country and are raising bilingual babies.

On a number of occasions, I have asked myself if it is OK to talk to my son in Spanish all the time, or should I try and speak English to him.

So, in order to find answers to my questions, I sat down and started doing my research.

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I visited a whole bunch of websites and one of the sites I found was from a Language Therapist here in Vancouver, where I got great information, as well as a lot of benefits and tips on how to encourage my son to learn Spanish and English at the same time.

Bilingual Babies: some of the benefits

To begin with, the recommendation is always the same: talk to your baby in your mother tongue. 

Talking to our babies in our native languages has a whole host of benefits and to name a few, I can tell you that:

  • Recent studies show that being bilingual increases a child’s intelligence
  • The bond between children and their grandparents is not weakened by a language barrier
  • It helps children develop better reasoning skills and helps them become more sociable
  • Bilingual children develop more verbal and reading skills than children who only speak one language
  • Studies published by UCLA show that bilingual children have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease

 

Bilingual Babies 2

 

Bilingual Babies: when and where?

Some families believe that English should be the primary language spoken at home if they want their babies to be 100% fluent, or that bilingual babies start to talk later in life than those who only speak one language.

However, this is not the case, and there is absolutely no evidence to support it.

According to recent research, it is likely that children for whom English is not their native language will have to go through a period of adaptation at kindergarten or school, but this is completely normal and should not be a source of concern for parents.

So don’t stress too much about it!

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Bilingual Babies: ‘English always happens’

Kids are like ‘little sponges’, and given the fact that they have already started acquiring their first language (in my case, Spanish), learning a second language will not cause them any problems whatsoever. Furthermore, several websites recommend exposing bilingual babies to a second language from an early age.

So, what is the general recommendation to encourage our children to learn two or even more languages at home?

To begin with, you can implement English Times during the day if your first language is not English. These can last 15 to 20 minutes per day, during which you can sing songs in English or take them to programs at your local school, community center or YMCA.

You can also promote second-language acquisition by playing games or during mealtimes, such as, for example, giving your baby something to eat and saying the name of the food in English.

The level of exposure to the second language is not really relevant at the beginning as “English always happens”. What the specialists recommend is being aware of the general cognitive development of our babies.

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Bilingual Babies: strategies at home

No matter how you decide to raise your bilingual child or what strategy you choose to follow at home, the important thing is that you stick to it and be consistent.

For me, a few strategies that have worked at home to encourage my kid to speak Spanish are:

  • Watching movies and cartoons in Spanish; you can buy DVDs in other languages on Amazon.ca and have them delivered to your door.
  • Buying books in Spanish when I visit my home country or from another friend
  • Having ‘Spanish story times’ with bilingual books (English and Spanish)
  • And finally, putting my son in Spanish classes on Saturdays has made all the difference

 

Here is an example of bilingual books you can look for:

 

I am not going to lie to you, it is a lot of work! and it requires a lot of patience too, but in the long run, I have seen the benefits outweigh any of the difficulties that I had at the beginning.

 

Do you have another strategy that has worked at home?

I want to know! Comment below or shoot me a DM on Facebook 😉

 

 

Xan,

 

 

 

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