How to raise a bilingual child?

The many cognitive, academic, and social benefits of learning foreign languages have encouraged many parents around the world to seek tips on how to raise a bilingual child. Although this effort is not as simple as reading Happy Ent flashcards or hoping to memorize vocabulary, it is still much easier for young children to learn than for adults. To take advantage of this unique time in life, bilingual parents must make a conscious effort to help their children learn. Since families and life situations are different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach, so here are five of Garbardi's favorite ways to raise a bilingual child.


1. One parent, one language (OPOL)

For families where each parent is fluent in a different language, the one parent, one language (also called "one person, one language" or OPOL) approach is a good choice. As the name suggests, parents who practice OPOL speak to their children only in their mother tongue, both at home and when they are out and about. For example, a French mother speaks French and a Cuban father speaks Spanish. When the family lives in a country where the mother tongue is one of their languages (e.g. Spain) then that language becomes the majority language and the children will naturally use it regularly and become more fluent. In order for the child to become bilingual, our French mother living in Spain has to be very careful that her children practice enough in French, known as the minority language. (Many experts say at least 25 hours a week is necessary.) Getting resources like books and videos and regularly interacting with other minority language speakers (including family members, friends, or babysitters) will also help.



2. Minority language at home 

Another option is the minority language at home. This technique can be used when both parents are fluent in one or more of their mother tongues. For example, an Italian mother raises her children in Sydney with an Australian husband who also speaks Italian. In this case, the whole family uses the Italian language at home, and if one of the parents does not have a complete command of the minority language, the feeling of comfort among the family is lost and language mistakes are made. This family uses English outside the home. It means that they should speak the language of the majority outside the house. Parents who agree to use their non-native language at home (the Australian father in our example) may struggle with the feeling that he does not naturally interact with his children in the same way as his mother tongue, and children who are not yet They don't go to school, they have more contact with the minority language of the society, and when they start school, they will be a little behind their peers due to their weakness in the majority language.

3. Move to another country 

One parent's job migration may be the way to save their children's language. In this case, a family moving to a foreign country speaks the mother tongue (or parents' language) at home, while the children learn and speak the language of their adopted country at school or with friends. A big advantage of this approach is that children progress through a foreign school system, effectively giving them the experience of studying abroad before they reach university age. When these children (sometimes called "third culture kids") grow up, they usually find the idea of moving abroad for work or education less scary.