When you live in a family that speaks more than one language, of course that you as a parent would like your children to speak more languages. Some people think that it’s not that easy for a child to speak more than one language, but that’s not true. You just have to know how to do it. If you want to raise a multilingual child, you just have to try. So, here is how you can do it:
Agree on Multilingualism
There are a lot of families who want to grow a bilingual or multilingual child, and a lot of families who have succeeded in that. If you are wondering how is that possible, the answer will be that everything can be accomplished if there is an agreement. Sometimes parents are worried that it will be too much for the child if they start talking on more than one language with him/her. Not only that, but sometimes one of the parents is worried that his/her partner won’t agree of speaking the native language. But there is nothing wrong if you speak your native language to your child, because your child might have some benefits from that. All you have to do is find the best way how to do it, agree with your partner that multilingualism can be useful for you child and go on. You know, how they say…if you know a language plus, you are a person plus.
Know what to expect and when
Some parents want to raise a child who will know a lot of languages, they are happy if they see that their child is successful in that process. Because of that, in case there are milestones or some kind of problem, parents will step back and refuse to speak the native language to a child. Here is why you should not stop speaking the other language:
0-12 months: In this period is all about the sounds. The milestones are almost identical for all babies regardless the number of languages learned.
12-24 months: This period is all about words and linking words to objects. All you have to do is, have patience…Be patient, and you will be richly rewarded with the first words — in one or several languages.
24-36 months: In this period your child will start sorting out the grammar and spreading the vocabulary.
How many languages?
Generally, the number of languages within the household is the number of languages a child gets on his plate, maybe with one extra. But if you want to have a multilingual child, speaking only two languages won’t be enough. You should expose your child to listen and speak more than one or two languages in order to become multilingual. Yes, it might be harder if one of the parents or maybe both speak only one or two languages, but it’s not impossible.
Decide on a language system
The family should discuss for every issue that might come up. They should decide who would speak what language to the child. For example, if the parents agree that mom will speak English, dad will speak German and grandparents will speak a third language, that’s how they should continue. Because the child will get used to that schedule and it will comprehend languages much easier.
Don’t wait – Now is the perfect time!
The ideal time to start multilingualism is even before your child is born. Just recently, with the help of modern technology, have researchers been able to see what’s going on inside the head of the children. As it turns out, a child knows important things about language even before birth, and he gains fundamental verbal skills long before he utters his first word.
Declare your intentions
That everyone will have their own opinion about whether you should allow your child to learn more languages or not, that’s sure. But what is important, for you as a parent is that you should respect your own opinion and not ask for support or approval from your friends and extended family.
Establish a support network
You should get your support from people like you. Most things are more fun and rewarding if you share them with like-minded people. Not only you will have the group to discuss everything about raising a multilingual child, but you will also build a network of other speakers of your minority language. Equally important, it will give your child the opportunity to hear, speak, and interact with other children in the minority language. That will be a huge motivator for them.
Get relevant materials
Having books, music, movies, and toys in your minority language is both fun and useful. Which means, if you really want to success in multilingualism, you must provide the proper material to your child. It’s easy to give your child a book, just to keep his attention, but it’s also important what kind of book will that be.
Set your goals, but be flexible
There are many things that can impact on the language learning strategy. No matter what happens, each thing or situation has to be evaluated so that you can go back on track and focus on the language. The one thing you should not do is to avoid speaking. In that situation, you’ll have to be creative and try to find increased exposure to the minority language. Whatever you do, keep your child in contact with the language in some way!
Have patience and keep going
Raising multilingual children does require patience, and there will no doubt be frustrating times. For monolingual and bilingual parents is frustrating too, but don’t worry if your child doesn’t speak his languages as quickly as his friends or with the same proficiency in all of the languages. You just have to Focus on the success, marvel at what your child can do, and praise. Remember that it’s worth trying it.