Do you or your extended family speak a language other than English? Do you want your child to grow up and be able to travel, learn about other cultures and communicate in other countries? Do you recognize the academic advantages shown by students who are bilingual? All of these reasons are benefits for raising your child to be bilingual. More and more parents are searching for advice on the best ways to expose their child to a second language. At Chatsworth Hills Academy, the premier private World School in Los Angeles, we recognize the importance of bilingualism and encourage and support the teaching of additional languages at the school. Here are our Top Nine ways to help you raise a bilingual child.
- It’s never to early to begin. Begin teaching your child from the time he or she enter this world. During birth through the time they turn 7, your child’s brain is most prepared for language acquisition. Waiting until after your child already has solidly learned a native language makes it difficult to switch them over to a second language. Keep in mind that language is based on exposure to that language and the earlier and more frequently you can expose them to both languages, the more likely they will retain what they learned.
- Make learning language a top priority. If you don’t plan and carry out the necessary activities for your child to learn the minority language, chances are he or she won’t. Speaking, reading and working with the language more at home in the beginning will help ward off the tendency for your child to revert to the majority language when he or she begins getting out into the world and conversing with others in the language of the community.
- Set goals for you and your child. What do you hope to accomplish with your child learning a second language? Will you be satisfied if they can understand and speak it, regardless of whether they can read and write in the language? Or would you like to see them be able to communicate in the language through writing? Whatever you decide, you will want to write it down and then you can address how to reach the goal during the planning.
- Strategize. Look at the “big picture” and determine the best way to allow your child exposure to the minority language. One strategy often used is called the “one person, one language” approach. In this approach, each parent speaks their own different primary language at home and outside the house. Another strategy is called the “minority language at home” approach where both parents use the minority language at home and the majority language is acquired from the community. Whatever plan you decide on, it’s important to stick with it.
- Always plan, every day. To raise a bilingual child takes constant planning on a daily basis. Decide how you will immerse your child in both languages evenly. Plan when you will have reading time, what games you might develop in that language, songs you might sing and then don’t let that schedule slip away.
- Remember exposure and need. When it comes to raising a bilingual child in Los Angeles, it is important to remember that acquiring language is based on two conditions – exposure and need. If either of these conditions is not present, chances are that your child will understand both languages but only really use the majority language to communicate.
- Make It Fun. In your planning, work in games, reading and more games to help immerse your child in the minority language. Read aloud every day, beginning with picture books when your child is a baby and gradually moving up to reading chapter books to help solidify the vocabulary. When your child is old enough, play your favorite board games like Monopoly, Sorry or Twister in the minority language. Grab puppets and put on a show using only the minority language. Sing songs often in the minority language. These are all things you can do that your child will find fun and entertaining.
- Decide on schooling. If you want your child to continue to be raised bilingual, consider choosing a school that offers exposure to both language, even in elementary school. Chatsworth Hills Academy is just that school. Not only does CHS boast a diverse student population from different countries and cultures, the school offers academic instruction in several foreign languages.
Contact Chatsworth Hills Academy and find out more about the language opportunities we offer and the importance of raising a bilingual child. CHA is the San Fernando Valley’s only International Baccalaureate World School offering classes from preschool through 8th grade. We are happy to answer all your questions and insure that your child continues being raised bilingual. You can reach us at (818) 998-4037.