How to Raise Bilingual Children
We are living in a multicultural environment. Many families speak languages other than English. We would love our children to learn our languages and know our culture. It can improve communication and bonds in your immediate and extended family.
There are many methods to raise bilingual children, we love to One person-one language method. It works well with families speaking languages other than English.
One person-one language
Speak to your children one person-one language. For example, if your language is English and your partner’s is Mandarin, you speak English to your children and your partner speaks Mandarin to them.
This method also work well for families with more than one language other than English. For example, if you speak Spanish and your partner speaks Italian, you each speak your own language to your children at home.
Children learn language fast, the more they hear from you, the better they are going to speak it.
When to start
You are your child’s first teacher. It’s best to start speaking to your child in more than one language as early as possible – that is, from birth. Some families decide it’s better to introduce the second language only after the child speaks the first language well, at about ages 3 or 4. Yet, there is no evidence that this helps the child to speak either language better.
Babies first learn words before they start to talk. Hold your baby close from birth, talk to them and make eye contact to help them understand how conversations work. Once your baby is older, you can start pointing to objects and naming them. Young children can often learn 1 or 2 new words a day.
Children start to talk in sentences once they know about 100 words, usually at around age 2.
There are some practical tips for supporting your child’s multilingual or bilingual development.
For Preschool Age - Play & Learn
For School Age Children
- Listen to radio programs in your language, including popular music programs and channels for teenagers.
- If you have family and friends who live overseas, you could encourage your children to connect with them using a video-messaging app or online.
- Think about what your child is interested in – for example, soccer, music, TV shows, cooking and so on. Try incorporating your language into these interests. For example, you could find your child’s favourite recipe or a typical recipe from your community and cook it together using only your language.
- Watch movies or sport in your language can help them learn the language. You can sometimes switch the audio or subtitles of English content into other languages.
Look for schools, child care centres or multilingual and bilingual programs that support your child’s use of your language.
- Organise playtime with other children who speak the same language.
- Organise visits to or from speakers of your language. If it’s possible, visiting countries where people speak your language. It can boost your child’s interest in the culture and ability to speak the language.
- Go to the library and borrow CDs, DVDs, picture books, age-appropriate fiction and magazines in your language.
- Look out for cultural activities that you and your child can do together to tap into your family’s cultural heritage and identity. For example, Harmony Day in March each year is celebrated across Australia.