Bilingualism (and knowing more than one language in general) has many cognitive and social-emotional benefits, but how can we effectively raise bilingual children? We discussed this question with the Curriculum Director at Tutor Time International Nursery and Kindergarten and these are our main takeaways:
Experts find that exposure to greater quantities of language predicts grammatical and vocabulary richness. However, the quality of the exposure is still important. Reading to children and other face to face interaction promote language development, while low quality television does not. Aim to consistently expose your child to facetime or high quality educational entertainment.
Try using Infant Directed Speech (a method of communication which makes it easier for babies to pick up on emotional intentions) in both languages. Research has shown that IDS might accelerate language development through better speech perception and increased vocabulary.
Put in the effort
The effort parents put into immersing their child in a bilingual environment is a strong predictor of their future bilingual skills. Try making quality face-to-face interactions a habit- read to your child every night before bed, ask questions and initiate discussions in both languages. Consider bilingual education, such as full immersion bilingual preschools, which are a great way to promote balanced language development.
‘One parent one language’ may not be as effective as advertised
Recent research suggests that the OPOL approach has a minimal impact on language development. Instead, parents should focus on consistent, quality exposure to both languages.
Try the ‘Minority language spoken at home’ (MLAH) approach instead
The OPOL approach can create a language preference based on the time spent with each parent while the MLAH method is a more balanced approach to teaching a second language. Once you have identified the minority language, talk, play games together, sing songs, and read books in that language.