5 Helpful Parenting Tips for a Bilingual Household?

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A baby reading a book.

According to the latest Singapore Census of Population, the use of the English language as the predominant language at home increased across all ages and ethnic groups. If this upward trend continues, families from various ethnic groups may need to exert more effort to help their kids learn and speak their native languages as well. Otherwise, their children might use English exclusively as they grow older.

Besides keeping children connected to their cultural roots if they choose to learn their parents’ language, helping children understand, speak, and read in another language offers plenty of benefits. Multiple studies show that bilingual individuals tend to have better attention spans and task-switching capabilities than those who speak a single language. Bilingualism has also been linked with better memory, visual-spatial skills, creativity, and social skills.

All this being said, if you want to raise a bilingual child, you may need to be more intentional in your approach. Remember, bilingual parents don’t automatically bring up bilingual children. As with other parenting areas, you need to invest time and effort to help your child acquire another language. If you’re looking for ways to encourage bilingualism in your child, consider the following tips:

Provide Multilingual Childcare and Early Education

Exposing your child to multiple languages at an early age can facilitate language development. If you rely on infant care because you and your spouse are working, for instance, consider searching for childcare options with early childhood educators who speak the language you want your kids to acquire.

Enrolling them in an international preschool Singapore expatriates trust is a good first step in helping your child to become more used to a cosmopolitan environment. As your child grows, continued international education will further strengthen their multilingual foundation, not least because they will be encouraged to learn and acquire a second or even a third language in school.

Create Enjoyable Opportunities for Learning Another Language

Instead of creating a strict schedule for daily “language lessons,” let your child gravitate naturally to the language you want them to learn by making the learning experience exciting and enjoyable. Play music, dance, and sing fun songs in the  language being learned. Also consider choosing musical pieces about your child’s favorite animals, objects, or topics to keep them interested. Besides providing a delightful experience, music tends to be an effective way to enhance your kid’s linguistic skills.You can also read books or share captivating stories in the language you want them to learn.

There are many other creative ways to make learning more fun and enjoyable for your child.  You can organize a puppet show, create colorful masks, or record your voices as you encourage your kids to play different characters. Also consider inviting over young family members or children of friends who are also learning the language. Encourage them to create pictograms and other pieces of art that you all can play with when the children are done making them.

Keep in mind that children learn language best through social interactions and engaging activities like these, so make the most of them

Watch Content in the Language You Want Your Child to Learn

There are likely plenty of animated series, family-friendly movies, educational shows, and other content in the language you intend to teach that you know your kids will also love. Try to find them and use them to facilitate learning. Watch these content with your child and keep the interaction going. Ask questions, explain or repeat the words being said, and converse with your child in the subject language. In essence, your goal should be to boost active engagement and avoid a passive learning environment.

Embrace the Culture Behind the Language

Aside from reading books, sharing stories, and singing songs in your native language, it’s also advisable to help your child develop a sense of pride in the culture behind the language by sharing in the country’s history, traditions, and customs. You can celebrate holidays, wear national costumes, and cook traditional meals, for example. Better yet, expose your child to the heritage by attending cultural festivals in Singapore. As a melting pot of cultures, you will likely readily find relevant celebrations, shows, or events in the city-state.

Also consider inviting family members and friends who also speak the language to come over and share their stories about their home country. Encourage them to bring pictures and other media to keep your child engaged. If your children understand the value of the culture and why they need to learn the language, there’s a greater chance that they will persevere in mastering it.

Keep Speaking the Language

Don’t be discouraged if your children continue to favor English or another language over the language you want them to learn. Instead, consistently converse with your children using the language at home or outside. If they ask you questions or speak with you in their preferred language, for example, respond in the language being learned.

The tips above are just some of the many things you can do to raise bilingual kids. You can try them out, tweak them according to what you believe will work best in your situation, or use them as inspiration to come up with your own strategies. Ultimately, parents know best. Just be patient, consistent, and supportive, and you’ll reap the benefits of your efforts soon enough.

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