How to support bilingualism in early childhood.
Children can learn to speak more than one language at a very young age. But why is bilingualism so important? Research indicates that children who are exposed to more than one language are more likely to have better language skills. For example, learning new vocabulary and processing and manipulating speech sounds. They also tend to have better problem-solving skills, as well as to have flexible thinking and to use information in new ways and access resources more easily.
There are many different strategies you can use to help them learn other languages. We have pulled together some general tips and strategies to encourage your little ones at home.
1. Use your stronger language
As children’s language skills develop in both languages, some difficulties might arise
along the way. Using your stronger language at home will be beneficial for them because
they will have the best possible model. They will learn appropriate grammatical rules and
syntax structures, articulation of speech sounds and functional vocabulary and expressions
by simply being exposed to your language at home. Hence, children can learn in a
naturalistic setting during everyday activities.
2. Use code-switching
Knowing how to speak your child’s stronger language will be particularly helpful when
gaps of a weaker language in communication occur. This phenomenon is known as code-
switching and it is frequently used in language usage of both children and adults.
3. Don’t give up!
Some bilingual children go through a period of silence where their vocabulary in the
non-dominant language might be limited and some sentences grammatically incorrect.
Although this might be frustrating to some parents, consistency is key in the process of
learning a language. Therefore, it is important to maintain the language exposure in order to
provide them with opportunities to improve their language skills, such as understanding the
language, learning new vocabulary and grammar rules.
4. Keep your child motivated
● Read books to your child. Make comments about the story characters to describe
them and their actions and make associations with their everyday lives
● Singing. Singing nursery rhymes and songs is a fun way to encourage a second
language at home
● Watching videos movies with your child is another way to increase their exposure of
a different language
● You can use a globe or google earth with older children to talk about a specific
country and cultural aspects such as music, food, etc
● Setting a specific time to engage and play with your child in a specific language. You
can also use a specific toy as a visual cue to remind them that a certain language will
be used at that time.