A parent's guide to ensuring bilingualism in their child
When I think back to how I learned my second language, which is Spanish, I remember hours on end of
memorizing, flash cards, taking notes, and sometimes practicing speaking though it would rarely be with
native Spanish speakers. I remember feeling overwhelmed and frustrated – I wanted to master this language,
but I was always scared of making mistakes.
Now, as an adult with my own young children, and a degree in bilingual education under my belt, I have a
better plan for how my own children will achieve bilingualism. My goal is that they will speak a second
language fluently, with no accent, no timidity, and no frustration. The way this will be done is that I
will provide opportunities for my children to acquire their second language – and not “learn” it, like I did.
Here are the steps I’ll take:
1) Send my child to bilingual school – starting in pre-school. My guess is that if you are a parent reading
this article, you are probably already doing this, especially if you are residing outside of the United
States where bilingual schools are much more commonplace. When selecting a school that focuses on teaching
a second language, I encourage you to find out how many native speakers will be teaching your child
at the elementary level. This is a crucial time in brain development, and children who haven’t
yet gone through puberty can learn their second language with no accent (it’s puberty that hardens the vocal
cords and leaves us with whatever accents we’ve already acquired).
2) Buy the books, games, and
movies in the second language. FUN is hugely underestimated in learning a second language. Have you ever
gone to a workshop, conference, or class and walked away not knowing where the time went because it was just
so entertaining?? Yet you took away so much knowledge? Language is acquired when it is attached to meaning
and emotion, and fun vehicle for attaining both of those.
3) Send/Take your child overseas. If you have the means to do this – then do it. I remember when my
husband and I took our 1 year old to Colombia for two weeks. We could not believe how much she would
respond to in Spanish while we were there. If you have relatives or good friends whom you trust send your
child to visit for a week or two. Or find a summer camp or language school in the target language country
and send your child there. They will have fun, meet international friends, become more culturally sensitive,
and get a quick language acquisition boost.
We always want our children to have more than we had. We want every educational, career, and life advantage
for our children. We know that what we do as parents now will affect our children’s high school, college,
and life decisions. For those of us who are bilingual, we want our children to acquire their second or third
language better and more easily than we did. We stop at nothing to give our child the world.