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Raising Bilingual Children (Criando niños bilingües)


First of all, I wanted to write this blog post because of an article that I saw in “el pais”, the english version of a spanish newspaper that I subscribe to in order to retweet news on twitter. It talked breifly about how important it is to raise your children with English as one of their first languages, and gave a link to a fantastic website called “Crecer en inglés”. Crecer en inglés means to grow up with English, something that many parents around Spain are realising is an important step up for their childrens´futures. Here are the answers to a few questions you may have on the topic. I´ll be talking about English in particular, but the same applies for any language, of course. Feel free to leave a comment or message me directly if you wish to discuss the matter further,  or have any other questions!

Why is raising a child with a second language so important?

Well, there are two big outstanding reasons: Firstly, being bilingual, or even better, multilingual, can have massive benifits to a person´s cognitive ability as children and as adults. If you learn multiple languages as a small child, you find it far easier to pick up more languages later on, as well as having a mind that is trained to find patterns in anything! This can lead to higher abilities in maths, literature, logic, many sciences and even social cues.

Secondly, it opens a whole new world when your child grows up into a globalised world dominated by the English language. It may be sad to hear, but English is becoming the language used all over the world as the common denominator for interactions between cultures. Even those where English isn´t a first language! If you plan on teaching your child a language  other than English, it can also be incredibly useful! Someone who is fluent in a language and culture will be much more welcome and accepted into a new place where this language is spoken, even if the people there an communicate in English. Any language also opens doors to great employment opportunities all over the world, not to mention the far greater experiences when travelling!

How do I teach my child another language?

You may be in one of two situations: You have a good grasp of English  yourself and are confident enough with your abilities to speak it, or you have a lower level and/or don´t have the confidence to implement in your daily life. Either way the answer to the question is the same! Just go ahead and speak with you kids. Obviously, the more you know, the better it is for you child to learn from you, but even if you only have a basic understanding of the language yourself, you can help your child learn. In fact, teaching is a fantastic way of learning yourself! And this could be the perfect opportunity to forge a beautiful bond between yourself and you child by spending time on learning something new together.

Here are some examples of ways you can use English in every day life with your child:

  • Start by simply playing the normal movies and tv, even the radio in English. This is great for a family movie night, after school relaxing, or any time where you would usually watch something anyway. It is also extremely useful to have something playing in the background. Your child (and everyone else around) will benefit just from hearing the phonetics of native English.
  • You can also speak as much as possible with the child in English. If you have a high level, this should only be a small effort in the beginning, and then smooth sailing. If you have a lower level, don´t worry, just do whatever you can, you´ll learn more along the way.
  • Read to your child! You should really be doing this anyway, so just switch from your native language to English story books!
  • Play games. This is a fun one for the whole family! Connect with your child by playing board games, make believe, computer games, anything as long as it´s in English. Of course, there are countless games out there designed especially to help children learn other languages, although an ordinary game is often just as useful. Try scrabble and monopoly with older children, for example.

What if I don´t have the resources?

It’s not difficult to find resources in English. Most TV can easily be changed to English. There are plenty of English books of all levels in bookshops, libraries and especially online. If you have internet, you have no excuse! You can find online resources for learning and teaching English, as well as websites for native English speakers which you can read and interact with. You can stick labels all over the house. You can sing in the car, on the way to school, do homework in English. You can even make housework fun by turning it into a game where you have to do the action said in English.

There is no excuse not to start using a little English every day. No matter how much you know yourself, no matter the age of your children, start making English a part of their every day lives and they will thank you in the future.



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