Advice Column, Child, Parenting, Pregnancy & Baby, Toddler

How to raise a multilingual child

By Hilton Scott, Principal of Trinityhouse Preparatory Randpark Ridge

The benefits of raising a multilingual child are plenteous. From improved cognitive performance to increased marketability in the future workforce, the multilingual child has the advantage over his/her peers and in life. We need to explore this matter quite seriously as educators and parents.

Parents can begin the process of teaching their child languages from infancy! Research done by Dr. April Benasich, Little Pim Advisor and Director of the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center for Molecular & Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University has revealed babies learn languages in a different manner than a person who already knows a language. Those individuals learn a new language primarily through memorization, studying what letters make what sounds, and so on. On the contrary, a baby’s brain unconsciously follows sound patterns, changes in pitch, stress, or tone, and identifies slight changes.

According to various studies, teaching your child new languages between the ages of birth and five years old is the best time to accomplish this goal.

Make learning languages fun and creative, implementing multilingual videos, flashcards, storybooks, songs, and games (the latter as is appropriate for the age).

Use the immersion technique. Since young children are able to differentiate between phonemes, which are the “sound elements or building blocks of language,” it makes sense that immersing them into an environment where they are continually hearing the language, teaches them effectively.

Create a routine that you and the whole family can consistently stick with. Language learning videos, storybooks, and singing can be weaved into a routine for your child, making the whole concept of learning languages familiar and fun.

Help your older (speaking) child to find opportunities to use his or her newly developed skills in the acquired language. This will build confidence, as well as give practice.

Learning a second or third language is so much easier for a child, and in today’s world it is fast becoming a necessity to know more than one language. Many parents are taking the step to introduce their child to the wonderful world of language(s).

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