The Benefits of Being Bilingual (9 Tips to get your kid started)
Make it Fun
Kids learn through play. "If language is learning is seen as fun – then you are more than half way there. I would recommend playing games in a foreign language – real world games are better than on-line games." -- Andrew Finan, developer of KLOO, a language learning game.
Peers are a big influence for kids and they provide support for parents. "Playgroups are essential for moms and kids. Find or start a bilingual playgroup so your child creates bonds with other kids who speak the same languages she does." -- Ana Flores is co-founder of SpanglishBaby.com and co-author of "Bilingual is Better."
Reading is Fundamental
Younger children, especially, need the more interactive experience of reading for language acquisition. As children get older and have a foundation in language, other media can become part of their learning.
Feel the Rhythm
Even if you cannot read in another language, music engages the brain and is a great window into culture. "It does not matter if at first they do not understand the lyrics. They may start singing along without even knowing what they are singing. They are not only learning the rhythm of the language, they are learning new vocabulary...Your child might prefer children’s music or the latest pop stars that you can’t understand why anyone would like. Let your kids get music they like. They have to like what they are listening to." -- Susanna Zaraysky, author of the book, "Language is Music."
Play (Language) Favorites
Although parents may worry that children will have difficulty learning the dominant language of their community, that is rarely the case. If at least one parent is fluent in a minority language, focus on speaking only the target language at home.
Change Your Settings
Experts advise that speaking, playing, reading, and listening to music are key to language acquisition. However, video can be a fun supplement for school age children. Turn your favorite DVDs to target language. Just make sure this is a substitution--not additional screen time."Make foreign language a natural, normal part of your child's daily "fun" time... Talking toys, DVDs, computer games and even kid TV shows can all be found in foreign languages." --- Consuelo Bova, CEO of SmartMouthLearning.com (a web store specializing in children's foreign language learning materials) and blogger on the subject of teaching children foreign languages.
Travel and Immersion
True fluency comes with immersion in the language."Exposure and regular use of the target language is critical to reach high levels of comprehension and fluency. To that end, families that can should travel to places where the target language is spoken." If you cannot afford to travel overseas, look for restaurants, community centers, and other cultural opportunities in your local area. -- Holly Hansen-Thomas, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Bilingual Education and ESL at Texas Woman's University in Denton, Texas.