I raise a multilingual kid. Yes, it is not something to surprise, because nowadays most parents raise bilingual or multilingual kids. As our kid also learns few languages, I want to share my story of raising a multilingual child with some of the things I follow as these tips can be helpful for other moms too.
How I raise a multilingual child?
Living in Singapore, we wanted our kid to learn English as his first language. So he grew up in an English speaking environment till his playgroup age and later we started to speak with him with our native language Sinhalese. As Sri Lankans, we want him to learn both speaking and writing in Sinhala language. At the same time, in his preschool he learns Chinese as a second language.
This sounds like too much for a kid. But, surprisingly kids learn so fast. Even though we talked with him in English only, I always used Sinhala language to talk to my husband or family members in Sri Lanka. Surprisingly, when the kid started talking, he talked English. But, he could easily understand Sinhala language. So, we didn’t have any communication problem in Sri Lanka, as kid started replying in English for anyone who talks in Sinhala.
When he reached 4 years old last year, I started talking with him in Sinhala. I also started teaching him reading and writing in Sinhala.
At the same time, his preschool teacher conducts Chinese lessons for him. It seems like he is good with Chinese language for his age. But, at home I don’t know the language, so we face difficulties in understanding him when the kid speaks in Chinese. This is where I want to learn Chinese as a new language to help the kid to improve his language skills as a multilingual kid.
Well, above is my story on how I raise a multilingual child.
Is it difficult to raise a multilingual child?
If you ask that question, my answer is ‘No’. Kids are fast learners and they grab the words so fast. With a proper plan, you can easily raise a child who speaks few languages. However, don’t get stressed. It needs time and patience. My kid still speaks well in English, but he can understand other 2 languages. I am confident that he will learn these other languages with time. So, I don’t worry.
If you want to raise a multilingual child, below are some of the things you can do. You don’t have to teach them new languages. But, you have to talk to them. Or create an environment which your kids have exposure to the other languages.
Things to do if you want to raise a multilingual child
1. Know when to start and what to expect
Understand the learning milestones of your child. Start talking in one language and make it his major language. When your kid starts talking, he will use that major language to communicate.
At home, I talked with him in English only. But I allowed him to hear us talking in Sinhala. When he started talking, he was good in English. But, he could communicate in Sinhala too.
2. Decide how many languages
Usually multilingualism is helpful for kids to live and communicate within his community. In Singapore, it is essential to learn English to continue education. At the same time we also want him to learn his heritage language Sinhala. As he learns Chinese as a 2nd language in his preschool, now he learns 3 languages without any pressure.
So, think of your requirements and decide on the languages that your child will learn.
3. Decide on a suitable Language System
Don’t take this serious. But, if you talk in many languages with your infant before he reaches his language milestones, he may get confused. Instead, try to have a language system.
Decide who should speak which language with baby from his newborn age. One Person One Language (OPOL) and Minority Language at Home (ML@H) are the most common language systems which are popular nowadays as successful systems.
4. Get relevant materials to learn the languages
Surround your kid with books, music and movies which are suitable for his age. These language materials will make it fun to learn.
We did the same at home. Although the kid learned English as his main language, we also bought books in Sinhala and Chinese languages. So, he is familiar with letters before he starts learning. In his preschool, he gets the chance of learning Chinese.
5. Establish a proper support network
You are lucky when you are surrounded with others who speak different languages. You can get their help to talk with the child if they talk a different language that you want your kid to learn.
For our kid, he learns Chinese by talking with school teacher and friends. But, with him I face the problem of not knowing the language.
My kid likes to talk with me in Chinese and he starts conversation. But, I do not know whether he speaks correctly or even I don’t know how to reply him to keep the conversation going. This is why I decided to find a way to learn Chinese. So, I can communicate with the kids while he learns Chinese. This will also beneficial for me as I work in Singapore which Chinese is one of the languages spoken by majority of people.
I have used TUTOROO to find a private Chinese tutor in Singapore. On their website (www.tutoroo.co) I have easily found a Chinese language tutor who is now helping me learn Chinese. I hope I will soon be able to communicate with the kids in Chinese. TUTOROO is not only for adult learners, it connects people to private language tutors nearby and their private tutors also offer private lessons for kids.
A platform such as TUTOROO is helpful for arranging a proper support network when raising a multilingual or bilingual child. It is a platform that connects students with tutors nearby. Therefore lessons are in person, not online. Learning a new language from native speaker is always helpful, so I am sure that we will have good experience in learning Chinese.
You can check the language tutors available by visiting www.tutoroo.co.Not only Chinese, you will find many language tutors including English, Spanish, Japanese and many more.
Finally, don’t get too stressed about raising a multilingual child. Let it happen with time. Set your goals with kid’s language milestones, but be flexible. For example, I started reading ‘Sinhala language’ to my kid when he reached 4 years old and when he is fine with English.
It will take time to raise a multilingual child. You will need patience. But, it will be a rewarding experience. So, try all above tips if you raise a multilingual or bilingual child.
Do you have experiences in raising multilingual kids? Please share your tips and experiences below.
Amila Gamage Wickramarachchi is the founder of this blog where she shares her parenting and lifestyle experiences. She is an engineer and a trainer who works in the construction industry. She is the founder of Sihela Consultants.(www.sihelaconsultants.com)