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Raising Bilingual Children

Second language strategies to aid in teaching a foreign language at home and raise bilingual children.

Raising Bilingual Children
bilingual, homeschool, second language acquisition

How to make Language Learning fun for your children

Welcome aspiring polyglot! For those who have or plan to have children, I've already discussed various options for approaching language learning with your little ones. Undertaking bilingual education is one of the more difficult tasks for anyone, let alone someone who doesn't speak both languages that are being used. While it's far from impossible, it does necessitate a bit more planning. That's where I come in, though!

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If you are looking for resources and potential options, you can read more on that here:

Beyond that, there's something that you can do to not only bring your own children to bilingualism, but others as well. All while providing your children with more and more ways to practice the desired language. However, it does add more to your plate so it is not something to be taken lightly.

Teach Their Friends

One of the issues for children is they don't always want to be speaking with their parents. That means that the language they only speak at home often goes by the wayside and can even be seen as a negative whenever they leave the house.

spanish, bilingual, friends

The best way to get around this is to teach some of their friends. While it will be difficult at first, becoming the household where people go to hang out and speak in different languages is a phenomenal goal. But here is why it will help keep your children interested in the language you are teaching them.

  1. It gives them someone other than their parents with whom to speak and practice

Most of the time the struggle with raising bilingual children is how much more input they will be getting in another language outside the house. Between school, media, friends, and everything else there is nothing you can do to stop them from interacting and being overstimulated with the local language. Control what you can control. If they want people with whom to speak at school, teach their friends some words and get the ball rolling.

2.  It demystifies your culture

When it comes down to it, people fear that with which they are unfamiliar. If your children feel comfortable sharing your culture because you feel comfortable sharing your culture, they are far more likely to take language learning seriously.

By teaching their friends about your language and culture they will have something to share and experience together. Not only that, but it will provide them a friend with whom they can "suffer" through different events with all while focusing on the home language, which otherwise is difficult to cycle into the daily routine.

3.  Their own code language

language, sharing, teaching

Something I always loved about being able to speak languages with people at school is that not everyone could. While being the only one who can do it is isolating and fear of not fitting in can cause a child to completely turn away from their home language, having even one other person to talk to makes all the difference.

Not only that, but once there are two, it begins to grow and more and more people will undertake language learning. It is a fun way to get not only your children interested in their home language, but those who they spend their time with as well.

When you make it easy and don't leave any other options, children can do amazing things, especially with languages. Now that you know why, it is important to focus on the how.

Use Sticky Notes To Label Items In Your House With Vocabulary

While this may be basic, it is a perfect way to introduce someone to a language. Accessible, basic, and easily repeatable. The last thing you want is to scare away their friends by coming on too strong, sticky notes certainly won't do that. If at all possible, getting them involved will allow them to bond even more and, as you know, their imaginations will run wild and you will likely end up with sticky notes on things you would never have thought to label.

crazy, organization, notes

Essentially the goal is to set up as many activities for your children and their friends as possible. Sticky notes is just a starting point, but they are vital as they make the language approachable. Beyond that, the goal should be to act as a walking, breathing, phrasebook whenever their friends are around. Make it easy for them to communicate at first, that will keep the interest growing.

Say "Hi, how are you?" so often that they start saying it. Make it accessible and challenge them. Children do not listen, they imitate. So if they see you using the language, if they see how you teach, they will emulate it. That said, I understand that you don't have time to raise other people's children, but there are ways to make it happen passively.

Developing Language Skills with Music

Music is something universal that nearly everyone enjoys. Not only that, but I am convinced there is amazing music out there that I will never get to experience simply because it is outside of my realm. Introducing people to new music will enrich their experience in this life and you have the opportunity to do that for people if you are raising bilingual children. Whatever the home language is, it should be inescapable.

That is what it will be like for the local language the second they leave the home, so setting up an environment to compete with that in the home is vital.

So, what does that look like:

  1. Have music playing always. Whenever there you get the chance to give your child or other children exposure to the target language. As native speakers you are likely the only ones who are available to answer questions they have. Which means you are also the only ones who are able to give them questions to ask. If they never have exposure, they will never come up with questions to ask. Language learners always want to be better, but they need to know what better is.
music, listening, learning

2.  Pay attention to which songs they seem to like more or less. If the goal is to make the language fun, it is vital to ensure that they aren't constantly inundated with music they find lamentable.

Yes, I know how difficult it can be, but tastes are different and if you want them to learn, you have to ensure they want to be exposed to foreign languages. It might seem difficult at first, but over time you'll get a feel for it and it'll be almost second nature. It will help you with your own kid at the end of the day as well.

Ask for suggestions. No one likes homework, but asking for input on the kind of music that would be most appreciated, with the only stipulation being that it be in your native language, doesn't sound or feel like homework.

In fact, you might just be introduced to new music you love simply by asking for input. And on the part of the child it's a simple search that could be facilitated with parental aid. All this does is bring in more people with whom to speak and learn. But once you've got the music down, it's time to introduce some foreign language films.

subtitles, foreign language, funny

Language Learning With Netflix

While it might seem simple, Netflix is uniquely helpful with making language learning fun simply because they have so many option of foreign language tv that was originally recorded in a different language.

One of the challenges that arises when using media, especially video, for learning languages is that they tend to be dubbed over. It's hard enough to learn a language without having to read lips that are speaking a whole different one. Irrespective of what your target language is, there is likely something on Netflix that you can find to make your language learning journey more fun.

The advantage that this gives parents is it allows for some time off where the kids can spend time learning languages together without you having to watch everything they do. Additionally, this time can be used to share your culture with your child and their friends. One of the best things about developing language skills and working towards adopting your target language is you get to dive into a whole new culture.

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Movies and shows are great for improving listening skills, finding new words, new vocabulary, and getting to hear native speakers simultaneously. It's a way to hear the same language spoken in different ways which is invaluable to the average language learner. Most language lessons are given by the same person in the same way, day after day. This can be effective, but rarely is.

Once you are used to the way a native speaker sounds and the tempo at which they speak, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand others. It's not because you don't know the language, it's because everyone speaks differently. Using movies to diversify input allows language learners to put their skills to the test using a variety of native speakers and even some non native speakers.

starwars, foreign language, meme

When just starting out, it's probably best to use English subtitles while building vocabulary. Random words will pop up often and subtitles are vital for staying on top of new vocabulary. Now, after focusing on listening skills for the past several posts, we have some exciting things in development revolving around the amelioration of speaking skills.


Learning a second language is no easy endeavor. While it can be simple, there are many things that make it complex. That said, all that really matters at the end of the day is consistency. That's why we started the Duolingo movement. It's not the perfect app, but being able to see other people working towards the same goal as you is powerful. Especially when all of those people are rooting for your success, too. There are countless language learning programs, but half an hour on Duolingo, combined with the above second language strategies, will allow the average person to make more progress than most online courses.

the Duolingo bird and the norse god Odin, shaking hands, friendly
bowtiedodin, duolingo owl, friends

It is not impossible to learn a language fast, but if that is the goal it is imperative to understand that it will be difficult. Picking up a foreign language at any speed is going to be challenging. But you can do difficult things and be great. So go do difficult things and become great. I will be here by your side endeavoring to do the same. I'll be here rooting for you and watching out for your successes in the meantime.

For more content check out Second Language Strategies dot com or find me on Twitter or Instagram. If you are struggling to get speaking in your target language, get up to 55% off a Babbel subscription using this link. I look forward to seeing everyone’s progress in the months and years to come.