After a great live conversation with Bébé Voyage Co-Founder, Marianne Perez de Fransius, on how to raise multilingual children, we thought we could carry on the discussion by putting our thoughts onto paper. As a global team with many of us living abroad and speaking multiple languages, we had a lot to say on the matter. It was fun to find out how we differ on some things but how similar we are on others.
So, if you are starting out on this journey or simply want to compare ideas, here are our best tips on how to raise your children as multilingual speakers.
One Parent, One Language Vs Code Switching
So, this is one that we simply could not agree on. Some of us are great rule followers and decided to go with the general consensus that each parent should stick to one language to give equal exposure and consistency. To be fair, this is a well-proven method and one that most people swear by. It also gives the opportunity to create an emotional attachment to each language by associating them with a specific adult.
The others, myself included, prefer code-switching, i.e., switching between the languages as the conversation flows, simply based on what we feel is the easiest, most appropriate way of getting our points across. I am a big believer in this, our family is bilingual after all, and this is how we all speak to each other all the time, especially at home. So, I think it is important for my kid to learn how to do this as early as possible and also to know how cool it is to be able to do something like that without even thinking.
Friends Are Important
Exposure is key but also creating a fun environment and an incentive to speak the second/third language. Finding friends who speak the other language will give the kids plenty of opportunities to practice outside of the family members and also give them a chance to speak to their peers and expand their vocabulary through imaginative play. “In our experience, it helps if the kid has friends, or meet ups with other kids who speak the other language, so try to find a playgroup, or just one of two friends to practice with.” (Bébé Voyage Co-Founder, Marianne Perez de Fransius)
Visit The Country
Being fully immersed in the country of the other languages is probably one of the best ways to really give the other languages a big boost. Plus, it’s a great way to really explore the cultural heritage of those languages. We always see a big improvement in our kid’s Italian after coming back from a couple of weeks visiting the family in Italy. We have definitely missed these power booster visits in the past year.
In a Covid world, we know that traveling is not quite as easy or safe as it was, so in the meanwhile make sure to get lots of video calls in. Speaking to adults or children to whom they are emotionally connected, even if it’s only by a video call can really boost confidence and continue the exposure to the other languages. “Through the pandemic having Addie being able to speak and hear French from her teacher and her friends has been key to keeping it up.” (Bébé Voyage, Social Manager, Angela Bruneau)
Books, Games, TV, And Music
As we said before, the more exposure the better. We all know kids are more responsive when they are doing something fun and interactive. Reading, board games, music, tv programs are excellent ways to increase exposure and also learn new vocabulary. “One thing that has helped our young kids to really enjoy German, is music. We listen to a lot of German kid’s songs and watch animated music videos on YouTube to put imagery together with the lyrics. It is great for vocabulary but also great culturally.” (Kealan Casey – Bébé Voyage Contributing Editor)
Don’t Give Up
This is the most important piece of advice we can give you! No matter how stubborn kids get or how lazy they become, keep on trying! It will eventually stick and become second nature. Kids are clever and will try to play to their strengths choosing the language they find easier to speak in. Don’t settle, keep asking them to reply in the other languages if you have to, it will get easier.
“I was raised bilingually, and I have always felt this was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me. Not only did it open up my brain to being able to easily absorb new languages but it also gave me the unique ability to perceive the world through different points of view.” (Bébé Voyage Co-Founder, Juliet Perrachon)
Did you enjoy this article on how to raise multilingual children? Are you currently raising kids who speak more than one language? Let us know in the comments below!
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