Raising a Bilingual Child

Many parents have questions about raising a bilingual child and I am here to answer them!

Parents worry that their bilingual child will fall behind. Some parents have questions on how to teach two languages.

For this reason, I created this page. I want to give tips and answer common questions that I am frequently asked by my clients. 

Can I teach my child a second language even though I only speak one?

Good for you for wanting to raise a child who speaks more than one language! You are a great parent and the answer is yes! Some options are:

  1. Hiring a bilingual nanny
  2. Enrolling your child in baby language classes
  3. Making play dates with friends who have bilingual children
  4. Enrolling your child in a bilingual daycare or preschool

The key here is exposure. You need to have good quality and consistent exposure to both languages. Check out our bilingual books for help raising a bilingual child.

If your child gets just a little exposure to the second language, it isn't a bad thing. But, the chances of being fluent will be less.

If I don't speak English to my child at home, will he be behind in school?

No. Many bilingual children are sequential language learners. Click here for more information on sequential language learning. 

Talk to your child in the language you know best. You can offer richer vocabulary, correct grammar, and more complex language.

Many language skills are transferable. For example, if your child learns decoding, phonological skills such as phonological awareness, and/or narrative structure in Spanish, those skills will transfer to English as well. 

Will my child be proficient in both languages?

Yes! If you raise a bilingual child from birth, there most likely wont' be any noticeable difference in speech and language development.

Even though your child gets 1/2 the exposure of each language, research has shown that he will learn and be proficient in both languages.

My child consistently switches back and forth between her 2 languages. Is that confusing or bad?

No! This is called code switching and it is NOT bad.

Code switching is normal for all children raised bilingually and actually shows mastery of both languages. In order to code switch, a child has to understand vocabulary and grammar rules of both languages. 

If my child has a speech or language disorder, should I only talk to him in one language?

NO! Seriously NO! If someone told you yes, ignore them immediately and follow my advice :) 

Actually, the opposite is true. Learning 2 languages helps develop language skills.

Learning two languages DOES NOT cause a speech or language disorder. Therefore, speaking only one language WILL NOT fix the problem. If a child has a speech or language disorder, he will have difficulty in both languages. 

When raising a bilingual child, remember.....

There are many benefits for raising a bilingual child. To review some of the benefits, click here

If you have a speech or language concern, we have some free resources for you!


› Raising a Bilingual Child



Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech-language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series


References

  1. Genesee, F. (2009). Early Childhood Bilingualism: Perils and Possibilities. Journal of Applied Research in Learning, 2 (Special Issue), 2, 1-21. Retrieved online on June 5, 2013 from  http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/JARL/Jarl-Vol2Art2-Genesse_EN.pdf