Learning a second language at an early age has been shown to improve cognitive thinking, thus helping children to become better at creative activities and become good communicators. It can also help to significantly improve a child’s career prospects in later life. However, many parents face difficulties when choosing to raise a multilingual child in a different country to their own. If you are feeling the strain, we’ve provided some advice that should help to reassure you and your child that you are doing the right thing.
1. Maximize Exposure to the Minority Language
If you are living in a foreign location, it’s likely that your native language will be the child’s minority language. Because of this, it’s important to expose them to it as much as possible. In order to have strong language skills, children need to hear a language spoken properly and regularly. As a parent, you are in the best position to do this for your child.
Some parents may wish to go the extra mile and enroll their child into a school which teaches children in their native language. English parents living in Bangkok, Thailand, for example, may want to enroll their child in a prep international kindergarten Bangkok. This will help to ensure the child is exposed to both English and Thai during their daily lives.
2. Make Learning Fun – Be Creative with It
Engaging your child should be a priority, as an engaged child is one who’s going to learn a lot more easily. Let them think they are spending quality time with their parents as opposed to learning and they will be more willing to co-operate and practice their language skills.
There are a lot of ways you can make learning fun, and none of them have to involve school textbooks. Pick up some children’s books in your native language and spend time reading to them, or watch children’s movies in your language. You could also encourage them to write letters or postcards to family members back at home in order to hone their writing skills.
3. Remain Supportive Throughout
Finally, while it can be difficult to raise a multilingual child, it’s important that you remain supportive and don’t give up. If your child starts to lose interest, don’t take it personally. Keep encouraging them in the ways you know that they respond, and think up new and exciting ways to make learning fun.
According to UNESCO, a positive attitude is vital when it comes to retaining the mother tongue and the child’s cultural identity. This is especially true when living overseas as understanding and communicating in the family’s native language can help to strengthen family bonds.
Language skills are among the most important skills a child can have, and if you have the opportunity to raise your child with two or three languages, you will be giving them a massive boost later in life. The longtime benefits far outweigh the challenges, so don’t give up.