If teaching your child to speak more than one language is important to you and your family, there are a few things you need to know.
1. It doesn’t happen overnight
Learning to speak more than one language doesn’t happen by osmosis. Simply because your child may come from an Italian background does not guarantee a natural ability to speak Italian. In the right circumstances, children can grow up to acquire the family languages; however, consistency and patience is key.
2. You need a plan
You need to decide on how fluent you wish your child to be in a certain language. Would you like them to be able to read and write in this language? Will a specific member of the family be taking charge, or will you be sending your child to formal lessons in this language? All these things need to be discussed prior to making the decision to raise a multilingual child to ensure that this plan can be carried out effectively.
“For a child to become bilingual, they will need to be exposed to the other language for roughly 30% of their waking hours.”
3. Be mindful of exposure time
It is a generally accepted notion that for a child to become bilingual, they will need to be exposed to the other language for roughly 30% of their waking hours. However, this should only be taken as guidance.
4. You will have to invest time (and perhaps some extra money)
You need to set aside time each day to ensure you are speaking in the language you would like your child to learn. If you would like them to be able to read and write in this language, time needs to be allocated for these activities as well. You may also need to purchase materials such as books, magazines or audio courses, etc. You will also need to budget for a formal tutor if this is the route you want to take.
5. There may be doubters
As with many things, there will be naysayers. Some may argue that there is no point in raising a multilingual child or that this challenge can lead to confusion. Others may say that you are expecting too much of your child by wanting them to communicate in more than one language.
It is important to remember that raising a multilingual child is a personal choice and can bring with it an array of benefits and advantages for your child. Not only will it connect your child with their family heritage, but it will also bring with it a wonderful sense of accomplishment for your family as well as your little polyglot.
Raising multilingual children is indeed a challenge; however, with a solid plan and consistent effort, a child who is fluent in more than one language is possible!