By | Editorial team
Have you ever marveled at people who speak a second, third or fourth language as fluently as their first? Well, it may be that these people have a special aptitude for languages. But the truth is, we all have the capacity to learn a foreign tongue particularly if we start at an early age, also Research has shown that bilinguals tend to be more creative thinkers than those who speak one language, and one study suggests that their brain functions may stay sharper as they age. So If you want your child to be bilingual (or even multilingual), here’s how to begin.
To provide you with clear details we made an interview with a French Mom who’s married to a Sudanese man & raising a multilingual, adorable little girl, see what she said.
Why did you decide to teach your Child a second language?
Learning two languages was evidence to us. As a part of our cultures, languages built our understanding of the world. We could not imagine doing otherwise.
Noha started to speak two native-languages around 18 months. But she started to learn it earlier.
During pregnancy, babies listen to their parent’s voices: she started to be familiar with our languages at this stage. I also listened to Quran & Arabic songs because I am not good at Arabic.
Then she started to learn English at home mainly because we use it daily in our exchanges with English-speaker friends. And she is learning it at school since she is 12 month-old.
What inspires & encourages you to do such a thing?
Our daughter comes from two different backgrounds and we travel to several countries very often. So by using several languages, she can adapt on her own and communicate with all the people she meets…and she enjoys it !
“Studying a foreign language improves a child’s understanding”. Do you agree with that & have you noticed it on your children? Or you think it will delay their language development?
Many people think learning several languages causes speech delays. And it can be true. Teaching several languages to a child who does not master his native language is definitely not a good idea and may cause several language development issues.
We sometimes had people comparing children’ performances, noticing that Noha was quiet. In fact she was listening a lot and observing.
Now, she is 3 ½ and she can communicate effectively with others. In fact kids develop easily their language skills until they turn 6 year-old in average.
In how many ways you think that will prepare them for school life & what comes after it?
Learning languages help to develop creativity, to be good listener, and you can focus on other fields at school…
Which material, techniques and methods did you use? And what are the difficulties you faced?
When infant, we used signs so she could assimilate that a specific sign had different spelling depending on the language. So when she could not find the word, she was signing and made herself understood.
We created a casual learning environment: the best way for a child to learn is to have fun. And if daily exposed to fluent speakers, they can pick it up fast.
We address the kids only in our native language. If we have foreigners home, then we all speak English.
We also supplement this intuitive learning with multilingual books, songs and games. We did not meet so far any problem… we simply share lot of fun time with our kids speaking and playing.
How do you think your children can distinguish between the different languages they speak?
I have no idea… but it is amazing to see Noha’s choosing books depending on her reader’s language.
Do you think sneaking a third language is considered too much for your child?
Kids are not pets. Teaching a language to show off will likely turn the opposite on them. But if it is useful in their daily life, if children see their parents using it in social exchanges or games with them, no doubt that they will be interested.
What if you couldn’t speak another language, would you still do it?
I would rather encourage her when she masters her mother tongue.
Fortunately I can speak English. Since it is not my native language, I take classes to improve my level. Noha sees that learning a language is fun. And she begs for joining my courses!
Do you come from a bilingual family?
Definitely not but my parents supported me to study aboard since I am in middle school. It worked…
Do you think your children will thank you later?
I am not expecting anything: if she’s happy I’ve done my job.
Final advice for parents?
Some TV shows pretend they can teach a language to your children…letting them in front of a TV is counterproductive and does not teach them anything.
They need your attention, spend 3-5 minutes watching together a cartoon you’ve selected, then discuss it to develop their vocabulary and understanding.
It is even better to re-watch and discuss it frequently since they reemploy their vocabulary. Of course, it applies also to books !
We should never underestimate the Youngers’ abilities and support them to develop their skills.
At the end kids are like wood stock. Bring them a matchstick and see how high the fire goes … let them bring the light!