Today, we are excited to share with you part two of our Q & A with Piña and Lisa, our wonderful Concord Studio foreign language instructors. Read on for Piña and Lisa’s tips on raising a bilingual child, and don’t forget to check out last week’s post to discover why learning to understand and speak a foreign language is a great way to gain insight into other cultures and ways of life.

Q: Do you have any tips for raising a bilingual (or multilingual) child?

Piña: Bite off only what you can chew. Assess your situation realistically.

If the target language is your first language, it might be very natural to just speak that language exclusively. This is the fastest and most natural way to learn any language. Do not worry that your child will get confused, even if parents speak different languages to him.

If it is your second language, or you plan to learn with your child, set a realistic plan to feel successful, like choosing a meal or two per day when you will use the language, or in the car, or at bed time. Then you can prepare for those predictable times, learning the language and gathering the materials that you need.

Build a community. Find a class, playgroup or caregiver to help with your goal.  In the U.S., bilingualism is uncommon, and it might require some research and work.  Try visiting www.meetup.com, which provides a platform for people to find others with similar interests. Follow the website’s safety recommendations and use common sense when meeting people you’ve met online.

Lisa: A lot here depends on if one or both of the parents speak both languages. But even if one or both are bilingual, making the learning something the child wants to do, and making it fun, helps a lot. And if one or both parents are bilingual, my observation is that you cannot “force” a child to communicate in both languages—they will do so at their own pace.

Q: If you could learn another language (in addition to the ones you already know), what would it be and why?

Piña: I would love to magically learn Mandarin. It’s fascinating to hear how different the Asian languages are from English, how differently they construct their sentences and use tones. It would be hard to learn, but exciting to learn something so new.

Lisa: For me personally, I would like to learn Italian. I have traveled there, and I love the food, the culture and the art. And travel would be a much richer experience with the knowledge of the language.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Piña: Be patient, upbeat and persistent. Children will go through a long silent period where they understand the language but don’t yet speak it. Expect it, and continue exposing them to language in as many positive ways as possible—friends, caregivers, family, books, movies, music. Most importantly, enjoy it, and think of it as a new and nourishing way to engage with your family. Good for everyone!

Lisa: An amazing aspect of learning a foreign language well, at any age, is that you begin to understand and express ideas in ways you cannot in your native language. For example, in French there is a verb for “to make precise or add detail to,” which we do not have an exact equivalent for in English. It is the verb “préciser”—a specific verb the French use a lot, and it says a lot about how they think and what is important to them. This is a very powerful learning aspect of taking on a new language.

Thank you to both Lisa and Piña for their wonderful insights into foreign language learning! If you could learn a foreign language, what would it be?

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