How to raise a bilingual child

Learning a second language early will boost junior’s smarts. We tell you how to raise a bilingual kid!

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Raising a child who is bilingual can be a challenge, particularly if only one language is mainly spoken at home. However, if junior speaks more than one language, not only will he be able to communicate better and to a wider range of people, it also boosts his cognitive functions.

Your baby starts to acquire language while he is still in the womb — listening to your voice and the sounds you make. A 2016 study by the University of Washington found that all the world languages comprise more than 800 sounds. At birth, your baby is amazingly able to tell the difference between all these 800 sounds — meaning he is able to learn any language he is exposed to!

As time goes by, your baby starts to distinguish the sounds he hears most often, and his brain becomes most tuned in to the language or languages he hears from his main caregivers. So, bilingual babies become used to two languages, compared to just one in monolingual babies.

“Waiting until a child is older can make the process of learning a second language slower, more effortful and laboured.”

How do you raise bilingual children successfully? Here are tips.

1. Start Early
Most experts agree that the earlier you expose your child to a second language, the better. Dr Leher Singh, associate professor in the Department of Psychology at the National University of Singapore and director of the NUS Infant and Child Language Centre, notes that early bilingualism positions a child for success. “Waiting until a child is older can make the process of learning a second language slower, more effortful and laboured,” she explains.

2. Music and books
Find ways to make learning the second language fun for him. Songs are a great way to introduce your child to the various tones and rhythms of Mandarin, says Irene Oen, managing director of Little Mandarins. “Let them listen to the songs first. As time goes by, encourage them to join in with lots of actions!” she suggests.

Storybooks are another way for children to develop listening and reading skills, or play a game. Oen suggests, “You could play hide and seek with toys; name a toy and everyone goes to look for it, while conversing in Mandarin.”

Four more tips ahead!