A parents’ guide to bilingualism

Updated: Mar 9



Lots of children are now growing up with two or more languages.


Whilst we work to support these in our nurseries, there is limited information out there on how you, as a parent or carer, can support your little one’s learning at home.


So, whether you have an additional home language or would like to expand your little ones’ horizons by learning a second language together, here is our all you need to know guide.


In this guide, we will cover things you should know, tips for supporting your child’s language learning at home and additional resources!



First onto some handy info…


· Did you know it’s estimated that 1/6 of children in schools speak in two or more languages?!


· Bilingualism is amazing! There is lots of research showing that being able to use more than one language makes children (and adults) smarter.


· Babies and young children mixing up languages when they try to speak more than one is a myth.


Children may insert a word from one language into another, but this is not done because they are confused – it’s because they don’t know the equivalent word.


· Children learn languages in two ways – simultaneous and sequential. Simultaneous refers to when children use more than one language from birth.


Whilst sequential learning refers to children who learn a language after they have already learnt one.


· Remember that there are levels to bilingualism. Children don’t automatically speak each of the languages that they hear equally as well.


Factors including how much time a child spends using the language and also how the language is used are important.



Now onto some tips to help you support your little one’s language learning at home.


Confidence – your confidence will be infectious!


Some parents don’t feel comfortable talking directly to their child in an additional language when they are out and about or when their partner doesn’t share the same language.


But it’s important to remember that all languages are amazing!


And learning more than one is a great skill to have all throughout life – the more time you spend speaking with your child in the language, the better their skills will be.


You can always rephrase what you say in English to avoid confusion when with others.


Books are amazing


Books are a great way to help your little one learn more vocabulary – they will quickly learn patterns and shapes of words and so be better able to understand these.


Choose books you’d also enjoy reading as your child will pick up on your enthusiasm and become excited about learning.


Talking is key


Languages are all about communication, so it makes sense that talking in an additional language at home will improve your little one’s language skills.


Bedtime, mealtime or even playtime are good opportunities for this – even if you’re starting off and are only introducing your child to new vocabulary.


This is quite important (especially if learning a ‘home language’ – a primary/second language you already know and want to teach your child) as your child is likely to spend an increasing amount of time using English as they progress through nursery and school.


You can link this learning to nursery activities by finding out more about them and discussing these in your home/additional language.


Stretched uses


Once your child is speaking will in the additional/home language look for ways of helping them to use the language to solve problems. This will allow them to use it for more abstract thinking.


You can do this via puzzles, construction toys and asking lots of questions.


Finally, remember to be realistic!


It’s important to find the right balance - spending the right amount of time teaching your little one an additional language.


You can provide opportunities at home to nurture your home language but be realistic about what is possible within everyday life, especially if they spend the remainder of their day speaking in English.



Additional resources


Handy articles and webpages


leadwithlanguages.org - Benefits of learning additional languages


teachearlyyears.com - A few more handy tips (for parents and nursery practitioners)


literacytrust.org.uk – Understanding multilingualism in early years


bilingual-babies.com - FAQs


bilingual-babies.com - German resources and activity ideas


bilingualkidsrock.com - Ukrainian language resources 🇺🇦


Books


bilingual-babies.com - Parenting book recommendations


coucoufrenchclasses.com - Guide to books for learning French


magdaszczepaniak.com - Guide to books for learning Polish


bilingualkidspot.com - Guide to books for learning Spanish


digmandarin.com - Guide to books for learning Mandarin


learnpersianonline.com - Guide to books for learning Farsi


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