The key to learning languages in the home—whether one, two, or even more—is interaction. Interaction involves speaking and listening. In many intercultural families, however, children do not become bilingual.
The best 10 things about going bilingual with your children.
A comprehensive list of language learning resources for bilingual children across many languages.
Three secrets why Kenya, like many African countries, is seamlessly multilingual.
As a Polish mother in the Netherlands with multilingual children growing up with Polish, German and Dutch, I often hear uninformed and judgmental comments. So here are 10 things you should never (and I mean NEVER) say to parents of multilingual children.
Early on, I read quite a bit about language acquisition and discovered that children need interactive language exposure in order to learn a language. This means that sitting your child in front of the television to watch minority language...
Being bilingual affords children many advantages over the course of their lifetime. Here are seven benefits that have been documented in research and studies.
Travelling with children, while definitely more of a mission, contradicts the old saying that “life is about the journey, not the destination.”
We're moving to an English-speaking country soon and are wondering if we should switch to minority-language-at-home to maximise German exposure?
See why Dr. Gupta takes offense to this question and where children learn accents from
Recent research shows that most bilingual speakers, although there may be exceptions, have an accent in one of their languages, or even in both.
I could barely string together a sentence in Cantonese but I was determined to raise my son in it. Here's how I did it.
My kids only get 1-2 hours of the minority language per day. How can I ensure they will speak it?
The voices of 25 bilingual children in the U.S., where one in five kids speaks a language other than English at home. So if you want to know the language America speaks, it's English and 300 other languages. #ispeakamerican
I speak Spanish. My wife speaks Italian. We are raising our son in the U.S. Is 3 languages too many when he is really young?
Research has often shown that bilingual children produce their first word at about the same time as monolingual children, on average. A recent study analyzes whether children exposed to two languages access words in the brain and produce words in the same way as monolingual children.
Raising a child with good bilingual ability can be a significant challenge. How do you support the minority language so that it keeps pace with the relentless development of the majority language?
Encouraging your kids to speak the minority language isn’t always easy so make it fun! Here are five games that will help get them talking. They’ll be having so much fun they won’t even realize they are using the minority language!
I have a burning question. How many languages is too many? I ask because we are a trilingual family English/French/Spanish. We have decided on homeschooling this September with our two girls, in part to up the time spent with Spanish, the minority language in our house. The thing is, the families in our homeschool coop may end up being more interested in Mandarin, which we are surrounded by living in Asia.
Three years ago we moved to the Netherlands from the U.S. with our two-month-old daughter. Neither my Italian husband nor I spoke any Dutch. Fast forward to present and we now have a very talkative three-year-old who regularly insists that she speaks only “Nederlands.” This is what we have learned about what you can expect when you send your child to daycare in a non-native language.
The challenges of raising bilingual kids in the one parent one language system.
Popular wisdom would have it that bilingual children are generally late speakers. It was certainly my experience when my son at three didn't speak but a few words. People around me would tell me oh, don't worry it's because he's bilingual. My own doctor told me there was no need for concern as my son was learning two languages at the same time.
My son's Thai helps break down barriers. Without him, I might be just another foreigner.
One of the most frequently asked questions from parents bringing up their children bilingually is whether they should speak both languages or separate them. Some bilingual families mix both languages on a regular basis, sometimes in the same sentence. Other families choose to link one language to a parent, a strategy known as the one parent one language (OPOL) approach, to expose the child to a ‘pure’ example of the language.
“Mommy,” my son stated, “for lunch, uno quesadilla con queso istiyorum.” In our family, this sentence that combines English, Spanish and Turkish not only makes sense, but it is also a normal exchange.
I am now married to a so-white-it’s-almost-blinding husband, who only speaks English, and together we are attempting to raise bilingual and bicultural children. It is both easier and harder than we anticipated. Oh, and more expensive.
After three years of flashcards, tracing sheets, computer games and CDs, I’m giving in. I’m a Chinese School Dropout. Or rather my second-grader is.
If you find your child refuses to speak your language, don't hit the panic button just yet. All you need is a little bit of patience and perhaps some organization too.
Advice to parents from a young multilingual adult. Learn about what her parents did right.
A book to inspire children of African ancestry and others to learn and speak Swahili, one step at a time.
One unexpected benefit of bilingualism is when I speak English to my daughter in China, people think I don't speak Mandarin and talk very, very freely about all sorts of things about us. Here's what I recently overheard!
Without a lot of resources or time, Maria has succeeded in raising trilingual kids.
As someone who loves to write and read, a love of language and words fits naturally. My family is of Punjabi origin, hailing from Jhelum, Pakistan and therefore speaks a Patwari dialect of Punjabi. Growing up, I spoke Patwari with my mother and grandparents; this was the language they scolded us in (Danger! Animals!) and loved us in.
Here’s a list of 10 amazing words that you can’t find in English; perhaps once you’ve studied these you’ll be as enthusiastic as I am about learning a new language.
Emma and Hannah have been bilingual since they were born and many times they mix up English and Spanish in one sentence. When they do this, they seem to pick the easiest words from each language. Most of the time, they combine both languages because they do not have the vocabulary they need.
By the age of two, it was apparent that Oscar was different than other children. “More of a care child,” was how one rather abrupt nursery teacher described him. The first time his bilingualism was brought into question was at the age of three. The advice given by the teacher was to learn Dutch very quickly and only speak Dutch with him. Although as I child I was raised to respect professionals and believed that they knew everything, as an adult I understand that professionals, despite their best intentions, sometimes get it wrong.
There is a common myth about second language acquisition that by six or seven years old, it is too late to acquire a language fully. This argument is based on the critical period hypothesis. However, this is a very simplistic view of language acquisition, especially given the competing viewpoints on the topic.
Raising bilingual kids can often be hard work to ensure the child is getting enough exposure in the second language. While no parents means to discourage their kids, make sure their enthusiasm stays on track by avoiding these big mistakes.
8 pinterest boards you should be following if you are raising bilingual kids.
Stories from a second grade immersion-Spanish classroom that embraces a constructivist curriculum. Constructivist theory emphasizes concepts over facts, deep understanding over rote learning and the transfer of knowledge between disciplines.
I couldn’t wait to see how my kids would do with their new Spanish when we got to Mexico. 10 days advanced their Spanish way more than I anticipated.
So your kids have a ton of target-language DVDs, books, websites and toys to fast-track their bilingualism, but what about you, the parent? If the target language isn't your native one, you'll be wanting to maintain and improve it any chance you get.
When it comes to raising a bilingual child, I have several beliefs about how you can waste your time.
It happened again last week. I was enjoying a cup of coffee with a colleague when she asked me point blank what language we spoke at home. I often get that question as my husband and I come from different countries and on top of that we're expats in Turkey.
Is anything better than chocolate and making music? Teach your kids some Spanish with these Mexican and Peruvian nursery rhymes about chocolate.
A multilingual mom shares her tips for embarking on a new language with your child.
My bilingual five-year-old daughter was learning to read in English and then my husband started teaching her to read in French. She lost all interest in reading in either language now. Is there an easier way to teach French reading? Should I insist my husband back off on pushing French reading as she will learn this in school next year anyway to rekindle her interest in English reading?
I feel defeated when I watch childhood home videos of my two daughters, Alina and Alexa. In the videos, they are speaking their beautiful native tongue, a bittersweet memory, as they lost their ability and desire to speak it as they got older.
Fluent bilingualism is commonplace throughout much of the world. How strange that it’s so difficult to achieve in the United States! Unless we came here as immigrants, grew up in homes where another language was spoken, or spent extended time in a non-English-speaking country, most Americans are likely to be monolingual.
Introverted and extroverted children require different approaches for learning the minority language. Here are eight tips for raising bilingual introverts and extroverts.
Is it worthwhile to speak to my baby in my native Cantonese with the hope that he will acquire some of the language even though I only have rudimentary fluency (grade school level)?
This couple is trying to decide on a bilingual or trilingual approach to parenting. Read why Dr. Gupta advises them to choose bilingual.
Five strategies for raising a bilingual infant
Anyone who interacts for some time with a young bilingual child will notice the strong bond that exists between a person and a language. In the eyes of the child a person is tagged with a particular language, and if that person addresses the child in the other language, it may cause some distress. Here's the reason why.
There are also the myths that real bilinguals do not have an accent in their different languages and that they are excellent all-around translators. This is far from being true.
By the age of four, I had lived in three different countries and spoke pieces of three different languages. I was born in the former Soviet Union to an East German father and a Peruvian mother. My parents were university students in present day Ukraine and they communicated with each other in their only common language at that time, Russian.
How do you suggest a parent work with, while protecting, her children from the strong pressures to conform to making English dominant in one’s head, in the context of the U.S. and Japan? U.S. bilingualism is short lived. Japanese bilingualism is even shorter.
From my kids talking to Jose Luis Orozco in Spanish this past weekend to finding joy in someplace unexpected, I realized all my work in in helping them develop their Spanish is really starting to pay off.
Raising a bilingual child in a country where bilingualism is not a given can be expensive. When you do not speak a second language, can't afford private immersion school and tutors are too pricey as are the fancy language classes in your community, then what options do you have left? Here are six ideas.
We want to raise our daughters bilingual so I speak Spanish and my husband speaks English. The reality is my three-year-old understands Spanish but only speaks English. We want her to speak Spanish. Help!
Even though Arabic is one of the languages they were raised in since birth, they prefer Spanish. Here is why.
At the end of last year, the title of a post by Jan Petersen on InCultureParent caught my attention: "How Francois Grosjean Broke My Multilingual Heart." I was troubled at first as I have defended bi- and multilinguals most of my academic life, not broken their hearts!
Humans of San Francisco: how this Japanese mom embraced Judaism to give her son a piece of his father
Why start language learning early? With the help of modern technology in neuroscience, we now understand how language develops during infancy and early childhood. Also, based on countless studies, researchers can safely conclude that as your child grows older, her uncanny language abilities decrease significantly. This 'critical period' means that you should strike while the iron is hot!
The power of language in shaping children's world views.
My daughter reading a local Nicaraguan newspaper along with me this morning, something that would likely never happen at home.
Education. One word, carrying so much baggage. Hope for the future; worries about its quality and quantity. And for families raising bilingual or multilingual children, the language question adds another dimension of difficulty...
We live in Spain and while at home, we typically only speak English, recently my toddler started mixing English and Spanish. Is that ok?
Should we pick a kindergarten that offers language or skip language for now because of my daughter's expressive speech delay?
I am an adoptive parent raising my son, Oakley, in non-native Spanish. Increasingly, I have moments where I feel like I can't keep on speaking to Oakley in Spanish. I'm exhausted.
Lately, both of my girls have taken to calling my youngest, Lila, “Lilita.” Although they do not attend a bilingual Spanish preschool, two of the three teachers are native Spanish speakers.
Is four languages too much?
Paati (grandma) joined us this past summer from India. It was her first visit to our home in the U.S since the kids. Paati can understand, read and write elementary English, while our six-something-year-old daughter can handle only minimal Tamil (the regional Indian language we speak).
This mother found that putting her son into an immersion schooling experience in Spain proved much more difficult than expected. Her young son ended up frustrated and sad. Here is how she tackled that challenging situation to help her son succeed.
Here is a HUGE collection of Mandarin books on youtube, including stuff like Don't Let the Pigeon Ride the Bus and Berenstain Bears, A Picture for Harold's Room. Each book is read aloud on Youtube in Mandarin.
I am a native English speaker who married a native Spanish speaker. We want our kids to be bilingual, but we are very torn on which method to use.
Her son is going into first grade but a spot opened up in the Korean immersion program but for kindergarten only. His older system attends the program. Korean is important to the family.
I didn’t realize I had fallen off the one parent one language (OPOL) wagon until I found myself face down on the ground with a chipped tooth and a mouthful of dirt.
I am bringing up my children, Schmoo and Pan-Pan, to speak three languages: English, Twi and French.
I've long been resigned (though secretly thrilled) that my six-year-old daughter corrects my French, but I didn't expect my three-year-old son to start just yet.
The oldest just turned six, she is in Kindergarten and just received her IOWA test of basic skills results. She did very well overall but her vocabulary skills were well below all of her other skills. Is this common in bilingual kids?
Why is bilingualism important to you? Answer this question to win the DVD of the film, Speaking in Tongues.
We are an OPOL family, speaking Italian (father), Cantonese Chinese (mother) and English (between the parents) at home. For Christmas I bought myself a device to stream TV from China but find that it is mostly in Mandarin, not Cantonese. Should I let my daughter watch?
How can I hope to teach my kids German if I am losing it myself?
And an unforeseen benefit of raising bilingual children is that I feel less exposed when it comes to disciplining Schmoo in public.
Dear Dr. Gupta, I am not sure what to do about my niece’s English and Spanish. She has grown up in a bilingual environment. Her Mom speaks to her only in Spanish and her Dad in a mix of English...
Our dream of fostering our family’s multilingualism has pushed me to think about what exactly we hope to achieve with raising multilingual children.
Are we doing more harm than good if our grammar is weak in a second language that we are speaking to our infant?
As a wrote about in Part I of this article, Falling off the OPOL Wagon, I didn’t realize I had fallen off the one parent one language (OPOL) wagon until I found myself face down on the ground with a chipped tooth and a mouthful of dirt.
So how did I get back on the wagon? I credit reading about other multilingual children’s progress on various blogs with flipping the switch for me.
Is it worth picking a language I know and teaching my daughter words and phrases alongside her native English or would this just be confusing?
Dear Dr. Gupta, my three-year-old child speaks English everywhere and with my husband at home, and Portuguese with me. I recently noticed that she is adding more and more English words in her conversation with me and forgetting Portuguese words that are common in her world, such as the names of colors and animals. What can I do?
My children are 4 and 7 years old and we live in Australia. My first language was Russian, though I was born and raised in Australia and I remember being sent to kindergarten and school not knowing English—an experience I found terrible and isolating.
A hot topic for parents trying to raise balanced bilinguals is which language do you teach first, the minority one or the community language? Or maybe both at once?
Question: why is it important to me that my kids speak more than one language? I have to admit that I never really thought about this. When I married an Algerian woman I must have assumed my children would be...
We speak Mandarin at home in the U.S. but I am of Italian origin and would like my daughter to speak some Italian. Should I change languages, even though I like speaking Mandarin and it feels awkward to speak Italian to her?
When we decided to move to Singapore about 18 months ago, people’s reactions fell into roughly three categories:
I am Italian and unfortunately my two kids, who are nine and 13, don't speak Italian. I understand they will never be fluent and will always have an accent, but I wonder if it is too late to start speaking to them in Italian

Recent Posts