Raising a child to be bilingual either because of your location or because of your mixed heritage is a blessing but can also be hard work. On one hand you are encouraging your child to have linguistic skills that their peers may not have as well as letting them get in touch with their heritage. But on the other it can be a confusing, long road in which a child may not feel like they really belong with either “side” so to speak. So what are bilingual parents to do? We wade the waters below.
Allow Time to Practice
The first step in raising a bilingual child is to give that child ample opportunity to speak their second language. If your child speaks English at school and with their friends (or German if they go to a German school), then you want them to be able to practice their second language at home. This means conversing with them in your native language in both causal and formal settings as well as teaching them how to even write in their second language. If your child goes to a German school, English is taught officially during the third grade/die dritte Klasse and continues throughout your child’s school years.
Another great way to let your kid get in practice in a second language is to have them absorb various medias in that language. Find TV shows, movies, books and even video games that your child would like that is not in English. This gives you a break while letting your child hear different accents and different terms that even you may not know.
If you have the money and the access, we also suggest that you sign your child up for classes in the other language. If they can’t take an elective at school, you may be able to find private lessons or online language classes. Additionally, an abundance of language material can be found online, much of which is free.
Don’t Force It
If you and other family members speak the second language at home, odds are your child will pick things up naturally as they have sponges for brains. Just like they learned English from you, they will also learn your second language from hearing you speak it all the time. This should give you some comfort if your child doesn’t want to actually dedicate themselves to learning a second language either because they have no interest or feel like it will alienate them from their peers or they’d rather study other things.
The important thing is to not force your child to study your other language as it may breed resentment for your culture and heritage. When and if your child is ready to learn, they will let you know.
Navigating the waters as a bilingual parent can be a gamble in many aspects. Your child may be naturally gifted for multiple tongues or have no interest in learning them at all. They may know the second language very well in their youth but completely forget it as an adult. You just never know how it will turn out, but give them the opportunity to learn and to embrace their culture both at home and beyond – neither of you will regret it.Author Profile: Aria Meyer is a freelance writer and an active blogger. She received her bachelor’s degree from Cal State Long Beach and currently lives in Walnut, CA. She writes mainly about fashion and technology but covers other topics too. Aria assists several E-commerce websites by helping them with content and marketing development. She is currently working closely with Wallao.