If you are planning a family, or have a little one on the way, it can be very useful to spend time thinking about the bilingual approach you hope to take. It is a great time to start planning because a) you have more time to think and dream of what you want for your child and b) it is important to start your bilingual arrangement, whatever it may be, from day 1.
Most parents of bilingual children would agree that it is very difficult to change the language in which you speak to your child once you have settled into your role as Parent. It is the same when speaking to friends and work colleagues – whichever language you communicated in on day 1 tends to stick.
As we demonstrate with the family profiles here on The Bilingual Blog, bilingual approaches taken by different families can vary immensely and you will need to flexible, as there are bound to be issues you haven’t considered. However, below we present you with some important aspects to consider in planning for your bilingual family to give you food for thought.
Tips for planning your bilingual family’s approach:
1. Meet up with others in the same language situation as yourselves. Perhaps you know others who speak the same minority language as you? Even better perhaps you know others who speak both your languages? Failing that, simply getting to know others planning to raise their children bilingually would give you some support and someone with whom you can discuss ideas.
2. Discuss your plans with your parents. Grandparents who have no experience of raising children bilingually may need some guidance and some time to think more about the issue and their role within it. You will need to discuss how they can support your child with language learning – especially as their communication with their grandchild will make an invaluable contribution to his or her language development. If, on the other hand, you yourself are bilingual due to a bilingual upbringing then your parents probably have plenty of advice to share!
3. Follow The Bilingual Bookshop on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thebilingualbookshop) and Twitter (@bilingualbkshop) to keep up to date with the latest news and information on raising children with two languages, as well as The Bilingual Blog. Check out our bilingual family profiles for inspiration for your bilingual approach and read the articles we have written to support families just like yours.
4. Find out if there are any playgroups for speakers of your languages in your local area, or even story or singing sessions. Ask your midwife if there are any services for bilingual parents in your area – they may have some useful information or be able to point you in the right direction.
5. Plan your first trip to see relatives in your home country for after your bilingual baby is born. It will give you something to look forward to and will give all relatives a chance to kick-start their support for your child’s bilingual journey.
6. Purchase some lullabies and books of rhymes in the minority language as a first step to supporting language-learning in the home. Take a look at those we stock at The Bilingual Bookshop – perfect for those early months.
7. Whatever happens, don’t get too bogged down with ‘rules’. The Bilingual Blog aims to highlight the huge variety of ways in which parents approach bilingualism with their children. Find a way that you feel will work for you, and go with it. As mentioned before, you will need to be flexible and things may not go according to plan, but bringing up bilingual children should be a natural process – a gift to your child for their future. Good luck!
Photo courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography / freedigitalphotos.net