If you’re raising bilingual children, it’s easy to feel like we aren’t doing enough for each language or any aspect of parenting, really.
For the past few years, my kids have been acquiring 3 languages – English, Chinese, and Korean – to varying degrees. Despite countless obstacles, we’ve celebrated surprising language milestones with both children.
However, my 6-year-old daughter has long surpassed my Chinese fluency and literacy, and I often feel frustrated by our limited schedule for Korean.
Despite all this, I’ve decided to stop worrying and have faith in the process of encouraging my kids to embrace minority languages.
I redirect my energy to my reason for raising trilingual children and reassuring facts about the benefits.
7 Reassuring Facts About Raising Bilingual Children
1. You can start and stop anytime
You aren’t late, and you’re exactly where you need to be.
For each family, the right time to start raising multilingual kids is different, because our circumstances are unique.
Some mothers and fathers have read all of the bilingual parenting books before their kids were born. On the other hand, some people (like my husband) have no intention of starting.
Other families start their bilingual journey when a grandparent or nanny cares for the child or the child attends immersion school.
God has a plan for everything, and language opportunities will come at the right time.
And when your kids aren’t acquiring other languages, they are learning plenty of other important skills.
2. Every step is necessary
Raising bilingual children is a marathon. There are no shortcuts.
That means you can’t put the TV on all day and expect your child to be fluent and social with no adverse effects.
Just as it takes a baby a year to take her first steps and say her first words, a great deal of interaction and consistency normally precedes bilingual milestones.
Acquiring 2 or more languages is supposed to take more time and effort than one!
3. You decide how far to go
You and your spouse determine what goals are reasonable and affordable for your family.
Maybe your children are worldschooling or perhaps they’ve never left the state.
Some kids will become fluently bilingual and bi-literate, and others might retain a few common greetings.
4. Being bilingual is normal
More than half of the world’s population can speak 2 or more languages.
No matter how awkward it might feel to speak minority languages in public, habits develop with practice and time.
When you confidently speak minority languages to your children around monolingual friends, you help normalize diversity and empower other multilingual families to do the same.
5. Language mixing is normal
My kids and yours will mix languages.
They will reply back in a different language.
All of this is normal.
While we should consistently optimize their minority language skills with these various speaking strategies, the other language(s) are part of them.
To encourage the minority language, you can recast mixed sentences. However, concern and punishment are unnecessary, because language mixing is common and normal.
6. Language exposure is good for the brain and community
Regardless of how far you go on this journey, language exposure has potential for positive changes.
Learning a language – even a few words, brings awareness to cultures with diverse customs, ideas, and perspectives.
When our children hear more languages, they’ll realize that we all have different accents worth listening to.
In addition, bilingualism is associated with cognitive advantages, such as memory retention, multitasking skills, attention control, and problem solving!
7. You deserve grace
Parenting bilingual kids is not supposed to be easy.
The process is humbling, the to-do list is never ending, and it’s okay to take it slow.
Be thankful you have made it this far, whether it’s the contemplation phase or reaching special milestones through the challenges.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6–7 ESV
What else gives you peace of mind about raising bilingual kids?
How do you cope through the difficult days?
What do you hang onto for encouragement?
Please feel free to share in the comment section below!
HOW TO RAISE MULTILINGUAL CHILDREN
- Teach Your Child a Second Language at Home with 5 Key Steps
- Raising Multilingual Children as a Non-Fluent Parent: 7 Lessons Learned
- 20+ Ways to Get Your Child to Speak Chinese
- How to Find a Foreign Language Teacher for Your Child
- How I Taught My Child 1000+ Chinese Characters as a Non-Fluent Speaker
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