How to raise a bilingual child

How to raise a bilingual child
Source: Pixabay

One in five children in Del Paese has at least one foreign parent. It means that he has the opportunity to grow up bilingual, and bilingual children can also raise children who have both parents who are native speakers of Del Paesena

, as long as they have the possibility of an "immersive" exposure in a different language. We asked the pedagogue Monica Castagnetti, trainer of the Trieste Child Health Center, who dedicated a festival to the theme of bilingualism a few months ago, to help us understand the best strategies for developing bilingualism in children.

A myth to dispel

The first thing to do is clear the field of misunderstandings and misunderstandings. For example, some still believe that learning a second language from birth can hinder this cognitive development. "It is a prejudice linked to a certain linguistic nationalism, but neuroscientific studies say this is not the case. Indeed, bilingualism offers various benefits ".

The advantages of bilingualism

First, the fact that the brain develops by following two language channels at the same time - Castagnetti likes to talk about two "linguistic highways" - guarantees him greater flexibility.

Not only that: the educator explains that bilingual children also tend to be very open to new things, able to grasp the differences, very empathetic. "The bilingual child learns very quickly that the world can be told with different codes, and that therefore differences are something positive. Moreover, being used to thinking and speaking according to different linguistic codes, he does not perceive children who speak as 'strange' other languages".

The advantages are valid whatever the second language: English, French, Chinese, Arabic or perhaps some very distant African dialect.

How do

In the case of mixed couples, the advice is that each parent communicates with their children in your own language from birth and even before: "Let us remember that sounds are already perceived in the uterus". Then you choose one common language of the family. "It doesn't matter if the Del Paeseno or the other: what matters is that both parents feel at ease".

There are no precise recipes for bilingualism, but Castagnetti suggests some rules. "First of all, always be very calm about their own language and the fact of passing it on to children. Learning passes through affectivity: if there are rigidity or worries, the little ones are affected ".

For the same reason, foreign languages ​​should never be used as exclusion tool, not to be understood. Finally, do not expect who knows what performances: some children like to listen to the second language, but maybe they choose not to speak it, at least in the first years.

What if both parents speak a language other than Del Paeseno? "It's not a problem," says Castagnetti. "Children will learn this at school and outside the home. The important thing is that the family does not isolate itself from the context and that the context accepts this diversity".


Bilingualism and children: 20 things to know

go to the gallery

When a child is said to be bilingual, what does this trait entail from a learning point of view and what is the best behavior parents should have ...

Language of the heart, language of the mind

"In reality - specifies the expert - bilingual children have a special place for each of their languages: generally one language refers more to the heart, it is more affective, while the other refers more to the mind, it is more intellectual. The important thing is that there is always a lot of serenity in the family in living in both of these two linguistic places ".

Bilingual to the nest

Raising bilingual children is possible even if only Del Paeseno is spoken at home. How? "It is enough to expose them to a second language from an early age, already from six months of age and in any case within the first three years"says Castagnetti." This is in fact a very important period for the development of the child, whose brain is undergoing a real neuronal bloom: another linguistic stimulus that arrives at that age only enriches the developmental possibilities of the brain ".

But beware: the linguistic experience must be immersive with respect to daily activities and must go through the contact with another important person for the child: "The little one does not learn so much because he is offered some activity in another language, but because he is in contact with a human being who offers it to him as communication tool"To achieve this, you can look for a mother tongue nanny, or a truly bilingual nursery, where a mother tongue educator spends at least half the time with the little ones.

Read also: English courses for children at the nursery, what are the advantages?

Small delays

Growing up bilingual involves some specificities that parents need to know in order not to get scared. The onset of language is later. "It usually takes place around two years - explains Castagnetti - but it can take a few months or even more if the two languages ​​are very far apart, like Del Paeseno and Chinese".

Do not worry even for the interference, that is, the fact of using expressions and constructions typical of the other in one language (for example the Italian-French bilingual that says to tomb instead of falling, from the French tomber). "They are physiological and disappear around the age of eight to nine." Finally, a clarification: it is not certain that if two languages ​​are spoken at home, the child will also learn a write two languages. "The learning of writing is not innate: to learn to write we need someone to teach us. Not surprisingly, writing is usually learned by going to school".

Language courses for children, here's how to choose them

Language courses for even very young children are increasingly popular: generally it is English, but in big cities you can also find others, for example the Chinese. But does it make sense to have the little one do it? What can they do, and how should they be organized?

"If the proposal is for an hour a week or so, obviously the goal is not to create a true bilingualism, but to give a smattering that prepares the ground forlearning real, which can happen later "explains Castagnetti." The child who participated will be able to acquire a baby lexical baggage, but above all he will be able to show himself more willing to learn, because those words, those sounds, will not be new and therefore potentially hostile ".

So yes also to language courses, as long as they have some very specific characteristics: "The setting must be a lot ludic but - if we are talking about very young children, under the age of three or four, who generally participate together with a parent - we must also leave the child the possibility of not taking part in the songs and games offered ". And at home?" Parents can propose the activities done in the course, but as a game, not as an exercise, stopping if they realize that they are no longer pleasant for the child. Then, as the child grows, you can also change your attitude, perhaps by prodding them a little if at times they show that they no longer want to ".

Yes also to reading books in the foreign language, while some extra caution should be used with TV, tablet and computer. "By now there are many proposals in a foreign language, from cartoons to more or less interactive activities. Some may also be valid, but remember that in children learning always passes through interaction and communication with others. They certainly don't learn or improve English just because they watch cartoons in English. "

Updated on 21.09.2022

  • bilingualism
  • foreign languages
  • bilingual child
  • grow bilingual
  • 1-2 children years
add a comment of How to raise a bilingual child
Comment sent successfully! We will review it in the next few hours.