The world is becoming increasingly diverse and globalized. Raising a bilingual or trilingual child is a necessity for some parents and a goal for others. Some are from different cultures or countries and work abroad where the local language is different.
Parents often want their children to become fluent in their mother tongue as well as the local language of the society they live in. The first few years of life are most important for language development. A baby is born with the ability to learn multiple languages. This means the right time to introduce a second or third language to a child is at birth.
According to a professor of language acquisition and multilingualism at German University says “ Children do not just pick up a language. They must be in a continuous language bath, where they also get a chance to talk”. The brain of a child retains so much information, that by the time a child reaches 3 years of age, their brain has formed double the amount of connections that adults have.
Here are some ways we are raising our baby trilingual:
1. Each parent takes one language
The best approach in any multilingual house should be that each parent speaks only one language to the children and encourages the children to reply only in that language. In my trilingual home, my husband always speaks to the baby in Punjabi and me in Hindi. Living in the US, we speak English as and when required in public places.
2. Constant exposure to both languages
A child’s brain develops at a rapid rate. Around 90% of growth happens in the first 3 years. Constant exposure to the language is very important from birth. If you have a newborn/infant at home, talk to them throughout the day, read books, play games, and sing nursery rhymes. They learn best through play and day-to-day interactions. I always prefer to sing Hindi rhyme for the baby, this helps in constant exposure too.
3. Affirm your child’s multilingual skills
Be consistent with your spoken language and be firm about speaking the first languages even outside home or community. Read affirmations on how proud you feel to speak different languages.
4. Talk to family and friends from the same community in their native language
Encourage family members to talk to the baby in their native language. It is one of the most effective ways. The best way is to have a video call with grandparents whenever possible, we do it almost every day.
5. Start during pregnancy
According to various researches, it is proven that infants show preferences to the languages they heard in the womb. During the third trimester a baby can listen to the mother, so speak in the native languages from before the birth
6. Add more books in the preferred language in your library
Try and explore board books with dual language along with English text. Bright Bandar Co. has a great collection of bilingual books and toys. The languages include Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu, and Urdu, along with English. Read the books aloud to your child every single day.
Although you may follow all of the above practices, always remember that every baby is different. The ability to speak multiple languages depends on many factors like the society you live in, the area, and the resources available. The focus should always be on raising a happy child and family.
Guest post written by: Sanjita
Sanjita moved to the US 3.5 years ago and currently lives in New Jersey along with her husband and their 19 month old son. She loves cooking and food photography. She shares baby food recipes and her motherhood experience on Instagram.