Mommy Mondays: What you Need to Know About Raising a Bilingual Child

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if you do not know already, mike and i are raising a bilingual child (english and korean).  it was the way i was raised and it is something that i very consciously think about and intentionally execute.

my parents immigrated from south korea.  they were were forced to learn english very quickly and had no choice but to raise us to speak both.  there is so much to say being raised as a second generation child from an immigrant family.  so many similar stories, hardships, and moments that can’t be explained.  but that’s for a different post and a different time.

being raised bilingually came with a lot of really awesome perks that i came to appreciate the older i became.  it’s a gift that you can’t force or fake.

when i was pregnant with c i had to find a daycare for her that was not only safe but one that would teach her values, language and school skills.  as a new parent this choice is SO VERY overwhelming.  do you choose one with only organic/vegan food?  one that focuses on art?  one that teaches a second language in addition to English?  one with a montessori or waldorf philosophy?  one that is more like a grandmother who takes care of 1-3 children at her own?  i mean..honestly the choices and options are endless.  mike and i chose a korean speaking daycare in ktown that also taught christian values.  both of which were super duper important to us.

(here is a post about my journey to finding a daycare and co-parenting with one)

ok…so after choosing the daycare and sending c there, i did an insane amount of research on what we needed to do in order to grow c’s language skills in both english and korean.  why?  because i took a class in a post-bacc program at csu long beach that talked about bi-lingual learners and speakers.  the class covered how to do it correctly and how to do it incorrectly.  i also worked in a middle eastern languages program for a while that had a HUUUUGE emphasis on languages and learning multiple languages.  so with all that knowledge in mind, i listened to every podcast i could find and read every article that would help me navigate this journey we would all take as a family.

i know it sounds silly to do so much research since i was raised bilingually~ but i struggled a lot with learning both languages and cultures.  it was 100% one thing at home and 100% one thing at school and the rules rarely overlapped so i felt this big gap that i was hoping would not happen for C.  ESPECIALLY since we were also going to be a bi-cultural family.

after tons and tons and tons of research, here are some cool tips that i’ve learned over the past two years to help all your mamas interested in raising your kids bilingually!

  1. bilingual children and babies use different parts of their brain and it’s a HUGE benefit to the kids!
  2. children who learn multiple languages at once may have a small speech delay.  it’s nothing to be alarmed about.  they are absorbing SO MUCH that when they do start speaking, they will speak both languages at once.  for c i was super worried this would happened and although she didn’t speak as quickly as some monolingual kids i know, she started speaking just fine and has been developing her language skills well.  she speaks mainly korean but she clearly understands both and is learning english as well from her dad and daycare.
  3. there is a misconception that you will be confusing a child with two languages.  that is totally false.  when babies are exposed to both from the beginning, their brains are capable of learning both and separating the two (at a later time).
  4. one parent needs to take ownership of one language.  so for me and mike, it was obvious that i would speak with charlotte in korean 100% of the time and he would speak to her in english 100% of the time.  children need consistency and they will organically learn to respond to each parent in the language correct language.  by sticking to this (1 parent, 1 language) rule, children will learn to naturally speak the two languages equally and grow her skills together.
  5. children need to learn both languages at the same time and in all the elements: writing, reading, speaking.  i learned from a class that students who only speak one language at home (without reading/writing) and then one language at school (reading/writing/speaking) it confuses kids.  they begin to mix the language rules together and in the worst case scenarios~ children are unable to properly speak both.  in class this was the worst case possible and something that happens ALL THE TIME to immigrant children in america.  this was something i totally related to, which is why i wanted to be extra careful when teaching c both.
  6. children need to be supported bilingually until at least the age of 8.  one expert from a podcast i listened to (Super Mamas), said that if a child learns two languages until 8, then the child will remember both for the rest of their lives.  cool right??
  7. when children are born, they are able to move their tongues (i forgot the exact number) like several hundred thousand ways.  but after the age of 3, you can only move your tongue in the way of your spoken language.  so kids who learn languages before 3 are supposed to sound like native speakers for life.  but not so for kids who learn a second language later.  and then after the age of 8 or even 14 (in some articles i read) it is much more difficult to learn a second language and you will not sound like a native speaker.
  8. not to confuse the info from above, but it is never too late to teach your child a new language.  the above point is about sounding like a native speaker or where your brain stores the language.  after the age of 8, children have a native language so when they learn a new one, that new language is stored in a different part of the brain and kids will translate the second language.
  9. be committed and consistent.  those things will REALLY pay off.  i see charlotte growing in both languages and could not be more proud or more motivated to continue!! xo

For some helpful articles if you want to research more:

How to Raise a Bilingual Child.  Systems Make it Simple.

Raising a Bilingual Child.  Top Five Myths.

Raising Bilingual Children

Raising Bilingual Children: Who Should Speak What

My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Children

 

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