Opinions are mixed when it comes to raising bilingual children. Some parents believe that exposing their children to two (or more) languages whilst growing up will bring more harm than good. Perhaps there are concerns that such children may mix up the languages in their heads and will thus be late talkers.
Here are some tips for parents who are searching for the best ways in which they can support their children’s acquisition of two or even three languages and what to look for in an international school that will truly support their children’s language acquisition.
The first step is to adopt a long-term language strategy. Parents need to ask themselves where they see their child as a young adult and how that fits into their language acquisition needs. For multi-cultural families, the most widespread method of nurturing simultaneous bilingual development is the ‘one person-one language’ approach where each parent speaks his or her own native language to the child. In the case where the children are in an international school operating in English, both parents should use their native language or languages at home. Fostering a strong home language gives children a firm foundation from which other languages can be acquired.
When parents ask about the best ways that they can help the child at home, it is important that children should have the opportunity to converse extensively in their native language in a fair amount of detail – the earlier the better. For example, when chatting about what the children have done in school that day, they should talk about the specific science experiment they did, stories they have read or new concepts in maths they have learned to ensure that there is language transfer at both social and academic levels.
Language and culture are intertwined – but the latter can often be overlooked in many schools, even international ones. As an international school with many multi-lingual children, Regents understands the importance of what Professor Jim Cummins, a global authority on second language acquisition calls ‘additive bilingualism’ - where first languages and cultures continue to be developed and valued whilst English is added. Every child at Regents is encouraged and supported in maintaining their cultural identity and is valued by all members of our community.