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29 Jul 2018

Bilingualism / Second Languages With Kids

After much interest regarding some insta-stories shared of R working on his Spanish, I compiled a tidbit on what / why / how we ended up pursuing a language other than our own with him.

For starters, our household is entirely English. Both my husband and I have a solid foundation of French, but it’s not spoken at home or in our every day lives. 

Having moved abroad with our little one, when he was just about 7 months, he was hearing constant Spanish at the time he began really gaining a grasp on words. That alone, was our reason for pursuing an on-going effort with the language and we haven’t turned back or regretted that choice once.

Fact: All children are capable of learning multiple languages, even most children with various types of disabilities. 

Fact: There are different types of bilingualism. When it comes to Spanish, both R and ourselves have worked towards social language acquisition (as where my husband and I have both, or more of, an academic language acquisition).

At his age, social language acquisition, is an easier task because that’s where he’s at with English as well – it’s also fun because he knows and works on sayings or expressions that don’t necessarily translate, but are things he would say among friends in our time abroad or now via phone.

Fact: Children are sponges, especially at this age, with their learning capabilities. They can soak up numerous languages easier than we can as adults and it won’t confuse them or effect their first language. Even children with disabilities are able to learn multiple languages.

Extending from our original reasoning in continuing Spanish, we work to incorporate French here and there as well (basics) for reason of having more languages, it being a language is parents have, for travel purposes, and because it’s an official language of Canada. It’s actually all gone very well and I’ve listed some tips from my own experi nice and some received from expert advice below.

Tips for secondary, tertiary or more language learning:

1. Any bit of the language is better than no language at all. It doesn’t have to be perfect, to be good or complex, to be valuable.

2. They can’t NOT learn. So any effort is good effort.

3. Media is a great learning tool – picture books with simple words and songs with actions, are better than throwing a ton of words at them that they don’t know. We don’t love screen time over real play, but media such as bilingual YouTube videos where they can hear the words, can also be beneficial. 

4. Music, in both languages (think nursery rhymes) are a strong tool because songs stick. How many songs can you remember all the lyrics to from when you were young? Right. Sing! Sing! Sing! 

5. Consistency. Routine is a powerful tool. The more exposure, the more intake.

6. Happy kids are willing. Willing kids are learning better. Don’t force it. Make it fun for them. Work on activities and related word groupings that entice them (ie: favourite food words, colours while drawing or painting, words relating to what you’re doing like brushing teeth or playing outside).

7. They know more than they can express / more than you think they know, because of that.

8. Be proud. Kids feel your energy, so showing pride and understanding over frustration can play a big part of them feeling empowered and wanting to continue learning.

Planning, trial and error, and good tools have made learning both Spanish and French so much fun for R. I see him thriving all the time and even using his languages randomly when he sees a connection or remembers the words in both/all languages. 

Our current favourites are:

Chronicle Books, for other language editions of favourites.
Double Dutch Books, is Canadian based and has a wonderful selection entirely of Spanish or Spanish-English children’s books, as well as hosts pops up at local events around West Coast Canada.

We truly believe that language is nothing but a powerful skill to acquire — now as a child but also as a traveller, as a future adult and professional, and just as a general citizen of the world.

Retro Tee, Sēm Label / Leggings (old), Maed For Mini / ‘Imaginario’ from Double Dutch Books / Gathre, World Map Mat (large). 

I tried to answer any questions or requests for tips that I received here, but if I missed anything, please feel free to reach me,

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