Four Popular Methods for Raising Bilingual Kids
By Katherine Maxine Rapp
When it comes to teaching your child another language at home, there are several different methods you can use. As an ESL teacher and parent, I've found that the method you choose will be influenced by a few factors:
Are you bilingual or do you speak the target language?
Do you have any close relatives or friends that speak the target language?
Are you open to a digital class setting?
Each of these things can alter your direction when it comes to teaching your child a second language at home. Read on to learn more about each method!
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One Person, One Language (OPOL)
This method is a great option for parents who speak both languages, but also helpful if only one parent speaks the target language. It's exactly what it sounds like: The kids speak to one person (say, Mom) in one language, and another person (say, Dad) in the other language.
That said, the person who speaks one language can also be a babysitter, a close relative, or anyone that your child spends a lot of time with! Just aim for as equal exposure to both languages as possible.
Minority Language at Home (MLAH)
In this method, the entire family speaks the minority language only at home, while the children speak the majority language when they are at school or with friends. In other words, if you live in a town where most people speak English, the kids would speak English at school and, say, Spanish or French at home.
This method builds strong fluency in both languages, unless the child is mostly at home for one reason or another (say, if they’re homeschooled) — in this case, their proficiency in the majority language may suffer.
If you choose this method, pay attention to how much exposure your child gets to the majority language in the years before they start school, so they don't fall behind their peers. Be intentional about scheduling playdates, attending library story times, and having other social outings with speakers of the majority language.
This method involves your family using one language during certain times of the day or around certain people. For example, if your kids see Grandma every day and she only speaks Spanish, everyone will speak it when they are with her.
Or, for example, maybe your family speaks English the first half of the day, and Spanish the second half of the day. As with other methods, spending as close to equal time as possible with each language is important.
If you and your spouse are not bilingual and you don’t know anyone who speaks the language you want your child to learn, there are many options for teaching them at home. The most proven method is to have consistent exposure to a native speaker, and one-on-one online classes or tutoring sessions can offer that.
Depending on the age of your child, you can sign your child up for weekly or biweekly lessons with a private teacher. Most of the time, these classes are fun and engaging — and also efficiently teach the target language.
Supplement any of the above methods with Malty the Blue Tiger bilingual books and audiobooks! Because our books feature full text in either English and Spanish or English and French, you can read them in whichever language you’re using in any given scenario. Meanwhile, our language learning audiobooks are a great option if you're not a native Spanish speaker and want your child to hear the correct pronunciation of new words.
Shop Malty the Blue Tiger bilingual resources below to get started! For more language learning resources and inspiration, tune into our In Plain Language podcast.