Five tips for speaking to your children in a second language at home

Family

S. F.

MADRID

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Globalization has caused the knowledge of other languages, in addition to one’s own, to become an essential competence. For our children to become bilingual and internationally minded is one of the most important goals for parents today. For this reason, there are many who bet on speaking to their children in English, French or German from almost their first day of life. However, some parents doubt whether the fact of not being native speakers of that second language can be a problem for their children’s learning.

One of the best ways to achieve bilingualism, in addition to the influence of parents, is to bet on a bilingual school from when children are young. Most of the schools, whose academic program includes half in Spanish and the other in English, are considered bilingual, but does that mean that our children will be able to speak two languages ​​at a bilingual level, that is, both languages ​​with equal perfection? This is generally not the case.

In many bilingual schools, the percentage of teaching hours taught in English is equal to or less than the hours taught in Spanish. Most of these centers usually teach five hours a week of English as a foreign language. For this reason, it is the schools with a bilingual linguistic project with 80% of the teaching hours in English, and that use this language to teach other subjects, which stand out to achieve higher levels of bilingualism among their students.

«Betting on an international education in which more than 80% of the classes are taught in English is essential to achieve real bilingualism. For example, for a Spanish family living in Spain, the influence of Spanish on the child will always be stronger than that of the second language and that is why, in order to balance mastery of both languages, more emphasis should be placed on the English education in this case. In this sense, the Brains method promotes total immersion in the English language not only in the classroom, but we also promote exchanges and academic trips abroad, providing unique experiences to students “, explains Candy Hernández Albarrán, a psychologist specializing in bilingual education of the department of psychopedagogical orientation of the group Brains International Schools.

5 tips for speaking to your children in a second language at home

The sooner the better: Many studies affirm that the most intense period in the acquisition of the abilities of the speech and the language is located during the first three years of life, and that the acquisition of the language takes place by imitation; when children speak, they imitate what they hear. In this process, the little ones imitate sounds, sentences and the vocabulary that their parents use. For this reason, during those first years the linguistic stimuli provided by the parents will be key for a correct assimilation of language to take place. Although the baby has not yet spoken, it is essential to act as a narrator, telling him everything that happens around him, what is each thing, who is who, etc.

Use your mother tongue with them: Use the language with which you are fully competent with your children. We are models for our children, therefore, it is important that we can express ourselves with total clarity in the language we use with them and that we have all the resources to be able to promote complete and adequate communication.

Don’t force them: Just as each child begins to walk when they feel safe, when they begin to speak it happens in the same way. During the first few months, children go through a pre-linguistic stage in which they are assimilating all the linguistic stimuli they receive, so they will begin to speak and imitate those stimuli when they feel ready. In this sense, each child will have their times and not by starting to speak later will make it worse. When our children learn more than one language at the same time, it is normal for the process to be slower.

Nothing happens if you mix the languages: Bilingual children tend to mix languages ​​as they do not yet have a large vocabulary in either language. They will use words from both languages ​​to communicate and express their feelings. For this reason, it is essential that each person always speaks to them in the same language so as not to confuse them and that they have identified with which person to speak which language.

Help yourself with technology: Today we have countless applications and tools such as tablets, smartphones or television, which, when used properly, can be great allies; plan what activities they will do in each language and always maintain that organization.

Motivate them: It encourages the acquisition of a second language to be natural. For this reason, making learning fun will be essential since, if children have fun, their motivation to learn will be much greater. It is proven that songs are an excellent way to combine motivation and learning, and that they help to develop the language and attention of the little ones.

Why bet on a bilingual education?

Outside of the family environment, the little ones get stimuli from the early childhood education center they attend, so the choice of this center will also be an important factor in starting a bilingual education from an early age. In recent years, bilingual or multilingual education has been implemented in many educational centers of the national territory, in such a way that English, French or even German have become part of the school life of the little ones.

Of course, for many parents the main objective of bilingual education will be to have their children acquire a command of the second language at a bilingual level, which will be a great advantage for the child in the future of work. In addition, the correct acquisition of a second language facilitates the learning and assimilation of other new languages.

Nevertheless, the benefits of this educational modality go beyond. Numerous investigations show that bilingual children perform better in certain cognitive tasks, compared to the performance obtained by monolingual children. In this sense, bilingual education can bring great benefits to children, not only at an educational level, but also in their intellectual and emotional development.

«Learning two languages ​​from a young age creates greater cognitive flexibility. That is, it develops the ability to learn faster, solve problems, and plan better. In addition, it favors understanding and contributing other points of view, as well as knowing how to function in multicultural contexts, so present today in work environments, ”concludes Candy Hernández Albarrán.

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