Top Five Ways to Raise a Bilingual Baby - The Koch Family
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Top Five Ways to Raise a Bilingual Baby

Thank goodness the English only mentality is disappearing, slowly but surely, from the heart of the United States of America. For years we have proudly called ourselves a melting pot, one that welcomes immigrants, cultures and languages from around the world. Yet all of us realize the hypocrisy with which our system has executed the embracing of the melting pot.

Our school systems do not prepare its teachers, must less educate its students, on how to bridge together the English language with the multitude of languages entering our classrooms daily. Sure, there are ESL and ESOL classes, but I encourage you to ask any teacher upon completion of the course if she is ready to take on the challenge of educating a new student from Columbia about the solar system. Her answer will be on the negative side of things.

It is because of this lack of quality language learning going on in our public education system that the responsibility of raising bilingual babies, who will in turn become global citizens, has fallen upon the shoulders of every new parent. I wish every OBGYN Doctor placed a copy of the book titled The Bilingual Edge in the hands of every first trimester pregnant mommy and gave her the assignment of completing it within two weeks.

We all know these months of pregnancy are perhaps the last in which mommy will actually finish a book from front cover to back cover for years! Why not make it a book that will positively impact the cognitive and social development of her new baby? Seems like a no brainer to me. Within the pages of the aforementioned book the two PhDs in linguistics, who are also moms raising their own children to be bilingual, give hope to every monolingual parent that they too can raise a bilingual baby.

Here are five fun, easy and affordable tips for expecting and new parents for doing just that!

Play bilingual music CDs from the start of your pregnancy and upon birth. Experts have reported that the fetus does indeed recognize sounds in utero. Many of us did not need the experts to tell us this fact. Just watch an infant turn his head towards the sound of his sibling who used to sing to the pregnant belly of mom! The same happens with the infant and new language sounds. Play that baby in your belly some songs that feature both your native language and the new language within the same song, and you are going to have one smart baby!

Read bilingual books to your baby that even you as a monolingual parent feel comfortable reading. The research has shown that you do not have to be a native speaker of the target language in order to give your baby a jump start on learning it. The key is interaction, and reading is one of the best things you can do for the brain development of your newborn. Reading while your baby is still inside of you, and continuing through her school years, is a lifetime gift no one will ever be able to take from your child. Afraid you are messing up a word or two? Use an online search for audio pronunciation of the words in question.

Use two words for each item you introduce your baby to. Experts agree that it is just as easy to teach a child two words for the same item as it is to teach him only one word. Do a little brushing up on your high school Spanish, and tell your little baby that the thing you are holding is bread and pan or point to the house and say casa. It will become almost second nature for you to flow back and forth between the native and new languages once you begin the second language journey.

Find local preschools, family child care providers and baby sitters who speak the target language you are looking to introduce your child to. All of the research points to interaction being the key to learning a new language, and you will find it helpful using a native speaker during some of the hours you are not with your baby. Word of mouth is sometimes the best way to find these places and these people so start asking your amigas!

The final tip is a fun one for the entire family! Attend local cultural events that highlight the music, the food, the language, the culture of the new language you and your family are learning. There is nothing more impactful than to feel a language come to life! If you are able to travel to a country where the second language is spoken, that is even better yet! The point here is to make the second language journey fun, full of smiles and self confidence for all.

Your baby will see that his parents respect other people from other cultures and their languages. You become secure in the fact that little Junior is not only gaining skills in a new language which will help him succeed in this very global society, he is also laying neural pathway connections for later language learning. It all adds up to one smart bilingual baby!


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