As we’ve mentioned before, we’re hoping to teach the baby both English and French from the start. We know plenty about the many benefits (and several drawbacks) of bilingualism, and we’re definitely sold on it. What we don’t yet know is how — practically speaking — to go about raising a bilingual baby.
With five weeks left before my due date, we decided it’s probably time to begin figuring this out. Several books are en route from BN.com (which is also helping us make progress on another goal: cashing in all our gift cards). In the meantime I posed this question on one of the Foreign Service discussion boards. Here’s some of the advice I’ve gotten so far:
- Only speak to the baby in your native language. No matter how good you get at your second language, you’re still not a native; you don’t want him to pick up your mistakes.
- Be consistent about who speaks to him in what language. So, for instance, even if the nanny speaks both English and French, she should only speak to him in French.
- Make sure the people spending a lot of time around your baby speaking the local language have the level of functionality you’re after. If they speak with grammatical errors or in a local dialect, that’s what your baby will learn.
- Put him in playgroups and other activities that force him to be immersed in the second language. Even if it seems like this is doing no good, stick with it. After six months of not uttering a word in the second language, he may suddenly open his mouth one day and speak fluently (well, as fluently as a toddler can speak).
- Don’t be discouraged if it seems like your baby’s speech is developing more slowly than his English-speaking peers. If you add up the words he’s learning in both languages, his vocabulary is just as big. And he’ll eventually catch up with the English.
- Have a plan for keeping up the language skills when you’re no longer living somewhere the second language is spoken.
Anything else you would add?