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Methods for raising

a bilingual child

Before understanding the methods available to raise a bilingual child, it is important to understand the following terminology: 

Target language: a foreign language which a person intends to learn.

Community language: language spoken by members of minority groups or communities within a majority language context. 

 

The following are the most common family structures you find when talking about bilingual or multilingual families: 

 

  • Only one parent knows an additional language; 

  • Both parents speak a second language which is not the one used in the community where they reside; 

  • Parents are monolingual but want to teach their child another language.

 

With this parent family structure in mind, here is a brief description of the most popular methods for raising a bilingual child: 

 

One parent, one language (OPOL)

This method is probably one of the most common ways to teach a child another language. Each parent speaks their own language to their child, establishing a relationship in that language. It requires effort, consistency and determination, but in the end it is worth it as you are establishing a relationship with your child in your native language. 

Minority language or target language at home

 

 This is when both parents speak one common language that is not the one spoken in their community. The task of establishing a relationship with your child might be a little easier, as there are two people reinforcing the target language.  

Time and place

For multilingual families or for families where parents are monolingual, this is a great strategy. You start by defining a time and place when you will be speaking a target language. For example, you might choose to speak Spanish at Abuela's house, or have dinners on Wednesdays be in German. This is a great strategy for families where there are multiple languages. 

Remember: 

There are of course pros and cons to each method. Just remember, every family is different, and therefore every familiy should apply the method that best works for them. 

 

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