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The Secret to Successful Bilingualism

Since starting our bilingual journey with our daughters, I have read countless books on language learning, language development and bilingualism, searching for the “secret sauce” in being successful in raising bilingual kids.

While the formula is not short, there is are five essential ingredients to that “secret sauce” of successful bilingualism. Let’s explore them so that you can start using them in your bilingual parenting.

1) Early Exposure

Being exposed to both languages from an early age is crucial. Children who are exposed to multiple languages from an early age tend to have an easier time becoming bilingual. If you are starting later in the game with an older child, fret not. Better now than never! You can do this!

2) Consistent Practice

Consistent practice is essential to develop fluency in both languages. This can be achieved through various methods, such as speaking with native speakers, watching TV shows and movies, reading books, and using language learning apps. Depending on the age of you child, you might want to seek additional input tools like board books or games (we love lotería!) to support the language learning.

3) Patience, Persistence and a Positive Attitude

Becoming bilingual is a long-term goal, it’s a marathon and it requires patience and persistence. It can be easy to be discouraged when you child reaches for the milk and doesn’t say “leche”. Or when they tell you “Don’t speak to me in that language!”. I know, I’ve experienced this. Remembering that this is an exercise in patience and persistence will allow you to stay focused and committed to the process of sharing your language with your child. Additionally, having a positive attitude towards learning a second language can help overcome any challenges that may arise. A positive attitude can help foster a love for language and culture. More importantly, a positive attitude will ensure that your child does not associate Spanish (or the target language) with a negative attitude (like you being mad by the fact that they are not talking in the target language). A positive attitude and making it fun will result in much more success!

4) Cultural Immersion

Exposing your child to your culture is an important aspect of becoming bilingual. If you goal is for your child to also be bicultural, having them learn about your culture will support their language learning. It will help then gain a better understanding of the language and its nuances. For example, we love making pinatas and drinking “chocolate caliente”. I use both of those activities with my girls to share stories about when I was young growing up in Mexico. It creates more memorable moments and creates a deeper understanding about how your language is linked to who you are.

5) Keep it fun and dynamic

This last ingredient is so important is helping you be successful in raising bilingual kids. You want to keep language learning fun, and engaging. Using music and books as tools will keep your child engaged and interested. Using TV shows in the target language is also a great resource, as well as engaging your child in extracurricular activities that are of interest to them in the target language (see here as to why this can be super helpful).

By incorporating some or all of these ingredients into your bilingual journey, you will be closer to developing your personal “secret sauce” in successfully raising bilingual kids.


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