Raising bilingual children: It’s easier than you think

Categories: German, Guest Post, Languages

We’re fortunate enough to have a great guest post on the FlashSticks blog today, from Sarah Barrett, of Lingotastic. You might remember Sarah from her post a couple of months ago, where she told us all about her language teaching journey, or when she told us about 5 surprising places for language learning with your little ones.

Sarah’s parent and toddler group, Lingotastic, uses puppets, music and stories to help young children and their families to take their first steps into a second language, in a friendly and welcoming environment.

Today, Sarah tells us about her experiences of raising bilingual children and why it’s making the decision to start that makes all the difference.

Enjoy…

Did you hear the interview a few months ago on Radio 4’s Saturday morning show? An English family living in England decided to bring up their daughters to be bilingual, teaching them to speak both English and German.

18 years ago, this was considered a little crazy.

Neither Caroline Sarll or her husband are teachers, but Mum had lived and worked in Germany for a while and had made the decision she was going to raise her children bilingual years before her daughter was born.

The only regular German input her daughter had was from her mum and, though many thought them crazy, their dedication paid off and her daughters now speak a good level of German. Mum made it a priority for them and it worked.

A German adventure

A few weeks ago, during the summer holidays, my family and I were in Germany, visiting some relatives, and I was amazed that my children were speaking and understanding so much German.

And it really got me thinking about the importance of languages.

I’ve read so much recently about the benefits of early language learning and we are currently in the process of making it a much higher priority in our family.

My children can communicate better with Oma, their Grandma for non-German speakers, and, as a result, were far more independent than I could ever possibly have imagined.

Reflections

I was taken aback by the whole experience. And it just goes to show what happens when you make language learning a priority. I wish I’d done it sooner.

Not only am I really pleased with children’s progress, Oma is really pleased too; it’s really helped to bring them closer together.

My daughter even attempted to talk to other children in the Playground in German too, which was fantastic to watch. My 14 year old, meanwhile, is beginning to correct my German, which is great, especially as for so long he had showed absolutely no interest whatsoever in learning the language. I really think any language input is better than none.

Making the decision to start…somewhere

Many parents I’ve spoken to do not have the confidence to pass on their language skills to their little ones. And that’s why much of what I do in my classes is geared around empowering parents to use the skills they have, working with them to help build them together.

There are many useful tools out there to help with language learning at home; raising your children bilingual really isn’t as daunting as you may think.

Have a look at my blog on 5 surprising places for language learning with your little one for some ideas, if you’re struggling to find a starting point.

No matter where you start, however, the important part is to make the decision to start. Once you begin, the momentum builds and I really think you’ll be amazed by what can be achieved.

Are you learning a language with your little ones? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below.

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Either way, thanks so much for taking the time to read our stuff and we look forward to seeing you again here soon.

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