3 Tips for Monolingual Parents Raising Bilingual Children

black-childrenIn my goal to seek informative posts for PAASSC parents I am often frustrated. Most sites that encourage parents to raise bilingual children is built on the foundation that one or both parents are bilingual. Gallup suggests that only one in five Americans are bilingual. Further research doesn’t even attempt to identify the number of bilingual African American families.

My children are being raised bilingual and while I studied French in high school and my husband is mildly conversant in Spanish neither of these language skills are available to help our children excel in their second language. So how do we as monolingual parents support our children in learning Chinese.

These are the best tips that I have identified.

Dive In:

Find the best way to immerse your child in the language. Some sites may encourage you to splash around and get your toes wet while acclimating yourself and your child to the language. As monolingual parents this is a very difficult jump. I don’t encourage taking your time to explore whether or not this would be a good idea. I encourage you to jump in as deep as possible. Depending on where you live and what you have access to in your community to that may be as significant as an Immersion school, a Saturday class, a tutor, learning on line or exploring various apps. Your child will learn the mos the earlier they start and with the most exposure that you can provide. Jump in – blind if you need to. That is the best way to learn. That is the best way to expose your child to increase the chance that they will learn.

Make Friends:

Prior to pursuing Chinese as a second language for my children I felt that I had a very diverse group of friends – which I do. But I also realized that none of my good friends were Asian and no one that I was in regular contact with spoke Mandarin. In our journey I have established great relationships with parents that are fluent in Mandarin. My children have enjoyed play dates with families in households where Mandarin is the primary language spoken. This has been such a great experience for my children. Whereas they do not speak in Mandarin with me they love the opportunity to engage with their friends parents and converse with them in Chinese. Developing friendships with bilingual parents is a win win.

Speak Mandarin at Home:

I have made several failed attempts to learn Mandarin. But I can say “dui” (yes) and “bu shu” (no) to my children. They laugh as bu shu is often not the right version of no but they enjoy correcting me and they love that we are speaking Chinese. I also have purchased a variety of videos that the girls watch in Chinese. Visit your local Chinatown and buy an assortment of videos. They will not all be the right fit for your child but over time you will have a wide assortment of Chinese language videos in your home. Hire a babysitter that speaks Chinese. Allow them to take your child to the local Farmer’s Market or for a walk in the neighborhood pointing out colors and counting rocks. These are all great and fun ways to bring your child’s second language into your home.

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