Encouraging bi-lingual skills in kids

Yes – it is happening…our son is slowly becoming an English-speaking kid. Now, for a typical American mom, that would be a good thing…but not for us.

Our son started going to a day-care when he was a few months shy of 2 years…till then, we spoke with him exclusively in our native language…so his vocabulary of precious few words at that time was solely in his native language.

And then slowly, he started picking up english in school…his teachers at the daycare were fabulous…they spent time with him pointing out the english words for things around him in the class. At home, we always spoke with him in our native language and our son had two languages – one for home and one for the rest of the world!

He’s in pre-school, has adjusted really well to the class environment…recently, I have noticed that at home, even though he speaks in our native language, he has started using a lot of english words in his sentences. That’s when realization dawned on me – his english vocabulary was growing by leaps and bounds while his native vocabulary was stagnant!

That got me on worried and drove me to speak with experts on what should I do to keep my son’s bi-lingual skills…well, after extensive discussions and research, here’s a plan of action I put in place…so far (its been 5 weeks), its been working!

Things to do to encourage bi-lingual skills in toddlers/pre-school kids :

1. To encourage your child to learn your native language, speak with her exclusively in that language. Your child’s mind will “learn” to associate you with native speech and will condition itself to think/talk in that language when she’s with you.

2. Examine your language! See if you are using too many english words in your conversations at home….ensure that you substitute those english words with words from your native language.

3. When your child inserts an english word in his sentence, replace that english word with the native word conversationally and reply back to him…this will help him a lot in improving his vocabulary

4. Every night, as you read bedtime stories, try to read atleast one story that is written and spoken in your native language

5. Check with your cable/satellite operator if there’s a native kids channel that you can subscribe to. If this works, then get your child to watch 20-30 mins of native kids program upto 3 times a week. (This can go up in winters, I guess!)

6. Blog with other moms in your community that might speak the same native language and try to set up playdates for your child

7. Once a week, introduce your child to written characters in your native language…this helps them develop a sense of phonetics and builds an interest in a different language.

8. A great time to introduce native language is through songs, poems as well as counting in native language when you go grocery shopping or are travelling in the car.

 Phew! Its a long list….I haven’t got it all going for my son, but I am working on it 😉

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  1. Sunidhi

    I like your ideas. I am going through a similar situation.

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