Every parent wants to provide their kids with every possible advantage.
As more employers want to hire bilingual candidates, families must explore new ways to set their kids up for success in an increasingly borderless world. Knowing where to start can feel overwhelming for those who don’t already speak two (or more) languages.
You might assume that if you aren’t bi- or multilingual, you'll have a harder time helping your children adopt a new language. But that’s not necessarily true.
There are significantly more options now for kids to learn a second language that they weren’t born into. Yes, you might need to learn some of the basics of the target language yourself to ensure your little one is pronouncing the words correctly. But language education is more accessible for non-native speakers than ever.
Just look at adult-centric language-learning apps like Duolingo, which transforms learning a new language into a game. Imagine if you had had something like Duolingo available to you as a child. Of course, we’re not saying you should go out and buy your five-year-old an iPhone so they can play language games. We're saying that there’s another way to make learning a new language fun for young learners—reading.
Whether you enroll your child in a language immersion program at school or you simply want to increase their exposure to other languages, there are numerous benefits to learning another language as a kid, including:
Plus, it’s much easier for younger children to become fluent in a second language than it is for adults! Kids experience heightened neural formation in their brains from ages two to seven, making it easier for adopted languages to stick.
You don’t need to be fluent in another language to create an active and engaging learning environment for your child as they work toward becoming bilingual. Your support will significantly impact your kid’s success because you’ll be there to encourage them when they get frustrated and empower them to keep pushing forward.
While there are plenty of multilingual TV shows that you can watch with your child (or have them watch while you’re cleaning up, cooking dinner, or taking a well-deserved moment to yourself), there are more active ways to support your kid’s language learning journey.
We know your kid has a billion things to do, but helping them carve out a bit of time to do something related to the language they are learning will make all the difference. Even if you can spare twenty minutes every day, your child will be able to pick up the language that much faster.
However, you don’t want language-learning time to feel like a chore or mandatory homework, so you need to do everything you can to make this practice time fun and exciting. It may require some trial and error to see what your child responds to, but we encourage you to be patient and try new things as much as possible.
One way to learn a concept is to teach it to someone else. Your child will feel emboldened if they get to teach their mom or dad something new every day. This practice will encourage them to brainstorm words they haven’t taught you yet and get excited about your daily lesson.
Let them correct you if you don’t get the pronunciation quite right. While you may start to pick up some tidbits, remember that this is about helping them develop the skill.
The more your kid feels a connection with the language they’re learning, the more likely they’ll want to keep working towards fluency. Finding cultural events near you may be more challenging depending on COVID protocols and the number of native speakers living in your area. Still, there is always the option of virtual events if there aren’t any in-person activities nearby (or you don’t want to risk your child’s health in a crowded environment).
If your child is in an immersion program at school, schedule playdates with classmates and encourage them to communicate in the target language as much as possible. If they’re not in an immersion program, see if other kids at their school or in your community are also learning or are fluent in the target language and invite them over.
If you have time, you can schedule activities based on the language’s culture or provide them with some games to play in the target language.
Playing games is an excellent way to get your child to interact with the language they’re learning. Whether it’s a board or card game, you’re offering your kid an opportunity to engage with the language while having fun.
And if you want to play with your child, there are plenty of bilingual options!
Reading is crucial for developing any language—whether it’s your first or your fifth. Stocking your library with books that your child will want to read over and over again will enrich their language-learning experience.
One of the hardest parts is discovering exciting, diverse book titles at your young learner’s reading level. That’s why we created Sol Book Box, a Spanish & bilingual book box subscription service crafted especially for kids learning Spanish as a second language. We review hundreds of hard to find books published worldwide, so our boxes are filled with culturally relevant, phenomenally written, and beautifully illustrated picture and board books.
Here are a few suggested bilingual children's books to get your reading journey started together:
Written by Naibe Reynoso, illustrated by Ana Varela
A delightful story, some culinary history, and a taco recipe are all part of this whimsical rhyming libro featuring wrestlers, magicians, dinosaurs, and more!
Written by Alexandra Alessandri, illustrated by Courtney Dawson
A warm, expressive, affecting, (and of course colorful!) bilingual story about empathy, new beginnings, and making new friends.
Written & illustrated by Paloma Valdivia
A moving bilingual ode to the unshakeable bond between a parent and child in the tradition of Runaway Bunny.
Looking for some extra support? Our Spanish subscription boxes can each be tailored to focus on authentic, engaging bilingual children's books that strengthen language skills, deepen cultural understanding, and support healthy development.