Can Monolingual Parents Raise Bilingual Children?

 

The main concern on most parents' minds; will their kiddos be fluent in a language if neither parent speaks it?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Kids just need our guidance and support to gain new knowledge and the knowledge they gain doesn’t have to be limited to what we know as parents. It sounds impossible. 

How are we supposed to teach our kids something we don’t know?

I did it when I taught my kids French. Countless more parents did it with TCK language lessons in many other languages. What I’m trying to say is that there is no lack of examples when it comes to parents who’ve achieved the so-called “impossible”. 

There’s no reason you can’t too. 

The real issue is a lack of confidence and I’m not talking about our kids. It’s us. We get too much into our heads and convince ourselves that it may have worked for someone else but it isn’t gonna work for us. 

But no one is asking you to conquer the whole mountain today. Or even tomorrow! You don’t need to know everything right now because you don’t have to teach your kids everything right now. 

Let’s talk to a mama and a fellow expert on teaching kids a new language to get some of your most pressing concerns out of the way.

Some background on Kaila Diaz

Kaila Diaz who is bilingual herself is an educator and also a mama just like me and you. She runs a Spanish immersion program known as Bilinguitos and has tons of experience raising a bilingual kiddo. 

But that’s not the only reason I wanted you to meet her. Kalia was raised by English-speaking parents but was exposed to the Spanish language from as young as 10 months old! 

Yup, you read that right. 10 months old!

As of today, Kaila has completed her course in early childhood education and is now specializing in childhood and family bilingualism. How cool is that?

How was Kaila exposed to Spanish?

As a 1-year-old girl, Kaila spent a year at a daycare center close to her home where the caretakers often spoke in Spanish. This was her first time being exposed to the language and she started to pick up a few words and phrases in next to no time. 

By the time she was 2, her time at the daycare center had come to an end. With that so did all her exposure to Spanish. That was until she turned 8, which is when her mother decided to continue her Spanish lessons.

In order to help Kaila learn Spanish, her parents would send her for tutoring lessons once a week for an hour. But her mama didn’t stop there. 

She wanted to make sure Kaila got the language exposure she needed. Her mother would often bring back Spanish books from the library, play elementary videos, and even tried to pick up some of the vocabulary herself to help Kaila on her language-learning journey. 

These are just some ways that parents who don’t speak a language could help their little ones pick it up.

Kaila’s thoughts on some questions:

 

  • Why is language easier to learn as a toddler?

 

Children typically start learning their native language as soon as they begin to speak. During this period, they’re working on cataloging the language in their brains. Which makes it one of the most effective times for them to be exposed to a second language. 

Because they’ll process and store the second language in the same way they store their native language. Which will give them amazing pronunciation in the target language too!

And no - your kids will not confuse one language with another mama. This brings us to our next question…

 

  • Is it confusing for children to have so much language data being fed to them at that age?

 

According to research, children don’t mix up their languages because they’re confused. Sometimes they tend to forget certain words in one language and use the second language to help them get their point across.

Over time, their brains will adapt and help them sort out the languages on their own.

 

  • What is the role of parents when it comes to helping their kids learn a language?

 

Kids tend to feel their parents’ excitement. Kids tend to have this intuitive sense of their parents. 

If you’re excited about it, they’re excited about it, they’ll wanna know what’s the big deal too. But if you aren’t and treat learning a language like it’s a chore or just another boring subject, your kiddo is gonna catch on to that and feel the exact same way.

As a parent, you have to find a way to make it a fun, learning experience. For both of you!

It’s not always about learning from a book. You could hold dance parties or fun little activities for them to participate in. There are no hard and fast rules here. Just avoid being strict and too rigid about it and see what’s resonating with your kids. 

 

  • What does Kaila do with Bilinguitos?

 

Kaila has a family language plan to examine where the language exposure is going to come from. It could be from caretakers or native speakers around you.

In some cases, there may not be caretakers or native speakers around your children. This is where you, as their mama, have to build the foundation yourself.

For instance, you could learn it along with your kiddo, read books in the target language, join programs like The Cultured Kid and just bring different resources into use. 

But always remember to have fun!

It’s alright to take your time with it. Just build a foundation and help them get started.

Kaila’s mum laid a base and helped build a foundation for her Spanish language. She never forced Kaila to be fluent in Spanish. She only became a fluent  speaker in her early years of adulthood.

So mamas, you really don’t have to take your child all the way to fluency. 

Just help them get exposed to the language. Lay a good foundation for them to get excited about. And that’s it. They’ll figure the rest out on their own. See, that doesn’t sound too impossible, does it?

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