Why Most Parents Fail to Raise a FULLY Bilingual Child
The truth is most parents have wonderful intentions – they want their child to become fluent in Spanish, to learn French, to become bilingual, or even trilingual. There are MANY misconceptions about how children and (all of us) learn languages. I want to go over some of the top reasons that lead to parent’s failing to help their children achieve this wondrous goal (so you can learn from their mistakes).
They expect one program to teach their child a language.
I am especially talking about parents who are teaching their child a language from scratch. It is easy to be “sold” on just buying one program and having your child speak like a native. This is just not the case. No, not even BookLingual will do this for your child (on its own). It is common to buy a program like Rosetta Stone or something similar and place your bets on this, and this alone. Programs like Rosetta Stone are good, they teach concepts, grammar, vocabulary, and use some well designed media immersion. But, this program ALONE will not bring a child to become FULLY fluent. There are many pieces of the fluency puzzle that must be put into place, such as: Books (reading/literary learning is essential for tying together cognitive understanding), DVDs/Media (to see and experience how language and the culture are intertwined and dynamically used), Lessons/Tutor (to be taught formal grammar rules, or get a better holistic view), and Immersion/Native Speaker (to be ‘forced’ to speak the language, and develop an ear for proper pronunciation).
They think their child will just “learn the language” because they know it.
This fact makes me sad, but it is so omnipresent. When this occurs, yes, the child does learn the language, but not to his/her FULLEST potential. This instance is referring to if you already speak the language you want your child to master. It is quite common for bilingual parents to allow their children to become passive bilinguals. This means that the child can understand everything that you say in this minority language, but can not actually speak the language fluently. This occurs when you allow the child to respond back to your in English; even if you asked a question in Spanish (for example). This will create an environment where the child uses English as a crutch, instead of being forced to speak and understand the language. The final level of fluency (reading and writing) is most often overlooked by bilingual parents with good intentions. In most cases the child will learn to read and write exclusively in English; while being able to speak two languages. By not teaching your child to read and write in the secondary language, they will not be at their highest level of fluency. They will not know how to spell words, write grammatically correct sentences, or absorb great written works in this language.
Remember, you can do it – as long as you have a plan. With your bilingual action plan in place (which integrates all pieces of the fluency puzzle), your child will be destined for bilingual greatness!