Growing up in a German-American household, I have often wished I would have been raised bilingual. Unfortunately, I had to learn English in school
just like every other student in my class. Now, I have been lucky in that English is so widely spoken; otherwise, I’m sure I wouldn’t even be able to ask for directions. That being said, I have a lot of friends who weren’t able to learn the language of their ancestors in school.
Whether it be Portuguese, Spanish or Russian - here’s how you can raise your kids bilingual with the help of an Au Pair.
Benefits of raising your kids bilingual
Well, one benefit of raising your kids bilingual is obvious: they will be able to speak a second language fluently
! Language skills are very valuable these days and they will definitely help them land their dream job
in the future. But there are also other benefits that come with being raised bilingual that you might not notice on first glance.
Bilingual kids are already used to speaking in different languages, so they are more aware of different cultures, making them more open minded
Studies also show that they perform higher on tests
involving multitasking or problem solving. They are better at making decisions
since they have to make decisions about which words to use every day.
How to raise your kids bilingual
Children learn languages without even thinking about it. They just talk, unafraid of making mistakes. This is why it is usually much harder for adults to learn a new language: we think too much about speaking perfectly. You probably want your kids’ lives to be as easy as possible, so start by teaching them a second language as naturally as possible
There are a lot of different ways to approach this, but here are three of the most common methods:
One person, one language
This method is especially useful if the parents have two different native languages
. Say the mother is Croatian and the father English. In this case, the children would talk Croatian with their mom, but English with their dad. They are expected to answer in the language they are spoken to and since only the native speakers talk in their respective languages, the kids will be able to pick up the language accent-free
Minority language spoken at home
This option is most common in families with the same cultural background
who moved to a different country. If, for example, the parents are from Italy, but moved to Denmark, the children will be exposed to Italian at home, but Danish whenever they go outside.
This way, the whole family speaks the same language
. This makes it even easier for the kids to learn the so called “minority language” faster. However, if the kids are not in school yet, they might lack exposure to the “community language” (Danish in our example). This means that they might be a little behind their peers when starting school. Don’t worry though, they will catch up soon enough
Using this method, which language you use depends on - you guessed it - the context. Depending on where you are and who you are with
you will speak different languages.
Let’s say your whole family speaks French. Obviously, whenever you get together, you will speak French. But if your kids bring friends from school who don’t speak French, you will switch to English. This way no one feels left out of the conversation
, because everyone is able to understand each other.
Language exposure through Au Pairs
As great as all of this sounds, how can an Au Pair help you raise your kids bilingual? Well, I’m glad you asked! Au Pairs are young people from different countries who will help you take care of your children
. They usually participate in the program to improve their language skills which means their native language differs from the one spoken in your home country
If you want your kids to learn Spanish, for example, hiring an Au Pair from a hispanic country is a great way to expose them to the language from an early age
How do you get started with the language learning process?
Let the kids talk to their Spanish Au Pair in Spanish. It might be hard at first and they might shy away from talking to the Au Pair
, but don’t worry - it will get better. As soon as they get used to having to speak Spanish they will get more confident in the language until they understand everything that is being said to them. Try to stick to hiring hispanic Au Pairs for a while, you don’t want your kids to forget everything they’ve learnt just because they can’t practice anymore, right?
Here are a few simple ways your Au Pair can start teaching your kids:
We use language to tell stories. So why not use stories to learn using a language? Get some kids books in the Au Pair’s native language
and have them read those as bedtime stories. Your kids will be able to hear a lot of new words, thus improving their vocabulary.
On the same note (see what I did there?), music can help understand a language quickly. Many kids sing before they talk, so try and use this to your advantage. Sing typical kids songs in the Au Pair’s language and teach your kids the lyrics. It’s a simple and easy way to speed up the learning process. Especially if you combine it with dance moves matching the lyrics
It’s no secret that children love to play. So make learning another language fun!
You could play a round of memory, for example. Say what you see on the card in the second language and soon your kids will do the same without even thinking about it.
As you can see, raising your kids bilingual isn’t as hard as it may seem. So give it a shot. After all, what do you have to lose?