Raising Bilingual Children: Choosing a Language
The idea of raising a bilingual child may start early-on (even before they are born) or may come as an idea later once the child is of school age. Regardless of when you choose to start, one thing is certain: its 100% possible. You can find literature that promotes starting early, other that promotes the opposite, and most validate either. There is no perfect method of raising a child to be bilingual and therefore when to start is really up to the family and what best works for them.
Once you've made the decision, the question now becomes, "What languages would I like to immerse my child in?" This question was easily answered for our family. We didn't want our heritage language (Spanish) to be lost. We knew how easily heritage languages can be lost from one generation to the next and living in the United States. For other families this questions may be answered with the help of family, community, or even a global influence.
Babies come into this world "pre-wired" for language. All normal-hearing infants can distinguish sounds from all world languages. Children have high interest in sounds that are new to them. This ability begins to fade at around ten months of age.
So, which language(s) is/are best for your child?
Taking language inventory for your family, community, and global need may help you make that decision.
Some of the questions below are published in the book "The Bilingual Edge" by Kendall King Ph.D and Alison Mackkey Ph.D The following is an extended list of what is written in their book.
Family Language Assessment
What languages do you know and how well do you know them?
How comfortable are you with using these languages in: singing songs, reading books, holding a conversation?
What do you feel uncomfortable doing in these languages?
Who else speaks these languages in your family?
How often do you use these languages?
Are you willing to make mistakes/learn when using these languages with your children?
Community Language Assessment
Which languages are spoken in my immediate community and neighborhood?
Are there language programs in the local schools? If so what languages are taught?
Are there children activities in other languages at our local library, community center, or offered through a city recreation department?
Does your city/neighborhood hold cultural events? Which ones? Are these open to the public?
Global Language Assessment
What resources are available online (social media, online support groups, subscription services, etc.) to help support language learning?
Which languages are most in demand? (jobs, travel, etc)
What languages are mostly spoken in your country and neighboring countries?
Asking yourself these questions may help you make the decision of what language(s) to choose for your children and family. Even if you feel as if your own bilingualism isn't good-enough remember that there is no perfect way to raise bilingual children. In fact, you as a parent may even be monolingual and still be able to successfully raise a bilingual child. Enjoy the journey.