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Frequently Asked Questions by Parents on Bilingualism | As featured on “Malty the Blue Tiger”

by Liliana Diaz August 04, 2019

Frequently Asked Questions by Parents on Bilingualism |  As featured on “Malty the Blue Tiger”

I had the wonderful opportunity to chat with Kelsey Kloss, author and the creator of Malty the Blue Tiger about common questions that parents ask about bilingualism. Kelsey Kloss is an author that emphasizes the importance of language and language learning. She created "Malty the Blue Tiger" bilingual books which can be found on her website. Check it out here. 

Q&A

What is the first thing a parent should do if they don’t speak a second language, but they want their child to? 

Research has shown that there are so many benefits to being bilingual and parents who speak a second language can definitely be at an advantage when seeking to teach their child a second language. However, for those parents who are not bilingual, there are still many great ways to immerse your child in a new language. Many schools may offer two-way bilingual/immersion programs or 2-way dual language programs in languages such as Spanish, Arabic, French, Korean and many other languages. In these types of programs, the academic curriculum is   in English and in another language with the ultimate goal being that students develop biliteracy skills and high levels of language proficiency in both program languages. Parents can do a simple internet search and research which schools near them provide these types of programs. 

If your child’s school doesn’t have a dual language program, how else can you immerse them in another language if you don’t speak it? 

Unfortunately, private institutions offering dual language programs may not always be readily available in an area near you. However, there are still many great ways to immerse your child in another language. Seeking childcare in another language other than English is another way that your child can obtain exposure to a new language. A bilingual babysitter can speak to your child in the new language during care which will ensure that your child receives consistent exposure and modeling. Furthermore, immersing your child in a community where another language is spoken can also be another way to learn a new language. Setting up play-dates within a diverse community can encourage your child to establish friendships with other children that speak another language. Through consistent play-dates, your child may be able to learn basic interpersonal communication skills (BICS) which is the social language that one learns through formal and informal conversations with others. Overall, parents should always remember that learning a new language is about meaningful interactions, consistency and rich language modeling.   

How can parents encourage their children to learn another language, or pique their interest in bilingualism, if they’re not exposed to many different languages in their community? 

Play and literacy is one of the best ways to encourage your child to learn a new language or become interested in a new language. Parents should encourage playful interactions amongst all their family members by learning to sing songs in another language, dancing to music in another language, or learning academic concepts such as the alphabet or numbers; this will sure pique your child’s interest if everyone at home is on board. In addition, internet tools such as Youtube can provide many great children’s songs in different languages and/or tablet applications such as “Gus on the Go” are other ways that your child can learn new vocabulary while at home. Furthermore, you can make reading fun by taking a trip to your local library and checking out a bilingual book. Make it a part of your daily routine to read a new book at night or during the day to your child. This will ensure that your child establishes biliteracy skills and will increase his/her vocabulary of the new language. There are many bilingual children’s books available that provide text in both languages. 

If parents have dual language books for their children to read, but don’t know how to pronounce the second language’s words themselves, what can they do? 

Luckily in today’s era we have access to wide range of technology! Parents can easily look up a pronunciation on the internet and listen back to an audio or video recording of the word. For example, Google translate offers reliable pronunciation audio recordings of words that are typed in the search engine. 

What is one of the biggest myths about teaching children another language that you hear from parents?

Unfortunately, some parents are often told by other professionals or simply believe that exposing infants and/or toddlers to more than one language may cause delays in their speech or language development. In addition, I have also heard many families express concern that their bilingual child will have academic problems or difficulty learning once he/she starts school because he/she speaks two languages. These beliefs are not true and are mere myths. All children including children with existing language delays or disorders are capable of learning more than one language. Bilingualism does not cause language delays and there is no evidence that states that bilingualism causes delays. As a matter of fact, there is plenty of research that suggests that there are academic advantages of being bilingual, including superior problem solving/multitasking skills, as well as increased cognitive flexibility. In case parents are interested in learning more about myths related to bilingualism, “Bilingual Myth-Busters Series Language Confusion in Bilingual Children” by Mark Guiberson (2013) is a great evidence-based article that debunks several myths about bilingualism. 



Liliana Diaz
Liliana Diaz

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