Why Monolingual Parents Fail to Raise Bilingual Children – and Why That’s Okay

By Cinnamon Williams

How many of us only speak English, but get excited at the thought that our babies could become bilingual babies?  Babies and children soak up language like a sponge!  They need exposure when their brains are young and impressionable!  It’s never it’s never too early to start learning, so we take our babies to the library and borrow a CD of foreign songs to get started.

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A nice CD

We feel we are off to a great start, but after listening to the CD a lot of times, our baby ignores it, and we still can’t sing along.  We can’t even tell one word from another.  We don’t seem to be making progress. We try another CD, and that one sounds like a strange middle aged woman, pretending to be a child, singing nursery rhymes in her basement with a toy piano.  It annoys us, and puts our babies to sleep.  Our resolve to make our babies bilingual weakens.  Over time, we lose interest, and forget to expose them to a foreign language.

Don’t feel bad about giving up.  No one is successful going about it that way.  A little exposure to a language sporadically isn’t going to cut it.  To really create a bilingual child, you need to get your child exposed to massive amounts of foreign language.  Your child will spend a lot of time sleeping and being with you;

The time she’s not sleeping, or spending time with you, needs to be spent in the other language.

You need to bring in the big guns.  Here they are:

  • Move to a foreign country and enroll the child in school.
  • Send the child to boarding school in a foreign country.
  • Move near an immersion school in your home country to enroll your child.
  • Employ a nanny who is a native speaker.

And keep it up for the entire childhood, because without continued exposure, the child will forget the language.

Can’t you get the same results with a free app and the language classes kids normally get in school?

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Nope.

Everybody has a free app and takes French in high school.  After high school they forgot all the French they learned and what they did know never amounted to fluency anyway.  What about that one kid who used an app and took classes in high school and now is bilingual?  If he is really bilingual he used a ‘big gun’ to get fluent.  The app and classes alone didn’t cut the mustard.  They never do.

Don’t want to go to extremes to get your child bilingual?  No problem!

You can do a great job teaching your child your language: English.  You live in an English speaking country so English is the language they need to know.  It is unlikely they will ever want to travel to a country that doesn’t cater to English speakers.  English is the most popular language in the world!

Your child does not need to be bilingual to get a job.  Most jobs in an English speaking country involve English only.  Most jobs will not pay any more to an employee who is bilingual. Perhaps your child will become plumber in Ohio.  Even if you live in a place with many Spanish speaking immigrants, you will find that business is conducted in English and immigrants will be lucky to find one bilingual employee to translate for them.  That means all the other employees don’t speak Spanish.  Look at job listings where you live and see that few, or none of them require being bilingual.

Learning a second language is exercise for your mind, but so it learning anything.  If you don’t have the opportunity (or just don’t want to) hire a foreign nanny for 10 years, take opportunities for learning that you do have.  Teach your child to cook or sew or tell a good joke.  Take your child to a park.  Read bedtime stories.  If you can teach your kids something and enjoy it your kids will love to learn, love you, and become very smart.

He doesn’t want a French nanny.

Enjoy your lives monolinguals!

 

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