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June 10, 2024

4 Ways to Raise a Bilingual Child

Bilingualism is an invaluable skill that offers a wide range of benefits. From enhancing cognitive abilities to expanding communication avenues and professional opportunities, the advantages of being bilingual are substantial.

In Singapore, children are expected to learn their Mother Tongue from Primary 1 onwards. This early introduction to a second language is designed to harness the many advantages of bilingualism from a young age. The ability to communicate in multiple languages can significantly enrich a child’s life and future prospects.

At My Little Campus, we recognise the importance of laying a strong foundation for bilingualism early on, which is why we offer a bilingual preschool curriculum. However, if your child’s current preschool doesn’t provide this, there are still effective ways to cultivate bilingualism.

Today, we’ll share some practical tips to help you build a solid foundation for your child’s bilingualism, ensuring he/she not only excels in Mother Tongue but also develops a genuine interest in it for future success.

1. Expose the child to the second language early

A fair bit of research suggests that it’s better for children to learn languages at preschool. Some even recommend starting before age 3! 

The idea is to introduce your child to the second language while he/she is at the best age for absorbing new information. To do that, try working the second language into daily routines and dialogues.

Start referring to things your child interacts with daily in the second language, for example. You can even try having conversations with him/her in that second language and teach him/her the responses at first.

Eventually, you should find your child no longer needing prompting to use the language. At some point, he/she may even be first to initiate it!

2. Build a language-rich environment

Once you’ve already introduced your child to the second language, you want to make it a constantly accessible thing to him/her. It shouldn’t be something restricted to just one specific time of day or class. Rather, it should become a natural part of his/her world.

This makes learning the language less of a slog or challenge. To that end, put together an immersive learning environment that supports its pickup.

For example, try putting labels on items that give them the names in both languages you use at home. Buy and read Mandarin books to him/her, and discuss them with him/her afterwards. Or incorporate the second language into hobbies like songs and games!

This builds a bilingual foundation steadily while also doing it in a fun or inoffensive way. We ourselves do this in our bilingual preschool in Singapore through things like Chinese Speech and Drama and Chinese Abacus classes (that also strengthen arithmetic!).

3. Engage with the culture

You can’t separate a language from its culture. In fact, when it comes to language learning, it’s much better to embrace the latter as a way of contextualising the language itself!

Try doing this with your child by recognising or celebrating Chinese events with him/her. You can take part in popular Chinese festivals, for example, or try the food associated with the culture. You can even go on trips to areas where it’s widely spoken, like making a morning breakfast run to Chinatown.

It’s a great way to get immersive and practical in language learning. Your kid can expand his/her vocabulary and understanding of the language while having fun.

4. Get help from experts

Thus far, we’ve been talking about tips for bilingual-skill-building that rely on parental guidance. But what do you do if the second language you’re trying to teach isn’t your strong point either?

When that happens, you can turn to the pros. Look for early-education professionals who have experience with bilingual education, like ours. 

For instance, our own curriculum is explicitly designed to promote bilingualism in preparation for primary school. That’s why we’ve come up with programmes specifically for preschoolers that can help them acquire Mandarin more easily.

We reinforce Mandarin skill development with programmes in Han Yu Pin Yin and Chinese character writing. We also have sessions to cover listening, comprehension, and recitals.

And through all of that, we work in fun elements like the drama sessions and plays we mentioned before. This keeps children from tiring of the language and gives them added incentive to pay attention.

Bilingualism starts slow but goes steady when you start early

In many cases, it takes sustained exposure and immersion to get a child to develop bilingualism. That’s why you need to stay the course once you’ve started with the tips above.

If you find them a little hard to achieve by yourself, though, don’t despair. As we mentioned earlier, our own preschool teachers can help.

At My Little Campus, our teachers have been trained to foster comprehensive development as well as continuous language-skill growth in our little ones. Our long-running focus on bilingual skill development has also been proven effective time and again. 

If you want to learn more about our bilingual-learning expertise and the programmes we offer, please enquire. We’ll be happy to explain how we can help your child acquire a second language while seeing to his/her overall growth at the same time.