bilingual family

Bilingual Baby; How to Raise a Bilingual Child – Montessori Resources from Birth to Three Years

This post is brought to you by Eva from Eva Montessori at Home.
“Hi, I’m Eva! A language teacher born and raised in Girona (Catalonia). In love with my family and Montessori philosophy, I am the proud mama of a feisty toddler called Arnau. Languages and travelling are my passions. Since motherhood, my days are filled with laughter, storytelling, music, beach trips, forest walks, practical life, sensorial and pretend play and many more.”
.
My mother tongue is Catalan but I am a fluent English and Spanish speaker, so when my son was in the womb he got to listen to English, Catalan and Spanish on a daily basis. Children under six however pick up languages almost effortlessly, therefore when my little one was born roughly 22 months ago I thought…How are we going to keep this up?
.
Their First Experiences 
.
Let me share my experience with you all, along with a few tips on raising bilingual or multilingual children.
.
~Conversation
.
Make conversation with your baby from day one as if he can understand you. At home we favour OPOL (One Person, One Language), meaning I fully communicate with him in English and my husband does so in Catalan. We started off by responding to our baby’s sounds and first words and talking to him about what we were doing, seeing, feeling in both languages.
.
A couple of months ago at mealtime we were having beans and grilled chicken for lunch (nothing fancy!) and out of the blue he pointed to my dish and said “bean”. How exciting! So I enthusiastically replied, “Yes, we’re having beans for lunch”. If he had uttered “mongeta” (bean in Catalan) or “judía” (bean in Spanish) I would have given him the exact same reply, in English, yet without correcting him. Even though at the moment he’s mixing languages up a bit I feel it’s all part of the natural language learning process for any bilingual or multilingual chil living in a bilingual environment. That’s our approach but you may obviously choose the method that best suits your family.
.
Even if you feel like introducing a second language, which you don’t intend to speak all the time, it is going to make a positive difference in your child’s life and there’s an approach for you! Read more here.
.
.
~Literature
.
Read stories from birth. Choose beautiful reality-based books that are easy to follow and have a clear story line (see more on Montessori Appropriate books here). Try to read the story aloud first before handing the book to your baby. Start with highly contrasted or black and white images, which are easier for you baby to see, and combine them with reading aloud or reciting to your baby.
.
Repetition of the same book is key for language acquisition and children love being told the same story over and over. Parents surely not as much… So bear with me, you’re doing your children a favour. You may retell the same book in any language if you prepare a simple translation beforehand. Choose any picture book, ignore what is written in it and narrate what is happening on the pages (see the photo below). We do this with most of my son’s books – my husband tells his own story in Catalan and I do so in English.
.
It actually doesn’t matter what language they’re written, you may make up any story, describe what you see in any given language. Big books with scenes provide with a context which is great for conversation and books with isolated objects are better for giving a three-period lesson afterwards. Introducing new vocabulary with the three-period lesson is also a good idea.
.
Another easy way of expanding vocabulary is describing what you see in your family picture albums, talk about the memories, family members, what you did back in the day.

.

~Labels

In order to introduce new vocabulary in any given language, try labelling everything around your baby and show him real objects, e.g. a faucet or a shower curtain if you’re in the bathroom, a dessert spoon if you’re in the kitchen.

What we have always done since my child’s was born is going for a forest walk. On the way we used to describe what we saw, mostly the kinds of trees, so when we go now he points to the trees, names a couple and even knows in what order to expect them. Creating a routine is beneficial for many reasons, including vocabulary building!
.
After having introduced real objects move onto miniature objects at around 12-15 months or whenever your child shows interest. Try using dolls, their outfits, animal figures, animal families, soft toys… Remember to be specific, speak clearly and use correct vocabulary with your baby or toddler. No laughing at them or mimicking mistakes or mispronunciations however funny these might be!
.
.
Developing Their Language
.
Now let the fun times commence! Having established both languages as a part of your daily lives your child will be ready to start interacting with their language (even if they’re not speaking yet).
.
~Matching
.
From about 18-month-olds, children are ready for more demanding tasks, such as matching activities with real objects. For instance, real fruits with realistic fruit cards.
.
Then, you may turn to animal figures with cards and then memory cards at around 2 years of age. To begin with, I would advise to present one card in groups of 4, then start with 4-6 pairs. Their main focus of interest may include clothes, transports, parts of the house, animals, the countryside, farm life, city life, the weather… And many more! We recently did a matching activity with leaves since my child is so into trees. Be creative and follow your child’s field of interest! Most children love this kind of games, you’ll see.
.
~Music and Poetry
.
If you’re an artsy type, this tip is made for you and yours. Music and poetry are a great source of vocabulary. Nursery rhymes, action songs, your favourite music group, short poems and rhymes… On the one hand, I find Usborne material particularly appealing, i.e. “My First Phonics” is ideal at this stage, featuring some of the cute short poems you see in the picture. In Spanish I would recommend “Ediciones SM”, and “Editorial Cruïlla” in Catalan. On the other hand, you may play CDs but sing and recite to them often because children ultimately want to hear your voice. An international music program we follow as a family is Kindermusik, mostly in English but with several songs (and the odd poem) from all over the world, some in Spanish or German as well. Find out more about our experiences here.

b

~Games

.Lastly, try introducing a simplified version of typical boardgames such as “Spot the differences” or “Taboo” with your 2 and a half or 3-year-old. Simplify them and adapt them to your child’s age range. In other words, instead of not using the forbidden words in “Taboo”, let your children use all of them to expand their vocabulary when describing words for you to guess. You may build your own cards in any language. I have done this with my students for years and works wonders but have yet to try it with my own child!

It goes without saying these tips need to go hand in hand with a prepared environment and a prepared adult that is ready to talk, read or sing as well as listen to the baby or toddler. You needn’t follow all of them simply see what your family feels comfortable with. For more info and tips click here: http://aidtolife.org/communication/tentips.htm
.
If you liked this post I’d love for you to follow us on my blog, on Facebook @evamontessoriathome and Instagram @eva_montessoriathome.
.
“If we believe talking different languages makes people different, inside the child we’ll find a human being who speaks none and is ready to learn any”
Maria Montessori
.
“Si suponemos que hablar diferentes lenguas hace diferentes a los hombres, encontraremos dentro del niño un ser que no habla ningún idioma y que está dispuesto a aprender cualquiera”
.
“Si suposem que parlar diferents llengües fa diferents els homes, trobarem dins del nen un ésser que no parla cap idioma i que està disposat a aprendre’n qualsevol”
Advertisements

One thought on “Bilingual Baby; How to Raise a Bilingual Child – Montessori Resources from Birth to Three Years

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s