I was raised bilingual. I was born in the States, but my parents were born in the Middle East. In fact, my mom learned English along with me!
Growing up where and when I did, knowing two languages wasn't always perceived by others to be a positive thing. It made me different and different wasn't always good. But the older I got, the more I felt empowered by this trait. That's why when I learned of a dual-language program at our local elementary school, I lobbied hard for my kids to participate.
The Benefits. Learning a second language at a young age is an amazing thing. It can help children better understand and accept other cultures. Studies
by The University of Texas at San Antonio show that the sooner you expose babies to a new language- the better. The first year window is the most crucial. During this time, babies begin to learn sounds and will build on these when they form their vocabulary in later years. Plus, knowing two languages could also come in handy once they enter the workforce!
How to Implement a Second Language. So how would I start? Begin with music and video exposure in your favored second language. Keep an eye out for toddler language classes in your area, or hire a bilingual sitter to speak to your child in both languages. Introduce things like foods and actions in both languages; define new terms using easy to pick up terminology. Come school time, keep an eye out for dual language programs in your area. Check out your public library for bilingual story books as well. Kids might be challenged to adjust at first, but most get the hang of it quickly.
Prepare to be Amazed. It is truly a wonder to watch your child grow as a little person. They take bits and pieces of the new language and culture they are being immersed into and it becomes a part of their personality.
Viv Schaffel is a freelance journalist and essayist who writes for a vast array of publications, including CBS Watch!, The New York Times, Working Mother and The New York Post. She writes/performs sketch comedy and is an upstanding member of US Weekly’s Fashion Police, poking fun at red carpet risks.