little student girl smiling

Raising Bilingual Children

In many families, a child’s parents come from different countries and therefore are fluent in different languages. For example, the mother may be Chinese and is fluent in Cantonese, while the father is Australian and fluent in English. A child from parents of different heritage is very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn two languages.

It’s helpful if each family member speaks the same language to the baby at home, so they don’t confuse the two.

Young father playing with his daughter inside with toys

In order for your child to learn both languages effectively, it helps if you each speak to the child in the language you are fluent in while you’re at home – as your child benefits from hearing a language which is well spoken. For example, if you are Chinese and fluent in Cantonese, you would speak to your child in Cantonese at home, while your Australian partner speaks to the child in English. Try to avoid mixing two languages in one sentence or one conversation.

Alternatively, if both parents are of Italian background, but speak English more fluently, while the grandparents are fluent in Italian, you could speak English at home and Italian at the grandparents house.

When you are out, you may choose to use the main language being spoken in that social situation – for example, English at a predominantly English speaking playgroup. Children usually adapt to this, and it doesn’t take them long to discriminate between the two languages.

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