Anyone can learn a new language. Some people find it easier than others, but all of us can do it. People who can use two languages are bilingual. Learning a second language generally does not cause a language delay.

Parents of bilingual children often have concerns regarding the possible negative effects on their child’s language development. Children who have a solid base in their primary language will have an easier time learning a second language. In my career I have come across many parents who chose to eliminate their child’s exposure to their primary language and only spoke English based on the recommendation of another professional. If you choose one language choose the primary language of the family. If the child lives in the US they will always be exposed to English. I find it very disheartening when a child no longer knows the family language and then communication between the older family members and younger family members is limited. Native tongue is more than words or an accent. It involves, movements, facial expressions, jokes, etc. It is all encompassing.

Speaking two languages is like any other skill. To do it well, children need lots of practice, which parents can help provide. Without practice, it may be difficult for children to understand or talk to people in both languages.How do I teach my child to be bilingual?

There are a number of ways to teach children to speak more than one language. You can do the following:

  • Use two languages from the start. Many children grow up learning two languages at the same time.
  • Use only one language at home. Your child can learn the second language when he or she starts school.
  • Give your child many opportunities to hear and practice using both languages in everyday situations.

Every bilingual child is unique. Developing skills in two languages depends on the quality and amount of experience the child has using both languages. The following are some basic guidelines:

  • Like other children, most bilingual children speak their first words by the time they are 1 year old (e.g., “mama” or “dada”). By age 2, most bilingual children can use two-word phrases (e.g., “my ball” or “no juice”). These are the same language developmental milestones seen in children who learn only one language.
  • From time to time, children may mix grammar rules, or they might use words from both languages in the same sentence. This is a normal part of bilingual language development.
  • When a second language is introduced, some children may not talk much for a while. This “silent period” can sometimes last several months. Again, this is normal and will go away.

Resources parents can use to help their child be bilingual are:

Books. You can read to your child in both languages. You can find the books you need at bookstores, at libraries, and on the Internet.

CDs, Music Downloads, and Streaming Music. Tapes and CDs in other languages can help too. Singing is a great way to introduce a second language to your child, and it can be lots of fun!

Videotapes, DVDs, Youtube videos, Netflix channels, etc. Children’s programs are available in many languages. These programs often teach children about numbers, letters, colors, and basic vocabulary.

Language programs. Children can also learn to be bilingual at language camps or in bilingual education programs. These give children the chance to use two languages with other children. Some school districts offer programs to help children learn another language from an early age.

*adapted from ASHA, Learning Two Languages