6 Tips to Introduce Your Child to a Second Language

Baby dreaming in multiple languages

When it comes to language acquisition, it’s never too early for children to start learning. Whether it’s Spanish, Chinese, Farsi or Korean, studies have shown that learning a language can lead to very real cognitive and intellectual development. You might think it’s easier to wait until they are older, but the brain starts building a network of connections at a very young age, which makes it easier to learn in later life. In fact, every time you introduce them to a new word, a connection is made in the brain. So read on to learn 6 tips for starting your kid's journey into learning a second language.

1 - Start early

We can't stress this enough, so It's worth repeating: expose your child to a new language as early as possible.

Some research has shown that language development begins before birth. Babies can hear sounds when they're in the womb and bilingual babies can understand two or more languages even before they start speaking. Talk and sing in both languages and try to use the target second language as much as possible when talking with your child.

With this said, learning a language is a lifelong journey. Heck, I'm still learning new words and idioms in my first language! So, whether you’re planning to have a bilingual baby or your child is already in her teens, don't worry, you haven't missed the mark. Just start now! 🎓🤓

If you're looking for something to say to a baby or toddler who can't talk back to you yet, look no further. Read them a book from our bilingual collection available in English and 12 different target languages. Whether you're fluent in the target language or not, these bilingual books are great since you can always refer to the English text if needed. My husband is actually learning Spanish reading these to our daughter!!

2 - Listen to them! They will pick up on the sounds of a second language

Tiny babies are very sensitive to sound, so you can use that to your advantage by exposing them to the sounds of a language you want them to learn. Teaching words like "mama" and "dada" in both languages will help baby identify those words faster and know how they're spelled in both languages later on.

Even though most children speak their first words in the months close to the 1-year mark, you will hear them utter sounds that sound similar to words well before that. Our son is 3 months old, and my husband swears he's heard him say "mama" already. Dad's eh? Always the proudest. I’m pretty sure he heard that in his imagination.

So, while you're likely the one who will start the conversation with your little one, listen up to what they are saying to you now. 🧏🏼

3 - Play games in your second language

Whether it's with flashcards or an improvised game with your child's favourite toy, playing with your child in the target language is one of the best ways to give them exposure to it. In our article, Getting Silly with Syllables – How to Prepare Your Child to Learn How to Read, my husband gives a couple of examples of how he does just this. Be warned, some of my husband's tips go beyond silly.

4 - Listen to music and watch TV in your second language

Let's be real for a minute. Sometimes being a parent can feel like you're always on and looking for the next activity for your child. Everyone's different, but I know that I need to unwind sometimes with some great music or some not so great TV (um...Keeping Up with the Kardashians anyone? 🙋🏽‍♀️, yes guilty as charged). No, I do NOT recommend introducing your child to Reality TV or Telenovelas, but I don't see a problem with watching a rerun of your favourite childhood cartoon with your kid. The great thing is that nowadays you can basically choose what language you want to watch cartoons in. Checkout this article to find out just how to do this: How my Daughter is Learning Spanish Watching Netflix.

5 - Go on trips in your second language

Admittedly, the past couple of years have made it difficult if not impossible to take a trip to a country where your target language is spoken. Personally, I'm itching to travel again. One reason is that travel can provide opportunities to introduce your child to native speakers.

Even if they can't have a full conversation yet, immersing your child in a culture that uses your target language will help them make connections and recognize words and sounds. If the travel bug bites your child, it could foster a rich platform for future language learning.

6 - Don't force it, set milestones and have patience

Teaching your child a new language should be light and easy, don't force it. If they’re tired or just not in the mood, they won’t learn anything. Just set milestones and give them time to learn. The most important thing is to be patient and not get frustrated if they seem to be repeating the same mistake over and over.

For the longest time, when my daughter wanted something, she would say "yo quiere" instead of the correct conjugation "yo quiero" in Spanish. Every now and then I would correct her, but I wasn't sure if she understood or would get it. One day, what do you know? She noticed some cookies on the counter and said, "yo quiero". Conjugation milestone achieved. I was stressing for nothing.


There you have it: 6 tips to help your child in their journey to become bilingual.

If all these tips sound like a lot of hard work, then that’s OK. Chances are you’ve got your hands full with the little one already so just do what you can and know that it counts towards their language development! Just remember, children learn best in their own terms and at their own pace, so be patient with them and with yourself.

We hope these tips support you in getting your second language journey off to a flying start. 😀

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