Raising a Super Hero

a blog by Penyo Pal

Getting started with raising a bilingual child

Congratulations and thank you! You are about to give your child one of the most incredible gifts for their future.  They are going to learn how to tackle something challenging, think in a global sense and venture out of their comfort zone. The icing on top is gaining a unique insight into another culture as the world continues to become flatter in terms of opportunities.  As you get started, here are some tips on how to go about it.

Keep it fun! 

Dale Carnegie wisely warned ”people rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing” and this needs to be taken to heart when it comes to teaching kids a second or third language. It’s easy to turn kids off of a language if it’s associated with being boring or too difficult.  We are big proponents of looking at what your child is interested in right now and finding ways to introduce language in that form.  For example a lot of the children that find our product useful already loved playing games on their iPads and parents’ mobile devices beforehand. No child learns the same way so take advantage of free trial classes, free apps and the library to test out different media for delivery.  Nothing wrong with a little experimentation to see what makes learning language fun for your child!

Set realistic and clear goals 

You will be surprised just how far a few phrases and an interest in other cultures can get your children. This is not saying

Polyglot Benny Lewis says:

[Fluency] may be considered an abstract quality so it can mean more or less to you, but whatever it is, picture it very clearly in your mind and aim for that rather than for some mystical word that you can blame for being too high of a standard.  I’m not saying that you can use semantics to belittle the concept of fluency into nothing; just that it is an achievable goal for us mere mortals.
Walk the talk 

It’s not enough for kids to learn a new language. Mom & Dad need to be a role model and commit to joining the kids on this adventure of discovery together.  Before you shudder at the thought of paying for a “Mommy and Me” language class, don’t worry, you are not alone. Start small by buying a notebook and asking the kids to teach you a new word every day.  It provides the kids the chance to review their learning,

Be a cheerleader! 

Your children may have rough days with language.  You may find yourself a bit of an anomaly amongst your fellow Moms and Dads.  Just keep in mind this is normal, and all parents will encounter this whether it’s soccer practice or piano lessons or even just learning to read English.

Christina Bosemark
Raising multilingual children requires patience, and there are going to be times when doubt sneaks in. As with most aspects of parenting, it's a long term commitment and there will be ups and downs. But remember, that's happening to the parents of the monolingual children too!
Good luck! 

Grocery Shopping to Learn Language - A Simple Hack

The trip to a grocery store is a wonderful way to get children engaged in language learning, while also keeping them too busy to complain and whine.  One of the fastest ways I picked up French was heading to the grocery store on my trip to Lille and trying to look for items I needed to make a meal for my hosts. I've tried to keep that up since coming home with a French grocery list and it's been even more fun when taking young ones to the store and handing them a list in French to reinforce their learning.

Print out free language learners grocery list and jot down what you need on the lines. We've included a word list of food items in French, Mandarin, and Spanish to get you started.  It's best to use words they have been exposed to in class or at home beforehand to prevent frustration. Google Translate and  WordReference.com are both great resources to add items we missed.   Use the boxes to illustrate a hint and fold it over so the kids know to peek only when they are stuck.

That's all you really need to get started to turn grocery shopping into something more exciting and educational for your kids.  Think of it as live flashcards with a strong sense of accomplishment when they are able to figure out new vocabulary.  Best part is, with our kid testers, they were so busy trying to remember what the words meant that they  walked right past the candy aisle without batting an eye. Good luck and have fun!

The gift of struggle: why learning a 2nd language will benefit your child

A successful Canadian entrepreneur once explained to us that he had to “manufacture obstacles for his children” with learning Mandarin being one of them.  He valued creating opportunities for struggle because it allowed his children to hone their tenacity and resilience – something he argued can be lost if everything is too easy for them in life.

Learning a new language can certainly be a challenge for kids and parents alike.  Often it may be tempting for parents to latch onto statements like “English is the global lingua franca” as an out.  It is crucial to recognize in these moments, that the process of learning a second language is the most valuable part of the gift they are giving to their children. Dr. Jim Stigler of UCLA explains that:

"Struggle is a predictable part of the leraning process.  Everyone is expected to struggle in the process of learning, and so struggling becomes a chance to show that you, the student, have what it takes emotionally to resolve the problem by persisting through that struggle." [source]

Sure here in the English-speaking part of the world, learning a second language is a luxury and a child’s quality of life will not diminish if they cannot speak Spanish, Mandarin or French. We cannot however overlook the fact that elsewhere around the world, children are learning from ages as young as 2 or 3 to learn a second language, English.  They work hard at it, and in the process learn how to persevere through a challenge and overcome struggle.  So in the increasingly global marketplace your child will definitely be competing for jobs and opportunities with their peer group from Brazil, Spain, France, India, Russia …the list goes on and on.  And by teaching your children a second language you ensure they aren’t missing out on the crucial skill of perseverance.

So the next time your child laments conjugations or questions the purpose of learning 中文, don’t forget you are giving them one of the most valuable gifts for their future.