How to raise a bilingual child at home?
One of the biggest challenges for bilingual parents is how to raise a child bilingually. There are two scenarios possible.
The first one is when everyone in the family speaks the minority language at home and there’s another language outside. In this scenario the child will acquire the second language quite easily as there is a good balance between both languages.
The second scenario is when one parent speaks the minority language or each parent speaks a different minority language. Parents will often choose the One person One language method.
The earlier you start the better. There is no limit to what age a child should start. And don’t panic if you see the child not being able to speak either language properly at first. Research has shown that bilingualism doesn’t lead to any delays of any sorts. It is natural that your child might mix languages at first. A monolingual child will use other strategies such as using words like “this thing” or “like” … a bilingual child will use his other language to fill in the gaps. Later on, as his/her vocabulary improves you will find that the bilingual child will no longer mix languages. While it is sometimes true that bilingual children start talking later, experts say the delay is temporary and the advantage of knowing two languages outweighs that small disadvantage.
Claude Hagège talks about the warning threshold of the 11th year where children build filters and no longer hear sounds like they used to. This critical age limit doesn’t make it impossible to learn a language it just makes it more difficult to speak the language without the accent. Also teenagers develop a fear of making mistakes, which makes it harder to learn another language. Finally the world of a child is a little bit less complex than an adult and therefore the repertoire of words isn’t as complicated.