Bilingual Language Development

Research is clear that speaking more than one language with a child does not cause language disorders. In fact, some areas of language develop more quickly if children speak more than one language. However, some children hesitate to talk in a language even if they understand it. Here are some suggestions to help children to express themselves in your language:
  • Take every opportunity to speak your language to your child. Speak about what interests them.
  • Face your child and place yourself at their level. Make lots of comments and minimize questions, because some children feel lots of pressure when we ask questions.
  • During conversation, repeat back what your child has said, but in your language. Do not make your child repeat, because that may embarrass or frustrate them.
  • Avoid criticizing your child’s way of talking, and avoid criticizing others when they are speaking your language. 
  • Expose your child to as many people as possible who speak your language. It is helpful if they are exposed to the language in many different contexts.
  • If your child is just beginning to express themselves in your language, give them choices verbally, and at the same time, show them an object or a picture for each choice. While you ask “Would you like cereal or toast?” show them the cereal and the toast so that they can point to the one they want.
  • Start a sequence such as counting, saying the days of the week, saying the months of the year, and pause to allow your child to say the next item.
  • Say a sentence and pause before the last word to allow your child to complete the sentence.
  • Look for activities that your child enjoys in your language, such as games, reading or singing.
  • Repeat the same books, songs and finger plays often.
  • Photographs are a wonderful tool for developing language. Make a book of photos (You can use printed photos or use an app to add text to photos). Most children enjoy looking at photos of themselves or their family. Adding text allows you to repeat words and phrases, which makes it easier for your child to remember them.

If you are interested in more technical information about bilingual language development, here is a nice article:

Myths About Early Childhood Bilinguilism