There are many wonderful reasons a child may have the opportunity to grow up in a bilingual environment. Knowing two languages is a beautiful gift for anyone! A young child’s absorbent mind makes it the ideal time to benefit from exposure to multiple languages. A little one will take languages on seemingly without effort and integrate them into their minds.
The Montessori environment offers some helpful guidelines to support raising a bilingual child
FLUENCY. The first and most important suggestion is to always speak your native language with young children, even babies. Young children’s sensitive ears and brains will pick up on subtleties in language that can be lost on adults. Offering your child the truest language experience takes advantage of this sensitivity, and also reduces confusion. Your child is absorbing all of the nuances of what they hear, and when someone is not speaking in a fluent tongue, your little one will have more trouble categorizing the sounds. Additionally, they are likely to absorb the non-fluent intonations of the speaker. They will gain the most from the experience if they are hearing language primarily in its authentic fluency.
Want to learn more about Montessori parenting? Sign up for a FREE eBook and get a special welcome offer!
Get Free Ebook
CONSISTENCY. It is easiest for your child to make sense of the language they hear and organize the information in their minds if adults and locations are somewhat consistent. Not only does it help with fluency when adults speak their native language, but it also gives your child security when they know which language to expect to hear from the adults who are around them. This is not a necessary component of learning two languages fluently, but it does provide the best chance for high quality exposure to both languages, and appeals to the young child’s sense of order. Similarly, it helps when they know that locations will be mostly consistent. For example, we speak Spanish at home, and we speak English at school. While they are young, your little one is looking for order in their environment. Respecting these designations helps them make sense of what they will encounter.
PATIENCE. Children who are raised bilingually often take more time before they speak in either language. Their receptive language is usually normal (how well they understand). But their expressive language often lags. Their brains simply are processing twice as much information as many of their peers! Give them more time to respond when in conversations, and do not be surprised if they have a delay in their overall speaking development. This is perfectly normal!
STAY INFORMED. If your child is learning two languages, they may exhibit tendencies that can be confusing to adults but are a normal part of growing up this way. One of the most common confusions is known as “code mixing.”
Code mixing is when your child will mix together two words from different languages. Some people worry that this means the child is confused. On the contrary, it is a normal part of development, and is a part of your little one making use of the languages they have at their disposal to express themselves. That being said, if you have a concern about your child’s language, always check with your pediatrician or a speech pathologist (preferably one who specializes in bilingualism). While there is no greater incidence of language disorders in bilingual children, early intervention is key if you happen to have a child who does have difficulty.
Fluency in multiple languages is a wonderful quality for a person, and many families have the opportunity to expose their children to a bilingual environment. As with many aspects of development, Montessori makes suggestions to allow this experience to be productive, supportive, and humane for your young child so that they can have a positive learning experience.