Fostering bilingualism for babies of monolingual parents

It is not uncommon that many monolingual parents want to give their children the opportunities they may not have had to learn a second language from an early age. Yet not being fluent in the target language themselves, they hesitate as they think they can't possibly be successful at achieving such a hefty goal. Some advise hiring a native speaker and letting them do all the work, but this is not always possible for a variety of reasons. What then, is the eager parent to do? Is it even worth thinking about?

 Photo by  Sue Zeng  on  Unsplash

Photo by Sue Zeng on Unsplash

One study published last summer displayed that it is indeed possible for little ones from monolingual homes to successfully acquire a second language. The study reviewed a play-based curriculum in Spain that sought to teach English to children under age 3 using "parentese" or a speech technique commonly employed when speaking to babies through simple vocabulary terms in a high-pitched sing-song type voice. With an hour of English sessions a day in under 5 months, the children receiving this form of instruction had significant improvements compared to the control group in a standard bilingual program, producing over 5 times as many English words or phrases per child per hour compared to their peers. Follow-up testing months later again reinforced these results. The lead researcher concluded that even the youngest of children from monolingual homes can develop bilingual skills. 

“With the right science-based approach that combines the features known to grow children’s language, it is possible to give very young children the opportunity to start learning a second language, with only one hour of play per day in an early education setting,” Dr. Ramirez said. “This has big implications for how we think about foreign-language learning.”

Studies repeatedly display that the earlier a person learns another language, the easier it will be for them. No age is too young. Babies have a fantastic ability to learn, and, whether from a monolingual or bilingual environment, learning a second language is certainly possible!

Visit https://www.washington.edu/news/2017/07/17/bilingual-babies-study-shows-how-exposure-to-a-foreign-language-ignites-infants-learning/ for more information about this study and its significance for our children!