As parents most of us have an ideal picture of what we want our children to be like when they grow up. Some of us are more specific than others with regards to the personality traits and behaviours we wish for our children, but for most of us ‘happy’, ‘honest’ and ‘confident’ feature high on our wish-list. Next, we think “What can I do to help my children to become such adults? Are my parenting skills good enough?” Parents in multilingual families usually have one more wish – for the children to become bilingual. And we have one more worry “Will I be able to bring up bilingual children?” I believe the answer to that question is “Yes, you will be successful” – let me tell you why.
1. You are reading this post
The mere fact that you have taken some time to read this post (and I am sure many others, too!) means that you are actively thinking about the task at hand. Whether you realise it or not, every time you read about raising a bilingual child, you learn something. Every story you hear about other multilingual families gives you ideas and insights into what you can do in your family. And there are lots of similar families out there!
2. Millions of other parents have succeeded
There are millions and millions of children across the world are growing up bilingual at this very moment. Actually the majority of all kids grow up to become bilingual – it may not feel like it when you look around in your own community, but it is a fact. “But what about all those families that didn’t succeed?” you may ask. Having talked to parents whose children have grown up to only speak the majority language, I have found that the common denominator is usually that they family never really thought about the language situation. The parents – often bilinguals themselves – thought it would just happen – that their children would become active bilinguals just like they did themselves. You are however thinking about it – you are here!
3. Languages are important to you
The more important something is to us, the harder we work for it. It is in the human nature to put in extra effort when we deal with something that is close to our heart. Clearly you think highly of language skills and appreciate the benefits of being bilingual. I firmly believe that the more people learn more than one language and are able to communicate across cultural and geographical borders, the better we can get along. More language skills mean more understanding.
4. You have a goal
Setting a clear goal hugely increases the chances of success in any scenario, and your goal is clear: to raise a bilingual child. Having a goal focuses your mind and you are intuitively drawn to actions and solutions that put you on the path to success, and remember – you are the one who defines what success looks like. Every family is different. If your goal is for your child to understand a language, that is as valid a goal as wanting your child to be able to attend university in the target language. You know what is best and what works for your family.
5. Reach out and you will find support
Even if you are the only person speaking your language with your children.
Even if your partner or extended family is not supportive.
Even if you yourself didn’t become bilingual although you grew up in a multilingual family.
Even if you don’t think you have the time to commit.
Even if you feel that it is all too hard and you are doubting the outcome.
We are with you and we have your back!