What to expect when raising bilingual?

In bilingual education, the first thing is to have an unwavering determination.  Indeed, if raising a child is already a complicated thing as it is, raising bilingual adds to the challenges.  Why? Here is a little outline of the difficulties you might come to face.

  1. Onlookers’ stares – It is probably what bilingual parents mention most often.  Many of us feel embarrassed to use our minority language (ml) in public owing to the stares they attract, and even the occasional hostile comments.
  2. The absence of family support  – Hostile comments come mostly from relatives and friends who have the privilege to speak to us openly. Many monolinguals will not understand your choice, and in particular if you are a non-native speaker of your ml.
  3. Myths about bilingualism– A lot of them are going around our society.  So many in fact that they deserve a post all to themselves.  Until then, to wrap it up simply, a poorly designed study after WWII seriously harmed bilingualism, giving rise to myths such as bilingualism provoking language delay or confusion in children.  
  4. Your child’s resistance– kids are very pragmatic:  why make the effort to speak the ml when Daddy and Mummy speak the Majority Language (ML)? It is crucial to create in him/her the need to use the minority language (cf. Adam Beck in “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability”). And since every child is different, so are your circumstances, hence you will have to work out what works for your family.
  5. Riguour– We all have these moments when we are tired, and yet we cannot depart from our language strategy as it would be sending a subliminal message to your child that using the minority language really is not that necessary.
  6. Education and healthcare professionals advise against bilingual education –  Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals do not seem to be up-to-date with the latest studies mentioned above. There also are a lot of teachers that are not well informed and think that by learning 2 languages your child will fall behind his classmates. Yet, we estimate that 60% of the world population that is bi- or multilingual… 60% of the world population cannot be suffering from delay or confusion!
  7. Loneliness – If you are the only ml source, this can sometimes be very heavy to bear.
  8. Establishing a relationship with your child in the minority language – Some parents occasionally find it difficult to use the ml with their child, even if it is their mother-tongue.  As with any relationship, this can take a little time, meaning a few months. You will hence have to be patient, and even more so if your ml is not your mother-tongue as you have to bear in mind the time you will need to become comfortable using this language on a daily basis.
  9. Learning child and education related ml vocabulary – whether you are an ml  native or not, we do not necessarily have the requisite vocabulary.
  10. Using the ml will be a continuous effort if it is not your native language – nevertheless, this does not imply that you cannot raise bilingual if you are not a native speaker, but simply that in doing so you will be required to make continuous efforts and that you should be aware of it.
  11. Raising bilingual is expensive – Interaction is the key to your child’s language acquisition.  However, to foster discussions and immerse your child in the ml, you will need a large amount of resources renewed on a regular basis to feed the conversations and keep their attention. A small monthly budget could play the trick.

Here are the 11 difficulties that are most frequently mentioned by parents raising bilingual kids.  Do not let these intimidate you in your decision to raise bilingual. Just be conscious of these so as not to be taken aback when confronted by them, and above all do not let them discourage you in your pursuit.  Indeed, the only solution in most of these situations is perseverance. Be a peaceful yet powerful force and you will get there in the end.

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