You are a happy parent. You have a precious baby that you decided to raise bilingually or even multilingually.
It is time for your family and, if you are a minority language speaking parent, for you personally to set the priorities. Set them right from the start, as the way you start could affect your success in passing your mother tongue (or the targeted language) onto your child. You should really think through it and act on what I say, if you wish a high level of proficiency in your language for the child. You might have a feeling that your child will have a plenty of time for language learning and that he/she is still just a baby. Yes, the latter is true, but not the former as the time will pass by so fast that you won’t even notice when it’s time for your child to go to school where he/she will inevitably detach from you and your language daily influence.
How do you figure out what’s important? How do you prioritize the language learning?
Direct interaction with your child.
By spending more time directly interacting with your child you at the same time give the priority to the language learning.
A child starts learning language still in the womb and keeps on learning day after day, word by word. He learns even when he is not talking back to you, when he is 1,2,3 month old.
The first months is when YOU need to do all the talking. I know that could feel weird as nobody answers you. Your baby is just a passive listener, BUT he is also a very fast learner.
Children need to hear you to speak to them, interact with them. They need to hear words several times in order to acquire them.
The words are rolling on and on, like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger as you roll it across a snowy lawn.
Use any opportunities to talk to your baby. Play with your baby, read to your baby, just be with him/her and SPEAK SPEAK SPEAK to him/her. Every simple thing you do, such as singing a lullaby helps you to prepare your baby for the future literacy.
Do you know what is the best way to start building your child’s vocabulary? - take him for a stroll and talk and explain to him everything you see.
Here are other changes and decision you may need to make.
I know many of us feel, especially with the birth of a new family, that everything should be perfect. The house, the family.
You try to do your best in being parents, a husband, a wife.
The first three years of your child’s life are the most important for the language development (and not only!) . Your child needs you during these years the most. Especially if you are the parent , who is passing on a second language.
Your child’s need in your support is proportional to the child’s growth rate. The faster he grows the more he needs you. He learns about the new and exciting world around him and becomes more independent. Overtime your child will start to slowly detach from you and grow into an independent human being day by day giving you more time for yourself. But this stage of life comes later. Right now you need to make more time for your baby. But how? Where can you find time? How to make the time for a child in our busy life?
When your baby is up, it’s “his time”. Talk and involve your baby into activities when he is less tired and more alert. And do whatever you need to do around the house or outside, when the baby is tired or asleep. That way you can get the maximum results from those hours of learning.
A quick observation based on my kids: the more they were learning the better they were sleeping; thus, giving me more time to take care of other things around the house.
If you can, try to live near your workplace to cut on the commute time and be home early for your little one.
If you need help - find a babysitter or daycare provider speaking your language.
Three course meal is great, but do you really need it now? There are many dishes that are very healthy, easy to cook and , what is very important here, they are fast to prepare! When your child is older, he/she will help you to prepare those big meals, just wait a little. He will learn new words and practice speaking simply by doing it with you.
Mix and match the responsibilities. Encourage your half to pitch in more. Take turns cooking. Or cook and freeze meals to free up time.
When your child is ready to eat adults like food , make a dish that everyone can eat. This could be a good remedy for picky eaters as well.
Think what you spend a lot of time on and how you can reorganize your life to have this activity during your child’s rest hours.
Delegate! Hire help!
Groceries. How about a home delivery? Check online and local stores for this possibility. Yes, it costs extra money, but think about it as a little investment into your child’s future. It’s better, if you spend time together now than pay language teachers later.
Cleaning. If you feel overwhelmed, hire someone to clean your house. It does not have to be every week. If you are on a tight budget having a cleaning service for 3 hours every other week will do the magic and will help you keep the house under control. Look at it as a very good investment in your child's bilingual education.
If your relatives / friends offered you help to run some errands -- take it.
Talk to your husband / wife / partner , find a solution to optimize your life to be there for your soon to be bilingual baby for these precious three years. Your child grows and changes, he will be more independent soon, but the first three years of his life are when he learns the most and masters the languages.
And when the question comes:
Should I read to my child or clean the house?
I answer: Read!
What would YOU answer?
I am pretty much the only language source for my kids and I know for sure my kids won’t be speaking my language this fluently as they are without myself setting the priorities and putting the kids language learning needs before my own and without support of my lovely husband.
Do you have something to add? Please do so in the comments below! And Thank You!
You might also like reading:
How To Raise a Bilingual / Multilingual child? Where to start?
Choosing the best language strategy for your family.
Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.
What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.
Can babies distinguish foreign languages?
Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language or another family to chat with? Click here to find it now!