Bringing-up Bilingual Baby
by Dorothy P. Dougherty
Experts believe that exposing your baby to a foreign language, early in life, will actually stimulate his brain development. If you, as an adult, have tried to learn a foreign language, you may have had a difficult time hearing the subtle differences in the pitch, tone, and unfamiliar sounds of the language you were trying to understand and speak. However, soon after birth, babies begin to perceive the differences in the actual sounds that make up words. In fact, researchers have found that four mouth old babies have the remarkable ability to hear the differences between every sound in every language. This is a difficult task for an adult, as many of the worlds 6,000 languages use a different assortment of sounds to build words. However, by the age of ten months, an American baby surrounded by English-speaking adults has learned to tune out the sounds of Russian, for example, and concentrate on, and learn, the syllables and words of the language spoken by the people around him. This is why experts recommend that exposing your baby to a foreign language early in life may make it easier for him to learn the language.
What a wonderful advantage your child will have if he is to learn more then one language. Research has shown that bilingual students have stronger problem solving and analytical skills and may even have higher grade point averages. Some experts believe that when a person is bilingual they may also be more creative as they have more and different ways to express themselves. Socially, if your child is bilingual or multilingual, he will be able to communicate with people form different cultures, which may lead to more extensive job and personal opportunities in the future.
If your child is growing up in a bilingual household, to make learning easier, it is recommended that you expose your child to a consistent pattern. "One Person, One Langauge" is recommended. Each parent should use a different language with the child, or one language is used in the home, and another outside the home. This will enable him to associate each language with different people, places, and situations. It is important to choose a consistent pattern that is easy for your family to adopt.
You do not have to be a native speaker of a foreign language (tapi setahu gue, kalau kita mau ngomong, misal bahasa inggris ke anak, kita mesti yakin kalau bahasa ingris kita beneran bagus, soalnya kalau nggak ntar salah lagi, dan anak kita belajar bahasa yang salah!!!), nor do you have to live in the country where a particular language is spoken, to support your child's foreign language learning. Form a play group with children who speak the foreign language your child is learning. Perhaps you could hire a nanny or arrange a regular baby-sitting arrangements with another mother or father in your neighborhood who speaks the language. Enroll your child in a bilingual pre-school or elementary school. Make arrangements with the foreign language teacher to tape record the lessons presented in your child's classroom. He will be able to practice pronunciation at home and show you what he is learning.
Utilize the large selection of interactive multimedia software programs, games, books, and toys developed by foreign language companies. Learn songs to sing to and with your child and play foreign language tapes in your car. Look for bilingual library books to read to your child which include information about the foreign country's culture.
Watch bilingual children's television shows together. Utilize a dictionary to look up unfamiliar words. If possible, take trips to places where people speak the foreign language or take a tour with foreign tourists.
Although many experts agree it may take longer for a child who is exposed to two, or more, languages at an early age to begin talking, usually by age three, most will learn to use both languages without a lot of effort. When your young child begins to say words and sentences, he may go through a period of mixing the two languages and begin to use vocabulary from both languages in the same sentence. He may also not have equal skills in both languages, as it is common for there to be more understanding than actual use of one language.
In order for your child to become truly bilingual, he will need a lot of stimulation in both languages. He will need to hear songs, stories, and lots of talk in both languages with equal enthusiasm and spontaneity. As with all kinds of learning, it is important that you often show your child that you are interested and consistently support your child's efforts to learn. Relax and have fun helping your young child reach his highest potential.
Dorothy P. Dougherty may be contacted at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0399527311/ref=ed_oe_p/002-0659993-8001642 [email protected] . Click here to view more of their articles.
Dorothy P. Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP, is a Speech/Language Pathologist and author of How to Talk to Your Baby: A Guide to Maximizing Your Child's Language And Learning Skills. (Penguin/Putnam, 12/99) For 24 years, Ms. Dougherty has worked with children and adults in school, clinical, and private settings. She obtained her bachelor's degree in Speech Pathology from West Chester University in Pennsylvania in 1978, her master's degree in Speech Pathology from the College of New Jersey in Trenton in 1980, and her Certificate of Clinical Competency from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association in 1981. In her book, she shows busy parents how to enhance a young child's language skills as they go about daily life activities. How children learn to talk, what to expect at different ages, and brain boosting tips from birth to three years are also included
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