Up to the age of seven, children are language sensitive. They can then easily learn a second or even a third language. This is called ‘multilingual parenting’. Most Hmong translators learn English from their childhood with the guidance of their mothers. It is important in multilingual parenting that as a parent you speak two languages well. If this is not the case, you better choose to teach your child your mother tongue. Then your child will probably learn one language.
There are two forms of multilingual parenting. Your child learns two or more languages at the same time from birth. Or your child first learns the mother tongue from birth and the moment he goes to the playgroup, for example, he learns a second language. In both cases, it is important that your child is offered language in a good way.
It is important: to create a language-rich environment for your child, from birth, by reading a lot, talking together, etc. And: let your child get acquainted with the Dutch language as young as possible! If your child (soon) goes to school in the Netherlands, it is also very important to know the Dutch language well.
Tips to help your child learn a new language:
Tip 1: Talk about everything you see and do together. For example, cooking while eating, shopping, walking, or cycling.
Tip 2: Talk in turn and let your child tell you too. Respond to what your child is saying. Listen carefully to what your child says and show that it is fun to tell. This creates a conversation.
Tip 3: Encourage your child to use words. Just making gestures or sounds is not enough to learn a language. Don’t be too quick to show that you understand your child when they use gestures or sounds.
Tip 4: Your child learns a lot from you. Therefore, do not talk too fast. Use short and good sentences.
Tip 5: Don’t let your child repeat the wrong sentences or words. It is better to repeat the word or sentence yourself in the right way. This way your child does not get the feeling that he has made a mistake and learns in the right way.
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Tip 6: Read aloud every day: five to ten minutes is enough. In the library, you can borrow children’s books for free. Choose books with pictures, you can point to and name them. The pictures allow your child to understand the story better. There are also nice reading apps for your smartphone or tablet. Free examples are the App Little Critter or the Dikkie Dik lite app.
Tip 7: Make use of other fun activities such as watching TV together and singing songs. Talk about it afterward, your child will learn from that.
Tip 8: Playing together is important to learn the language. While playing, your child learns to tell what he does, to make plans, and to come up with solutions. Let your child play a lot with peers. To learn Dutch well, you can play your child with Dutch-speaking children.
Tip 9: Don’t force your child to tell. This way your child may hate talking. Remember that you don’t always feel like talking to yourself.
Tip 10: Talk to your child a lot; in the mother tongue and in the second language. Use different words and concepts.
Tip 11: Make language learning fun; read books together, sing songs, and watch children’s programs or DVDs. If your child enjoys it, learning will be much easier.
Tip 12: Tell your child that it is clever to speak two languages and give a compliment for this. Show that both languages are equally important. This way your child gets a positive image of both languages.