Dr. Jan Wasowicz, a speech-language pathologist, breaks down what’s the difference between speech, language & literacy, and overlap in the context of human learning.
Craig Selinger, a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Brooklyn Letters, shares best tips for raising bilingual children to optimize success and stay on top of developmental milestones.
We thank Sharon Feiereisen and Momtastic for including us in their article published on their parenting website.
Giving a child the gift of languages is one of the most precious gifts any parent can give, especially in our increasingly global world. Of course, it’s not magic – if you only speak one language at home it’s going to be hard to pass two down to your child, but for multi-lingual households wanting to raise a bilingual child there are a number of strategies to consider to optimize success and stay on top of developmental milestones. To find out more we spoke with Craig Selinger, a speech-language pathologist and the owner of Brooklyn Letters.
Momtastic: What are the best strategies for raising a bilingual child?
Craig Selinger: There are several important factors to consider when exposing a baby/toddler/child to one or more languages. These variables are between the child and the adult(s): how many words they hear by a live adult and the number of high-quality interactions/opportunities for turn-taking. Turn-taking means the baby/toddler/child communicates, e.g., smiles, points, produces a sound/word, and the adult reciprocates by acknowledging the child’s intent. Turn-taking can also be adult-driven, and of course, this should occur naturally during play. Toddlers between 18-24 months of age who are engaged in more language-rich turn-taking, average 14 to 27 percent higher scores on their IQ tests when these children were tested later at 9-14 years of age. If you want to improve your child’s IQ score, the most important factors are the quantitative and qualitative interactions the child experiences from birth to 36 months of age. Recently, however, researchers are cautioning the interpretation of this data.
Here are the best strategies for boosting a little one’s vocabulary and IQ (regardless of how many languages they are exposed to):
- Turn off electronic devices
- Getting your child’s attention with language-rich age-appropriate activities e.g. arts and crafts, music, pretend play, puzzles, physical play, books, sensory activities, etc.
- Take advantage of what your child is interested in and focused on it
- Talk about what you and your child are experiencing.
- Build background knowledge by having your child exposed to varied experiences, e.g., taking the bus, gardening, hiking, going to the library, shopping at the grocery store, etc.
- Allow your child to be curious and follow their lead
- Explicitly teach vocabulary by building a language-rich environment.
- Tell stories
- Read books (in different languages when teaching more than one language)
Momtastic: What are the biggest mistakes parents make when trying to raise a bilingual child?
Craig Selinger: Parents’ biggest mistakes when raising a bilingual child are not exposing the child to a second language right away, particularly when one caregiver speaks more than one language. Further, teaching a secondary or tertiary language must be words spoken from an adult and not from a device.
Also, parents think that speaking in more than one language will confuse their little ones. This is not true. Babies are hardwired from day 1 to decipher speech sounds from noise and to discriminate sounds in all languages. The earlier you expose babies to spoken words by live adults, babies’ brains will identify and recognize these sounds. As little one’s age, their brains are less plastic and it will become more challenging for them to process these distinct sounds in words. Their brains are statistical, complex machines and their minds will parse out multiple languages when spoken to. As the baby/child is exposed to a new language, it’s using it or lose it. So if a parent invests time and energy into exposing their little one to a second language, they must continue to stimulate their child with dual or more languages.