Before Greyson was born, I knew I wanted him to be raised in a multilingual environment, but once I was faced with actually teaching him, I wasn't sure where to start. It turns out there aren't any hard and fast rules for how to teach your baby multiple languages. And things are even more challenging for me since I'm not fluent in the two additional languages to English I'm teaching (Korean and Brazilian Portuguese). But after meeting many people who grew up learning many languages and other parents who are teaching their kids several languages and reading books like The Bilingual Edge: Why, When, and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language, I felt confident that everything would unfold as long as I stayed consistent and kept on teaching.
When I first wrote about my multilingual experience on my blog here back in February, I had no idea how I was going to go about teaching my baby both Korean and Brazilian Portuguese. After some trial and error, I decided to alternate days and speak all Korean to him one day and all Portuguese the next. For months I did this without any response from him at all. I often wondered if anything was sinking in and I doubted myself. Then, there was some feedback from Greyson. The first thing he recognized in all three languages was "clap your hands." He would clap whenever we said it in any of the languages! And then when he turned 1 in July, he was starting to verbalize a lot more. He started mimicking the words (mostly in English, but that's ok). In early August, I did this video and did an impromptu "test." I asked him to show me his head in all three languages...and he did it. I was so excited and surprised. (I probably should have thrown in some other words in the video to show that he wasn't just touching his head because he touches his head for any word, but trust me...he was touching his head because he knew what I was saying!)
What I've learned for my 14-month experiment so far, after the jump!
Here's what I've learned so far, 14 months into my multilingual experiment.
1. Set small goals. For a baby, a goal might be a word or a phrase. I think keeping the goals small and realistic, helps keep you engaged in the process. If this weren't fun for me, too, I couldn't and wouldn't be doing it.
2. See that your baby enjoys the process. For me, teaching my baby three languages has nothing to do with being an overachiever. I see that my baby really is a sponge and that he is getting a lot out of this experience. He's proud of himself when he shows us he knows what words are in different languages.
3. Be consistent. I often default to English when I can't think of the words in Korean or Portuguese, but I make myself look up vocabulary if I need to. I'm learning along with him and that makes it more fun.
4. Know that you're getting as much out of it as your baby is! I've heard people say they want to teach their kids another language besides English, but that they don't speak other languages. It's actually a great time to learn a new language since babies don't jump into conjugating verbs right away. They start with words like ball, dog, milk...just like in English! I am enjoying learning as I go along.
It's a long road ahead, but I'm excited about the progress I've made so far. If you're teaching your baby to be bilingual and have any tips or ideas, please leave a comment below!