8 steps to Raising Bilingual Children in Guernsey

Why we need to raise bilingual children

Many children today are being brought up either by two parents from different cultures or live in a culture different to their own.

Children living away from home maybe forced to learn another language at school then speak to their parents in their native tongue at home, creating bilingual children naturally.

The challenge is for those families where mother and father are from different cultures and speak different languages. How do parents manage to create an environment where both languages and cultures are understood by children? This is a challenge for many parents.

The Bilingual Home Situation

Being raised by an Italian Mother and English Father or a Spanish Father and English Mother can be benificial if the learning environment is managed correctly. Children learn not only words, they learn tone, they learn differences in tone between men and women and they learn to structure phrases in a polite way. Therefore, we know a childrens brains is highly capable of absorbing a second or third language.

1. Family need to discuss and agree language management

Parents may communicate with each other in one language i.e. English or they may use both. Either way, parents must agree when the second language is spoken without confusing children or creating conflict. When one parent only speaks one language they may become suspicious of introducing a second language they are not party to.

Setting out a time of day to introduce the second language and having only that language spoken, read or listened to will ensure children learn naturally without being overwhelmed.

2. Set realistic expectations of the child

One parent may want to introduce a number of languages while the children are young enough to absorb them. As many as 4 languages can be learnt successfully for those exposed to these languages i.e. the Swiss have four official languages: French, German, Italian, Romansh but most also speak English in the main cities in Switzerland.

Switzerland is bordered by four countries so the Swiss are exposed to those neighbouring languages.

3. Set out an action plan of who speaks what language

Children need consitency to build confidence in themselves and their environment, this is particulary true when introducing two languages into the home. One plan could be – Mum speaks in Italian while Dad speaks in English with the child naturally understanding and replying in the correct language. This usually works particularly well.

4. Seek or create a support network of parents speaking that language

Children learn to speak their native language by listening to constant conversations bubbling around them. They learn through exposure and need. They initially learn to speak by needing to communicate to get what they want i.e. cup, bottle, out.

By building a support network you can share your struggles, gain advice but also have a place to speak in your second language. Play dates are perfect for children to gain exposure from their peers.

Accent Language School have recently launched the Guernsey Global Community for International collaboration and friendship. This would be a great place to find your support network. If you would like to find out more then please contact us.

5. Continuous praise and encouragement

It may feel as though your child is never going to pick it up, you may have days when they are just not interested. Therefore it is important to praise and even reward them for their achievements however small those maybe.

Some children will pick up the language quicker than others so adopt patience and understanding when correcting mistakes and let the tuition flow at their pace.

6. Mixing up the languages

If you have ever been to Montreal, Canada you may have overheard conversations between French Canadians on the tube or on the bus. The French Canadians ‘mashup’ English and French in a way that I find quite refreshing.

It is quite normal for children to use both languages when speaking at home but rest assured when they are at school they will revert to the correct language.

7. Don’t leave it to chance

Don’t expect a child to ‘pick it up’ naturally. Take the time to read to them, speak to them, play games and give them the right level of support, encouragement and exposure to the second language as to the first. Parents should have realistic expectations of the child and put some time and effort into helping them.

8. Invest in some additional lessons or tutition

Getting the work life balance right is hard enough so how do you find the time for the second language time on top of everything else? Accent Language School can help you. We offer Saturday Morning Culture Classes and language classes for children as young as 3 years old.

Our French cultural classes are taught by highly qualified native French teachers and taught solely in French. Bilingual children will especially love this class as we’ve make it fun for them and they all make friends with other bilingual children.

Give your child the best chance in life

The are many benefits for children who become bilingual, not least they understand who they are and where they come from, but it does take planning, patience and effort.  Contact us for more information on or Language and Cultural Classes on Saturday mornings info@accent.gg Tel 01481 714909

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