Before my first baby was born, when I still had not decided on a name or the type of diapers I was going to use, there was something I was clear about: that girl was going to be bilingual.
As enthusiastic I felt about that goal of mine, I was also aware that I didn’t have any idea how to raise a bilingual child. It was a new territory to me.
I became bilingual during my late elementary school years after my monolingual parents enroll me in a dual language school. My personal journey to bilingualism was different from the one I wanted to give to my daughter.
So I read a lot. I devoured books, articles, and whatever I found about bilingualism. Although it was a topic close to my heart, the more I read, the more overwhelmed I felt.
But the best advise that I received about raising a bilingual child came from my mom (the abuelita to be who only speaks Spanish.) She said that if I wanted my child to be bilingual, I needed to be intentional, creative, and start as soon as I hold that baby of mine in my arms.
3 Ways to Raise a Bilingual Baby
So how do you start? It’s super easy. At the beginning all you need to do is to talk, sing, and read to your baby… in the target language.
Talk to your baby
Babies love to hear us talk, especially to them with loving attention. Whether you choose the OPOL method or another approach, make sure to always talk to your baby. The more words a baby hears, the better is for her development.
I chose to talk to my daughter in Spanish. At the beginning it felt a little strange to talk to a little human that seemed only interested to eat, poop, and sleep, but as days went by, it became natural and provided my baby with strong foundations for her future bilingual skills.
Read. Read. Read to your baby
Introduce early the joy of books to your child! Choose books that are engaging and interactive.
One of my favorite bilingual books for children are Canticos. Their books feature popular nursery rhymes from the Spanish speaking world. They are super fun to read to my children especially when I am reading the nursery rhymes that are already familiar to them.
Another cool thing about Canticos is that their books are not only for babies but for all ages. My preschooler enjoys “reading” the story by opening and closing the accordion. And my first grader loves to read them and practice her reading skills.
But the best of all is that these books are great ways to not only raise bilingual kids, but bicultural kids as well.
Sing to your baby
There are wonderful benefits in singing to our babies. It’s fun, a great way to express love, but it’s also another opportunity to strength language skills.
Before getting Canticos, I would regularly sing “Los Pollitos,” “Ratoncitos” or “Elefantitos” to my kids, so now it’s super fun to also practice those familiar songs in Spanish and English with the same book. Make sure to check out their App where you can sing along to Canticos songs in both languages.