How common is it to be bilingual?
Bilingual education: how does it work?
But even if both parents speak the other's language perfectly - the bilingual upbringing often cannot be followed through in everyday life. It is particularly difficult for the parent whose mother tongue is not the language of the country in which the family lives. Of course, he also speaks German in everyday life - be it when shopping at the supermarket checkout or when talking to the teacher in kindergarten. "Parents should therefore be aware of the role each language should play in their child's life," advises the expert. "Otherwise the exceptions will increase in the family over time."
Actively support the second language
The more people there are with whom the child can speak in a language, the more likely it is that it will be successful in learning. Audio books, listening to music and reading together can also have a positive effect on language development, as can trips to countries where the language is spoken and phone calls with friends or relatives living there. "The language should be anchored in the children's lives as presently as possible," advises the expert. Nevertheless, there can be phases in which the child rejects a language. "Don't put any pressure on you," says Leist-Villis. "Much more important than the actual success in special language acquisition is that your child basically develops fun with languages."
Mixing languages is normal at first
If the child mixes up languages in the first few years of life, this is no cause for concern or even a sign of excessive demands: "Language mixing is normal for bilingual children," says the expert. "If the child cannot spontaneously think of a word, it automatically reverts to the other language." A conscious language separation can be expected from the age of three and a half to four years at the earliest.
In addition, the languages develop dynamically: sometimes one is the weaker and the other the stronger, then the other way around. "That can change in the course of life, depending on the subject area or where you are," says Leist-Villis. She emphasizes that it is the most natural thing in the world for parents to speak to their children the language that they speak best themselves: mostly their mother tongue. If that doesn't work so consistently, the expert advises you to stay relaxed: "You are a bilingual role model yourself!"
Bilingual education despite monolingual parents - is that possible?
Sometimes, however, monolingual parents also want their child to learn a second language as soon as possible. But be careful: the parents' school English is not enough for a bilingual upbringing. The children learn only a limited vocabulary and memorize grammatical errors. In this case, it makes sense to visit a bilingual or multilingual daycare center. "With a lot of gestures and facial expressions, the children understand very quickly what the foreign-language educator means and in this way learn to speak the foreign language," says Manja Schlammer, head of a bilingual daycare center in Munich.
It takes some time before the children begin to communicate in the foreign language. "That can be expected at the earliest at four or five years of age," says Schlammer. And: Parents shouldn't expect too much: Perhaps the child will learn small sentences, songs or games in the second language and will be able to follow a conversation more easily and react to it. However, this language does not have the same meaning for the child as his mother tongue.
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