What are the options for children learning two languages at home?

Bilingual Children Recommendations

What are the options for children learning two languages at home?

Learning two languages can have many benefits for children, including improving their memory and their ability to multitask. It can be difficult to know what is best when raising a bilingual child, particularly when language delays and diagnoses are at play. In general, there are two recommendations for children when it comes to learning more than one language.

One environment, one language

In this model, one language is used at home whilst a different language is used outside of the home. It is recommended to have the language that is used in the place you are living used when you and your child are outside of your home. For example, at home you and your child might speak Spanish and then when you go out of the house, you and your child speak the language that is used where you are living, for example English.

One person, one language

This approach sees one parent/carer using one language all of the time and the other parent/carer using the other language all of the time. For example, the father might speak in Spanish to the child whilst the mother would speak in English.
This allows the child to learn both languages at the same time. It also prevents the child from becoming too confused if the parents are interchangeably using both languages.

Additionally, this model can be used with more than two languages by introducing a third language only when outside of the home. For example, the father might speak Spanish at home, the mother might speak German at home and then outside of the home you would all speak English.

What about language delays and social difficulties?

It is difficult to say what is best when it comes to language delays, social difficulties and other delays or disorders your child may have. In regard to social skills and communication skills, research shows that bilingual children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were able to pick up social skills and communication skills at similar rates to monolingual children. It is recommended to speak to your Speech Pathologist if your child is finding it hard to learn language.As each child is different, it is recommended to speak to a Speech Pathologist to find out what approach is best for you and your child.See below for more information on this topic: https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/connecting-communicating/bilingualism-multilingualism/raising-bilingual-children-tips

Siyambalapitiya, S., Paynter, J., Nair, V.K.K. et al. Longitudinal Social and Communication Outcomes in Children with Autism Raised in Bi/Multilingual Environments. J Autism Dev Disord 52, 339–348 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-021-04940-x

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