Bringing up my son Enzo bilingual and more? Oh Yes!

{this is an article I wrote back in 2012 when my son was only 3 years old, now he is 8 and I am planning to write the follow up to this article.}

F3535C21-A67A-4C1A-A360-2BD86CA0AC1DI am very keen that my son Enzo should have the gift of second language and more if possible. My family is from Algeria (from a tribe which still uses it’s own dialect), and I have always regretted that I didn’t get the chance to learn the language as I grew up, unfortunately in France which is a monolingual country they did not support bilingualism at the time, nor the parents (with a ‘non-important’ language) which were advised to focus on the main language french. So now I am a Mother, I feel strongly about my duty to educate my son the best I can, and therefore with Enzo it will be different! I only speak to him in french, and we have french story books, CDs and DVDs. Even though he is only under 3, he has started talking to me using full sentences in french which I am really happy with. English is still his dominant language, and I struggle sometimes but I think he will be able to speak both languages well as he grows up.
Research shows that six months to four years is the optimal age to acquire a second language as they are at their most receptive to learning languages
Children who receive early intensive exposure to two languages can quickly and almost effortlessly acquire both languages simultaneously. At a young age, children can grasp a new language in the same way as they acquire their first language and won’t translate from their first language, as do older children.

Research shows that children who know at least two languages have expanded capabilities with respect to all three of the main functions of language: communicating, thinking, and learning about one’s culture” [Raising a Bilingual Child, by Barbara Zurer Pearson]

So how to bring your child bilingually ?
FiTrivia-Buttonrst of all follow your instinct, your heart and make up your own mind. Most experts will agree that one of the best ways to bring up your child bilingually is to expose them to a second language from birth… In this way, the child will automatically get accustomed and learn to use simultaneously both languages. Two stages can be identified, two important stages in your child life.

*Early raisers, bilingual child (0 – 3 ans)DF COVER - EXERCISE BOOK
In order for a baby to become bilingual, one must allow the baby to be in regular contact with each languages, it is to be stimulating, interesting in order to attract the baby’s interest and attention. You should also pay particular attention to the less-dominant language (minor language. Less-used language),which might be the language that is not used in the society, or in the country where you live.

“Make it fun, make it interesting!”

In this case, it is very important for the parent(s) or the carers with the « less-used» language to speak it as often as possible to the child(ren).

The rule not to break:
“One parent, one language! Stick to it!”

*Growing up with two languages
Depending on the family structure, the status of the languages within it’s members, each bilingual family will establish a linguistic « policy » that reflects and suits them. Problems can occur from the choice of living with more than one language, with a few questions arising….

Some resistance from the family?
Family members or friends, with good intentions, may try to discourage you with your choice of bringing up your child bilingually, particularly if they share and believe in preconceived ideas that this has more of a negative impart on your child development than any benefits.

Professional’s opinion?


Many psychologists, some teachers, doctors and others do still believe that a bilingual education or up bringing does slow down the child development. In my son’s case, yes he started talking after most of the children of his age but now he speaks 001well and his vocabulary and ability to communicate is no less than any other child of his age.Teaching your child a second language won’t confuse them unless they have a language disability. You should not be concerned if your child mixes two languages while in the process of learning a second language, that is to be expected.

Monolingual relatives?
Monolinguals member of the family can provide a support, a further motivation to your child to practice and learn thee language. Mainly if they speak the « minor » language of the family, and visits to family relatives are therefore becoming an important aspect for the development and practice of the second language, and are welcome by the child who will mostly enjoy the interaction. Even though for a moment, the balance will be reversed placing the « less-used » language to the dominant language status, but the benefits will be tremendous.
So, do not be afraid by this slight change, children are by nature adaptable more than we think! Everything will get back to normal as soon as you are back in the family home, this should not be a reason not to allow your child the benefits of long term family visits.
Plus, young bilingual children will have a linguistic and a cognitive advantage over monolingual children (they develop more synapses in the brain and are cognitively more flexible).

The importance of learning to read and write?
00Families with various languages often want their children to learn and write in their native language. But unless you have registered your child to a bilingual school, this will be a difficult learning curve for you and your child(ren), unless you are prepared and whiling to get involved and take matters into your own hands. If the languages have the same alphabet, the child will learn quickly to read in the other language. However, with the writing your child will need support, either from yourself (in the sense of giving him writing lessons – if you feel confident and comfortable to do so) otherwise you are better off finding an after school class, a tutor who will be providing with the adequate teaching to improve the writing side of the language, which is as important as the spoken side of any language.

I believe in bilingualism, my son is also being taught a third language now. Unfortunately, still today there is a lot of misconception, really myths, towards bilingualism, multilingualism. How many parents have heard from professional working with children to only speak one language, the one that is used in the country, and the one used at their child’s school! Just do what you thing is best for your own child(ren).

Today I am sharing my experiences because although it is hard work to bring up a child in different languages, well it is worth it, for you and for your child!

Please feel free to comments, to share your experiences. Get in touch, I am always happy to help.


Saleha Pinhorn
French Tutor & Multilingual story teller
Visit my Facebook page here

“Raising a Bilingual Child” by Barbara Zurer Pearson
Bilingualism Matters:
For classes, group lessons or private lessons in Marlborough, CanSpeakFrench:

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