How to Raise a Bilingual Child

In order to take care of Ben you have to be able to speak more than one language. This was an issue for my parents who I had to give a refresher mini course in Hebrew to so I could have a date night when they visited. He communicates with both Hebrew and English. Half and half. If his nose is running he’ll tell you in Hebrew, if Ben wants something to eat he’ll ask you for “cookies.” ” Cookies” aren’t really a cookie though, I just want to clarify that, it’s more like a cracker. I’ve learned more Hebrew being his mom than I had in the six years prior being married to his dad. His Hebrew has grown organically through several different channels. I’m going to share how we have taught in both languages simultaneously. Currently he’s not speaking either in complete sentences, we recently caught up with a speech therapist that I used to work with and she advised that he has not yet picked his dominant language. He is 2 and a half-that is normal, and that is very normal for kids who are bilingual. Just because he picks a dominant language doesn’t mean that he’s going lose the other language either.


1. My husband refuses to speak English at all with him. Ben has to only communicate in Hebrew with my husband.  If Ben wants “up” from the dinner table he will be answered in Hebrew with “I don’t understand what yo want, I don’t speak English with you.”  For me, it’s easier because we are in America, all of his classes are in English, and our day to day life is in English.  So he gets plenty of English, so his dad really has to be firm in speaking only Hebrew.

2.  We had an Israeli nanny for a year.  She only spoke Hebrew with Ben and she taught him
Hebrew songs.

3.  TV!  TV is huge.  My speech therapist friend agrees.  She said to teach a young child any language put them in front of the TV.  He has always from babyhood watched TV in both languages.

4.   We took a trip to Israel for a month and all of us were immersed in Hebrew.  My Hebrew developed over there dramatically in a short time!  Full immersion is the way to go if you get the opportunity.

5. Hebrew CD’s are on constant rotation in my car.  I know every Hebrew nursery rhyme!  Ben sings along where ever we go, it’s so sweet!

6.  Reading is so important in both languages.  I honestly don’t read a lot in Hebrew to him because he doesn’t have patience for how slowly I read and loses interest.  I do read him flash cards and have a few books I’m familiar with.  Our nanny read to him in Hebrew only, and my friends who are Israeli always read Hebrew stories to our kids.

7. Hebrew toys help some, especially if they make noise and speak.  His aunt in Israel sent some learning toys that will increase his vocabulary and even increase mine.  I also turn his American toys to Spanish just to strengthen his ear for languages.

8. Lastly, our local community has a large Israeli population so there are many friends and kids for him to speak Hebrew with.

We started all of these steps from birth.  My husband has not spoken a word of English to my son ever. English is only for mommy.  This is truly a gift for Ben and it will be a gift for Adam who already has a word in Hebrew and a word in English!

 

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