Updated: Mar 13
One of the major challenges parents face when they exit to another country, is how they can help their kids learn a local language spoken in the new country they move to. Even more so when the language spoken in the new country is not the parents’ native language, learning a new language in itself is no easy task, even more so helping the kids learn this language too. However, raising a bilingual kid doesn’t have to be stressful. In this article we will share with you our 5 Actionable Tips for raising a bilingual kid as Afro American parent living abroad. Quick Exposure to the Language When you're planning your exit and it's certain that you’re moving to a new country, the next thing to do is to ensure your kids are exposed to the local language spoken in the new country you’re moving to as soon as possible. If by chance you have a family friend that speaks the native language of the country you’re moving to, then you should visit and spend more time with them. Taking your kids to communities where the language is spoken can also help facilitate the process. Research has shown that the earlier a child is introduced to a second language the easier it is for that child to learn that language. This is because kids in the early stage of their lives are still usually in their “critical period”, due to the brain’s elasticity and rapid neural, they can effortlessly learn languages. Create a Means/Need to use the language scenarios Exposure to the language alone is not enough, you have to create a means for your kid to use this language. Even as an adult, your conversational use of a new language can become rusty when you don't practice. Therefore, it is important to create opportunities for your kids to use what they have already picked up on, as the consistent use and practice of the language will help your kids become proficient in it. Enroll your kid in Local School Although enrolling your child in a local school can be scary for both yourself and the child, it is actually the best way to help them learn the local language. American expats often prefer to send their kids to international/English schools so it can be easy for the kids to cope, however enrolling your kid in a local or bilingual school can even better help them adjust to their new environment. This is also a great way to fulfill the tips stated above.
Have them participate in extracurricular activities If for some reason you do not want to send your child to a local school, you can also enroll your child in after-school activities. Search for program playgroups, and dance or swimming classes taught in the local language. Having your kids actively involved in any of these extracurricular activities will not only help them get better at speaking the new language, but it will also make them more exposed with the local customs and culture. Keep Developing their English/Native Language The process of teaching your kids a new language can be overwhelming, however, you should also make sure they don’t lose grasp of their English. This step is vital in raising a bilingual kid, speaking with them in native language at home, while they speak the new language in school/outside is a great way to help them balance out the bilingual skills. Personal Experience: When we moved to Mexico in 2018, and my son didn’t speak a lick of Spanish. We consistently engagements at places where he could interact with children who spoke Spanish, ie park, jungle gyms, art classes, etc. Additionally, we went to watch kids’ movies in Spanish at the theater, we enrolled him in a bilingual school and hired a Spanish tutor. Fast forward 2 years later and he is fluent in Spanish; speaking, reading and writing at age 8. They will get it! Although raising a bilingual kid can be stressful at the start, when you efficiently employ the tips listed above, you will be able to raise a bilingual kid without much stress.