My Toddler is Bilingual
This is a subject that constantly comes up with other moms in my community and I get questioned on it all the time. The fact that my toddler has been bi-lingual since 2 years old, doesn't make her special or different than other kids in her age group; however, I did want to share some insight on what I believe contributed to it.
My husband initially insisted we only spoke Armenian to her so that she can learn our language fluently. He had heard about my cousins kid who stuttered for a long time until they realized they need to focus on one language at the time. Every child is different and has different needs and I have to start by saying there is no "standard". David's concern, when she was 2, was that she was not talking; I understood his concerned but I also knew that every child has their own time and why are we freaking out in advance?? I knew she was not talking because she was trying to learn both Armenian and English at the same time and it was going to take longer than the perceived "norm". But I also knew that it was easier for her to learn the languages now, while she’s absorbing everything, than later. For me, it was important she learned English just as well as our Native language because after all we are in America. I know she’s too young for me to be concerned about her academics, but I don't want her to struggle from the start. I wanted to prep her to at least understand enough to have a somewhat easier time in school with her teacher and friends. This also translated when I started taking her to swimming and/or ballet; understanding what authority was telling her. This is not to say you should be concerned if they’re not talking past 2; every child has their own time and learning mechanism. Be patient and be persistent! Here are the top 4 factors I feel contributed to her being bilingual at a young age:
1. Repeat everything you say in one launguage, then the other. For example, if she pointed to an apple, I would say “apple” in both English and Armenian over and over again (this was before her even knowing how to talk). I would do this with EVERYTHING; “good morning” “are you hungry” “do you want to play”, everything.
2. Keep your sentences short. Don’t baby talk them but don’t talk to them as though they’re an adult either. “Turn off light” vs. “Can you please turn off the light”. They absorb your words quicker and understand better when you keep it short.
3. Let them watch TV. I know, this is usually not the best advise lol; however, they learn so much from just watching their favorite shows! I made sure to put educational shows such as Elmo and Word Party vs. nonsense cartoons - so that helped!
4. Read to them. Kat loves reading! Better yet, me reading to her. However, I have to give my babysitter so much credit! She reads to her in Armenian and makes sure she uses all the "correct" Armenian terms vs. my slang at times. Whoever is fluent in reading your native language should spend some quality time reading to her.
5. Speak to each other (significant other, family member) in both Armenian and English in front of your toddler. They are little sponges with the craziest memories. Whatever they hear, they record - the good, the bad & the ugly!