3 Ways to Raise a Child Who’s Fluent in both English and Filipino

3 Ways to Raise a Child Who’s Fluent in both English and Filipino

How do we keep our children speaking, learning, and showing an appreciation for our native tongue while ensuring that they keep their proficiency in the English language as well? Read more to know how!
 

7 min read

I didn’t find it all that difficult to raise my four children as bilinguals. But then again, things were very different then, and I had a lot of help. Not only were there Filipino subjects in their curriculum from prep school onwards, there were many educational programs on television produced in the native tongue. More importantly, there was an unspoken love for the Filipino language. 

Fast forward to two decades later, and I am aghast at how my granddaughter seems to speak better English than Filipino. What happened?

Raising bilinguals
In hindsight, it was bound to happen. The push for English as the world’s lingua franca alongside the growing call center industry in the country has shoved Filipino to the curb. It was only when my granddaughter started getting not-so-good grades at subjects wherein Filipino was the medium of instruction that I realized the error of our ways.

How then do we keep our children speaking, learning, and showing an appreciation for our native tongue while ensuring they keep their proficiency in the English language as well?

#1 Talk to them in both languages every day
This seems like a no-brainer but we “teach” our children language by talking to them in a variety of circumstances every day. Instead of just teaching them one word at a time, talking to them gives the words context. They then not only find out what the word means, but also how it is used at the same time. 

Take note that screen time doesn’t count; exposure to the language has to be person-to-person. Yes, later on you can let them watch all sorts of educational shows, but when they’re younger, one-on-one conversations are the best. 

You need not worry about confusing them by speaking two languages at the same time either. 

According to the Linguistics Society of America: “Children are incredibly sensitive to the different ways people speak. Even when they only hear one language, they learn very quickly about differences between the way men and women talk, the difference between polite and impolite ways of talking, and so on. For children, the bilingual situation is just a matter of another difference between people!”

At times, they may mix up the languages, and that’s fine. It’s called code-switching, and it doesn’t mean they’re mixing English up with Filipino. It’s just a part of their vocabulary.

#2 Expose them to the beauty of both languages 
Erika Hoff, a developmental psychologist who published “What Clinicians Need to Know about Bilingual Development” at Thieme Seminars in Speech and Language with Cynthia Core in 2015, says, “For everybody trying to raise a bilingual child, whatever your background and reason, it’s very important to realize that acquiring a language requires massive exposure to that language.”

Gigliana Melzi, a developmental psychologist and associate professor of applied psychology at New York University, adds, “Parents will need to be mindful about introducing the child to literacy in that language. They will need to be thoughtful about ways they will encourage the child to maintain the language.” More than talking to them every day, parents need to create a program where children are exposed to the language in different ways, pushing the complexity and intricacy of the literature step by step. 

Mom and dad can start off with nursery rhymes and children’s songs. They can later move on to picture books in both languages read aloud. Got a favorite song in Filipino? How about teaching it to your child, letting her sing along to the lyrics and explaining what it means at the same time. 

Make history come alive by asking lola to talk about significant milestones. We’re pretty sure she’d welcome the company. 

Here’s another idea: take a book about Filipino plants and animals, and bring them with you on your next trip outdoors. You could watch Filipino films with your children, which you have initially reviewed, and talk about any lessons they may have learned from viewing it. 

Take them to the theater, too. Whether the musical or play is in English or Filipino, ask them which parts they enjoyed later on. Assign them to read a book in Filipino, and then talk about how they feel about it afterwards. 

There are many ways for your children to see the beauty of language, whether Filipino or English. You just have to be mindful and deliberate in guiding them.

#3 Easy on your expectations
As with all parenting pursuits, manage your expectations. Don’t expect your child to be a genius in a certain language just because you’re exerting all this effort. Remember, it’s not about you – it’s about the healthy development of your child.  

Hoff says, “Learning two languages takes longer than learning one; on average, bilingual children lag behind monolingual children in single language comparisons.”

“Bilingual children can have different strengths in each language,” she adds.

So, take it easy, mom and dad. It’s when kids have fun learning that they get to learn a lot more. 
 

 

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.

Reference

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/well/family/raising-a-truly-bilingua…
https://www.linguisticsociety.org/resource/faq-raising-bilingual-children


About The Writer

 

JING LEJANOJing Lejano

Jing Lejano is a single mom of four, lula of one, writer, and editor. She started out as a reporter at The Business Star, became editor in chief of Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine, and now manages social media for a local government unit and a couple of communities. After a lifetime of chasing deadlines, she is trying to live slow by practicing tai chi, taking care of her garden, and playing with her tween granddaughter.

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.