Sue Scheff: 100 Tips, Tools and Tricks to Raising Brilliant and Bilingual Kids

What a great topic for today’s melting pot!  Emma Tayor asked me to share her research in helping parents encourage and raise their children to be able to adapt to different languages and cultures.  These are some fantastic tips, tools and tricks!  It is called parenting!

Living in America, it can be difficult to have ready access to other languages, yet mounds of evidence from scholars indicates that growing up multilingual adds skills and abilities that monolingual children may not develop to the same extent. What is a parent to do? If you or your spouse speaks another language, then it gets easier, but if neither of you do, then don’t despair. The following information will help you learn just how to go about raising a brilliant, bilingual baby.

Common Methods of Bilingual Learning

Learn how most parents go about teaching their children to speak more than one language.

  1. Each parent speaks a language. If each parent has a different native language, then each parent can speak their native language to the child. This method is frequently referred to as the One Person, One Language method.
  2. Different language at home. If both parents speak a language different from the community, then parents can speak their native language at home and the child can learn the other language from participating in the community. This method is often known as the Minority Language at Home model.
  3. Time and place. Some families use a second language in specific places (such as visiting grandparents in a different country) or at specific times (such as during religious holidays). While this method on its own will probably not contribute to a fully bilingual child, it is a good support for second language learning.
  4. School immersion program. If both parents and the community speak the same language, another option is for parents to send their child to a language immersion program where a different language is spoken.
  5. Mix. Mixing several different strategies works well for some families teaching more than one language.
  6. Simultaneous bilingualism. Simultaneous bilingualism occurs before the age of three and means the child is learning more than one language at the same time and may combine languages when speaking.
  7. Sequential bilingualism. The other way children become bilingual is called sequential bilingualism and can occur at any age. This method of learning has the child learning one language as a primary language and any subsequent languages as a secondary languages.


Keep these helpful tips in mind when embarking on the bilingual journey.

  1. Consistency. No matter what your form of bilingual teaching takes, make sure you offer it on a consistent basis.
  2. Provide exposure. With books, songs, games, and other opportunities available for your child, you will just enrich the bilingual experience.
  3. Encouragement. Encourage your child to speak in both languages and offer plenty of positive reinforcement when he does so.
  4. Make it natural. Keep the language lessons a natural part of the family life instead of forcing it to be extra work will ensure everyone participates.
  5. Keep it fun. The more fun your child has learning a second language, the more apt she will be to learn and use that language.
  6. Don’t ask children to demonstrate their skills for others. Asking a child to perform in front of others is embarrassing for the child and may make them feel less receptive to learning another language.
  7. Exposure to other children. Hold playgroups or otherwise get together with other children speaking the same language or languages your child is learning.
  8. Start early. Begin speaking and reading to your child in both languages early–even when she is a baby.
  9. Human interaction is best. TV and DVDs in the target language may be a good supplement to learning, but the best way for children to learn a language is through human interaction.
  10. Expect some resistance. Often families embarking on bilingual education for their children will run into resistance from well-meaning family members. If this occurs, try educating them to the benefits of bilingualism.
  11. Be patient. Remember that language acquisition isn’t the only thing your young child is learning. With persistence, you will begin to see the fruits of your labor when your child begins responding to and speaking in more than one language.

Myths about Bilingualism

Don’t buy into these myths. Instead, learn the truth behind them to support your mission.

  1. Isn’t good for children. This popular myth was supported by some poorly-run studies done long ago and is not true. Bilingual children are actually shown to develop some skills and tasks better than monolingual children.
  2. Causes confusion of languages. One myth says that bilingual children get confused and mix the languages together. The blending of more than one language in bilingual children is a normal part of learning and actually demonstrates their understanding of both languages.
  3. Causes stuttering. Some people believe that teaching a child more than one language at a time causes stuttering. While it is true that some bilingual children stutter, there is no evidence that bilingualism causes this or that it is any more prevalent than in monolingual children.
  4. Parents must be fluent in the target language. While it may be somewhat easier for the parents if they are fluent in the target language, it is by no means a restriction on the ability for them to raise a bilingual child without knowing the second language well.
  5. Reading and writing in several languages is too hard. Children who learn to read and write in more than one language actually demonstrate a better mastery and understanding of literacy.
  6. Your child will just pick up the second language without your help. It may be tempting to think that just because your child is exposed to more than one language, she will learn both without your help, but the truth is that successful bilingual learning comes through parental support.
  7. There is only one right way to teach bilingualism. This myth is completely wrong. There are many ways to teach bilingualism to your children, and you should find the way that works best for your family.
  8. Bilingual education will hurt academic performance. Whether learning two languages at school or at home, bilingual children’s education is not harmed by learning two languages. While some children may take a bit longer to catch up in class, especially if they are less proficient in the language being taught at school, there is no evidence that bilingual education is detrimental.
  9. Learn one language first, then the other. Old research used to support this myth that said learning languages at the same time would result in less proficiency, but children learning two or more languages at the same time are not at any disadvantage.
  10. Caught between cultures. Some believe that bilingual children will never feel at home in either culture, feeling lost and displaced. The reality is that most adults who grew up bilingually report never feeling this way.


These articles touch on everything from the benefits of bilingualism to tips for success.

  1. Your Baby is a Language Learning Machine. This article talks about the science behind bilingual learning in young children.
  2. The Impact of Bilingualism on Overall Language Development and Academic Success. Find tons of tips on ways and reasons for raising a bilingual child.
  3. The Advantages of Multilingualism. From the Canadian Parents for French, this article details some of the more important reasons why teaching multilingualism is necessary.
  4. Bilingual Children’s Mother Tongue: Why Is It Important for Education?. Read this article that describes why bilingual education is important for children who speak a different language than what is taught in school.
  5. Two or More Languages in Early Childhood: Some General Points and Practical Recommendations. This academic paper explores some of the science behind children growing up bilingually.
  6. Expat Issues: Bilingual Parenting. The information here addresses common questions and concerns about raising bilingual children.
  7. Raising Bilingual Children. Explore some of the ways in which parents raise children bilingually and the advantages to them.
  8. Bilingual Families Connect. Parents can find tips and advice from other parents rearing their children bilingually.
  9. Language Development in Bilingual Children. This article offers tips on recognizing a true language delay in a bilingual child that might otherwise go unnoticed.
  10. More Tips on Raising a Bilingual Child. Get a few suggestions from a mom raising her daughter bilingually with this blog post.
  11. Must-Know Secrets for Raising Bilingual Homeschoolers!. This mom shares her perspective as a woman who grew up needing to learn a second language to assimilate to the US and as a mom raising her daughter in a bilingual home.
  12. Teach your Child a Second Language Tips. Find lots of great tips on teaching your child to be bilingual here.
  13. Why, How, and When Should My Child Learn a Second Language?. This article takes a look at different ways language can be taught to young children.
  14. Teaching Foreign Languages to Children Through Video. Learn tips for teaching foreign languages with video support and get links to resources as well.

Websites and Associations

These websites and associations support bilingual education and parents teaching their children to speak more than one language. Parents will find tons of resources and support here.

  1. National Association for Bilingual Education. Take a look at what this site has to offer from the only national professional organization devoted to bilingual learners and educators.
  2. Multilingual Children’s Association. This site is an awesome resource for both parents and bilingual children.
  3. Multicultural Kids Inc.. Find books, flashcards, costumes, and more for sale at this site that supports multiculturalism.
  4. Culture for Kids. This site offers a ton of language learning resources such as software, tapes, books, and more.
  5. Bilingual Kids. The foreign language books featured here are specifically for promoting bilingual learning in small children.
  6. Raising Bilingual Children. This website is specifically for parents looking for information and support in raising their children bilingually.
  7. National Capital Language Resource Center. This national organization supports language education, and their website provides plenty of resources.
  8. National Network for Early Language Learning. With lots of resources for parents and teachers, this site offers great information.
  9. American Council on Immersion Education. Parents and educators alike who are interested in immersion education should visit this organization’s website.
  10. The National Centre for Languages (CILT). This British organization provides tons of resources for language learning.
  11. Bilingual/Bicultural Family Network. While this organization is no longer functioning, their website provides tons of great resources for rearing a bilingual child.
  12. Mother Tongue Matters. This site is dedicated to families who want to pass their native language to their children and provides plenty of resources.


Get plenty of great tips and resources or just see how other families are approaching multilingual learning in their homes when you read these blogs.

  1. Bilingual Readers. This site and blog share tons of great resources for bilingual families.
  2. Spanglish Baby. Check out all the great resources and advice available in this blog for parents of bilingual babies and children.
  3. Blogging on Bilingualism. Find practical tips and ideas for raising your children with two or more languages here.
  4. Ana’s Blog. Ana Lomba provides tons of great ideas and resources for teaching languages to children from 0-10.
  5. Mama Latina Tips. This blog is written in both Spanish and English by a mom raising her children bilingually.
  6. Hao Mama. This mama and her husband are teaching their two children Mandarin Chinese and English, and she shares information on bilingualism as well as their experience.
  7. Bilingual Fun. This mom and teacher shares fun ways to teach your children to be bilingual.
  8. Bilingual in the Boonies. This Cuban-American woman blogs about raising her daughter bilingually, as well as other topics.
  9. Bringing up Baby Bilingual. A former French teacher, this mom is teaching her son and her nephew French.
  10. BabelKid. This family speaks four languages, and this blog documents their experiences.
  11. My Bilingual Boys. Mom and Dad speak fluent Spanish to their two sons who are growing up bilingually.

Bilingual Literature and Dictionaries

These resources offer bilingual books, dictionaries, and more to support your child’s language acquisition.

  1. Baharona Center. Choose English or Spanish to browse through this site that offers recommendations for books in Spanish for children and adolescents.
  2. Foreign Language Children’s Books. Get links as well as search tips to help you find children’s books in several different languages.
  3. International Children’s Digital Library. This digital library offers children’s books that promote learning about different cultures and languages around the world.
  4. Little Explorers Picture Dictionary with Links. This online picture dictionary features nine different languages and is just right for young learners.
  5. Find a ton of great bilingual books here.
  6. The Online Books Page Foreign Languages. This page lists several online resources to find books in a wide variety of languages. While they may not all be written for children, they may be great for reading aloud as a family.
  7. DK Children’s Illustrated Dictionary. This illustrated dictionary offers pictures and their corresponding English words.
  8. DK First Spanish Picture Dictionary. Find pronunciation help along with the pictures and Spanish words here.
  9. Let’s Learn German Picture Dictionary. Get over 1,500 common German words and corresponding pictures in this book.
  10. Berlitz Kid’s French Picture Dictionary. Both pictures and phrases are packed into this helpful book for those learning French.
  11. Oxford Picture Dictionary: English/Brazilian Portuguese. Your child will find help with all the basics of Brazilian Portuguese with this dictionary.
  12. Let’s Learn Italian Picture Dictionary. Children can browse through the eight themes to find a wealth of Italian words and corresponding pictures here.
  13. Milet Picture Dictionary: English-Polish. Beautiful drawings accompany the Polish vocabulary in this awesome dictionary.
  14. Oxford Picture Dictionary: English/Russian. Get over 4,000 words and phrases in English and Russian.
  15. Let’s Learn Japanese Picture Dictionary. The pictures in this dictionary are accompanied with romanji, katakana, hiragana, and kanji.
  16. The Oxford Picture Dictionary: English-Vietnamese Edition. Whether your child is learning English or Vietnamese, this dictionary will be a helpful resource.
  17. Word by Word Picture Dictionary English/Chinese Edition. Find chapters organized by theme as well as lessons in this book.
  18. Oxford Picture Dictionary: English/Korean. Get tons of words and phrases in both English and Korean accompanied by pictures to help learning.

Online Resources and Materials

These online resources offer a ton of lessons, activities, and other materials to help you raise your children bilingually.

  1. Anacleta’s World Language & Culture Resources. While there is an emphasis on Spanish here, the many resources here are not limited to just that language.
  2. MisCositas. Search the resources here by languages or materials needed to find plenty of great stuff.
  3. Internet Activities for Foreign Language Classes. Find a ton of great Internet-based activities in Spanish, French, Italian, German, Chinese, Japanese, and more.
  4. Lesson Plans and Activities to Teach Children about Language and Cultural Diversity. These lessons from Language Lizard are great resources for parents.
  5. Bilingual Wiki. This wiki is filled with information and resources for teaching your child to be bilingual.
  6. World Almanac for Kids. Children can learn about other languages and cultures–among plenty of other topics–at this site.
  7. United Nations Cyberschoolbus. Not only can your child learn about other cultures around the globe here, you can choose which language in which she will read about it all.
  8. BBC Schools Ages 4-11 Language Sites. The links here provide resources for children learning a variety of different languages.

Books about Raising Bilingual Children

Be sure to read these books to find helpful tips, encouragement, and information on how others have made language-learning work for their families.

  1. 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child. Parents can learn how to reach their goals involving teaching their children multiple languages with the information here.
  2. Raising a Bilingual Child. Find information, encouragement, and first-hand experience from other parents in this book.
  3. Make Your Child Multilingual. This workbook is designed to help parents map out their plans for raising children with more than one language.
  4. The Bilingual Edge. No matter your background in language, this book can help you find ways to help you create a bilingual family.
  5. Bilingual By Choice. This book looks at making bilingualism work from infancy to the teen years so that the language learning actually becomes a part of your child’s life.
  6. The Bilingual Family. Whether your family includes one parent or two, this book offers helpful tips to make bilingualism work for your family’s specific needs.
  7. Language Strategies for Bilingual Families. Look at how families implement the One Parent One Language approach in this book that has a slightly more academic perspective.
  8. Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven. Based on a family raising their children trilingually, this book shares insight on how to make it work.
  9. Growing Up with Two Languages: A Practical Guide. This book offers helpful suggestions to raising bilingual children and how to combat some of the difficulties families sometimes experience.

By: Emma Taylor