How to help your child become bilingual in Singapore

Whether your child is learning Mandarin, English, Spanish or Russian, here are some fun tips to help them improve

Singapore’s multicultural trade and transit hub provides great exposure to people of all different nationalities. This rich cultural environment provides a great opportunity for kids to learn multiple languages – both at school and at home. But becoming truly bilingual is easier said than done. While lots of schools offer terrific language programmes, it can be trickier to continue the learning at home if the second (or third!) language in question is foreign to you. So, how to help your child become bilingual in Singapore? Time to ask the experts!

Singapore American School (SAS) is well versed in this scenario and helps many monolingual parents support their fledgling bilingual children. By picking up some simple but effective tips, Cris Ewell – a Spanish teacher at Singapore American School who speaks English, Spanish, Russian, and Mandarin – believes parents can eliminate the obstacle of not speaking a second language themselves by providing the right environment for kids to extend their learning at home. She is full of practical tips too!

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Lead by example

Bilingualism is the norm around the world, not monolingualism. Realising that the majority of people converse in multiple languages every day can change your outlook and influence your children to adopt the same attitude. Making an attempt yourself to greet vendors in the wet market in Chinese instead of assuming they speak English is a small gesture that eventually makes a big impact. Introducing small adjustments to daily habits can have a profound effect.

Be positive and have fun

Patience is a virtue and it’s important not to rush kids and their language development. Gaining confidence is key. Celebrate what your child can do with the language, instead of what they cannot. If your child isn’t willing to practice with you at home, then don’t push it. There are some great ideas below on how you can have fun sharing language with your child.

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Get on the right track

Selecting a language programme that has clear milestones will help you and your child to progress through novice, intermediate and advanced levels in a manageable way. Even if you can’t speak the second language you will be able to understand if they’ve reached certain points if they’re having trouble and need more guidance.

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Use tools and experiences

Adopting a multi-faceted approach brings variety to learning a second language. Technology, media, travel and human resources are all tools at your disposable to make learning interesting, approachable and well rounded.

  • In a digital world, it’s no surprise that there are apps by the dozen that are good for supporting familiarity with a second language. 2Kids Chinese and Raz-Kids for Spanish are firm favourites at SAS, and BookBox provides stories in a selection of languages.
  • Viewing TV shows and movies in another language is an easy way for kids to understand how words correspond with actions and emotions. In The Night Garden and Road Runner don’t count!
  • Visiting other countries emphasizes the use of other languages and it quickly becomes apparent that to make yourself understood you need to learn a few words. Better yet, visiting the country that speaks the language your child is learning really puts things into context.
  • If you’re thinking about tutoring, it’s a great idea to consider one that teaches your child swimming, music, dance, or sports and happens to speak the target language. Kids often learn the language faster because the focus is on communicating meaning around a certain subject and skill.

Singapore American School, 40 Woodlands Street 41, Singapore, 738547, p. 6363 3403.

This post is sponsored by Singapore American School.