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Teaching a Second Language When You’re Not Bilingual

Teaching a Second Language When You’re Not Bilingual

There are so many parents today who are interested in teaching their child a second language, but shy away from it because they aren’t bilingual themselves. The good news is that you do not need to be bilingual for your child to be! 

Research has shown that there are so many benefits to raising bilingual children, and it would be a shame if not knowing a second language prevented parents from introducing one to their little ones and expanding their worlds significantly. With a little patience, the right tools and a goal in mind, any parent can help teach their child a second language—even if they don’t speak it themselves.

Here are some tips to help any parent get started.

Exposure, Exposure, Exposure 

For your child to learn a second language, practice and exposure are absolutely key. 

For example, while you most likely don’t give your child “formal language lessons” in your dominant language, he or she simply picks up your language by listening to and absorbing everyday conversations. 

The same approach can help when teaching children a second language. If you aren’t speaking it, you can plan bilingual playdates, watch videos, listen to songs, and, our personal favorite, read in your target language. In today’s day and age, plenty of online and in-person resources exist to give your child opportunities for exposure.

Learn The Basics

You can help provide exposure to your target language even if you aren’t fluent by learning the basics and using them in day-to-day conversations and interactions. This is a great opportunity to learn something new yourself while  helping  your child with their learning experience. It can also be a fun bonding experience for the two of you to enjoy together as you incorporate new vocabulary into your activities. Even if your accent isn’t perfect, by speaking in that target language, you are giving your baby exposure to that language. Any language imperfections will be “ironed out” as your child is exposed to the language more extensively.

You can start with short phrases and keywords you use everyday so that your child can hear them constantly and make the associations to what you are communicating.

Call in Reinforcements 

It is a lot of pressure for parents to feel  solely responsible for teaching their child a second language, particularly when those parents don’t speak the language themselves. Most parents already know it takes a village to raise children, and when it comes to teaching second languages, there is no better time to call in extra reinforcements.

If possible, consider hiring a bilingual nanny or au pair. Even the occasional bilingual babysitter can be of great help. You can also consider enrolling your child in a dual language program or after school activities conducted in the target language. In short, if you know others who speak the language, ask for their help or simply spend  as much time together as possible. Remember, the more your child is exposed to the language, the better. 

Teaching your child a second language is undoubtedly  a journey you should feel empowered to go on  even if you yourself don’t speak the language! Use existing resources to your advantage as they will tremendously impact your child’s learning-  he or she will absorb more than you can  imagine! 

Sources: “Multilingual and Bilingual Children: Questions and Answers”, Raising ChildrenASHA the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association,

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This blog series is powered by Binibi,  an education company dedicated to promoting bilingualism at the earliest ages. Binibi makes  bilingual sound & musical books for children ages 0-5 that are designed for parents to have a fun and easy way to introduce a second language at home, from day one. Binibi is dedicated to creating reading experiences that are both entertaining and educational, and to encouraging parents and caregivers to spend time with their babies through reading together. Binibi seeks to promote language development in children and to encourage families to raise bilingual children.