5 Tips to Help Non-Native Speakers Raise Bilingual Children

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I share 5 tips (plus a bonus one!) to help non-native speakers help bilingual parents!

We cover different strategies to be very intentional on how to add exposure and how to learn more language to keep up with our kids

5 Tips to Help Non-Native Speakers Raise Bilingual Children


The QuestionHi Marianna! I love your show and it really helps to keep me motivated and informed on our language journey. The challenge I’m facing right now it with my 3-year old son. I’m a non-native speaker of French and am trying to raise him bilingual French/English. His language skills have really exploded in the last frew months, adding complexity and many more words. As a non-native speaker I’m having trouble keeping up because my French is not growing as fast as his English. I’m a single Mom so I really have to schedule my time carefully in order to increase my lanuage skills. Any tips for non-native parents on getting the most out of their “free time” to learn more of the target language? How do I add complexity to my language skills so that I can teach it to my son? Thanks as always for everything you do – this show is truly a God-send.

The answer
Hi Valerie,

Thank you so much for your note.  

I am just thrilled that you are enjoying the show!  Getting notes like yours is what makes this all worth it.

Many of my listeners are actually non-native speakers and I find the work that you are doing so impressive with your children!!!

As far as tips for how to get the most out of your free time so that you can learn more French, here re some thoughts:

1) Leverage Themes

To keep up wit your child’s interest you are going to always need to learn more and more words in French.  That can feel really stressful especially because children at this age are wired to learn vocabulary.

This strategy would encourage you to pick some topics that you want to focus on with your child.  By identifying a particular theme, you can learn words around that theme and then follow that theme as you work with your child.

When selecting themes, take a look at what children’s books you have at home and use them to guide what you will focus on.  You can then build from the book into hands on activities.

By working with a theme, you can be very focused and intentional about what words to learn so that you can then have meaningful conversations with your son.  This should be a more productive approach than if you try to just learn words at random.

2) Be intentional about your audio!

I am obviously a big fan of podcasts and podcasts are a great tool for learning a language.  There are so many options and language podcasts are one of the fastest growing genres!  Want to guess what the other category is that rapidly growing when it comes to podcasts? Comedy!  Lots of people are turning to podcasts for comedy!

By leveraging podcasts, you can be more productive when you are driving around, doing housework, etc.

The beauty of podcasts give you the freedom so that you don’t have to be in front of a screen or a book learning but picking up some knowledge while you are on the go.

I have actually put together a free guide for Bilingual Avenue listeners on some of the best language podcasts out there.  There are some that are great for just getting tips about learning language and then others that are specific to certain languages.

You can get the guide for free by clicking here. 

That should make it easier for you to remember and so when you have time in front of a computer you can download your free copies.

Ok let’s move on to the second tip and that is

3) Incorporate audio books

Again, I am a big fan of audio and audio books can be beneficial for you and your son!  By spending some time together listening to a story you can both pick up language together.  It will also take some of the pressure off you to always be the source for new vocabulary and it will let you pick up some extra words. 

I talk about audio books a lot on the podcast but I want to challenge those of you listening.  A little bit of homework.  Why don’t you set a goal to record one audio book within the next month?  You can do it yourself or ask a friend or family member that also speaks the target language.  I would love to hear how your children like it.  I’m going to guess that they are going to love it so let’s see who takes me up on that challenge.  One book in the next month!

4) Document your progress

I think it is really important for parents, especially non-native speakers, to stay motivated in their own language journey.  Journaling can really help you to stay motivated because you can look back at how far you have come.

5) Blogs to follow

I really like LindsayDoesLanguages.com She has some great language learning tips and she is also just a really fun personality.  She was on the show before and I have been really impressed with her upbeat personality. Another popular is fluentin3months.com with Benny the Irish Polyglot

And one more for you to consider is fluentlanguage.co.uk which is led by Kerstin who will actually be coming on the podcast later in the year.  She has a podcast herself about language learning so you may enjoy listening to her show as well.

6) Now as a bonus strategy, I want to share that one of the members from the Bilingual Avenue Members Club shared with me.  We were chatting during her one on one consultation and she also expressed similar concern.  She shared that her four year old is always looking to learn new words and sometimes he will ask her things she simply does have the answer to.

We talked about some strategies that she could add to her tool kit like jotting down the words he asks for throughout the day on a little notebook and looking them up later in the day when she had some down time. 

What I love is that she took it to the next level and involved both of there kids in the process.  They put in place something they are calling “Pared de Preguntas.”  When they have a question and she doesn’t know the word in Spanish they put it up on the wall.  That way they dont forget to look them up later and everyone is engaged.  She shared with me that it’s a been a big hit and I loved this approach so much I just had to share it with you.

If you want to know more about the Bilingual Avenue Members’ Club and exchange other ideas like this you can get more information at bilingualavenue.com/community

Alright Valerie, I hope this answers your question and gives you some tips to get started and keep up a bit more with your son.

Great job on exposing him to French! 

You can find the five tips plus the bonus on the show notes page at bilingualavenue.com/episode110

If you also have a question that you would like answered on the show, send it my way at bilingualavenue.com/contact

May you have fun travels on your language journey. Hope to see you again own the avenue!

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