Skip to main content

4 awesome tips for raising a bilingual baby

Raising a bilingual baby is an amazing experience for your family. Whether you’re an expat who recently started a family or just an internationally minded individual who wants their child to connect with different cultures, teaching your baby a second language is valuable. This is a lifetime journey with many ups and downs, but no worries. Here are four awesome tips on how to have a bilingual baby.

Smiling parents talking to their baby
Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

Start with some tried-and-true bilingual teaching methods

If you’re unsure where to start, here are some established methods for teaching your child a second language from home.

One parent, one language (OPOL): In this method, one parent teaches the child one language and one parent teaches the child another. For example, Parent 1 can teach the child the minority language while Parent 2 teaches the child the majority or community language. If the parents speak different languages and the community language, even better.

Your child can learn three languages simply from being around you. For single-parent households, this also works with grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers, etc. As long as your little one gets exposure to the two main languages you want them to learn, they will absorb more than you expect.

Minority language at home (MLAH): In this case, both parents speak the minority language between each other and to the baby. This language is typically not the language spoken around the community. For instance, if you’re a Portuguese-speaking family in America, you would speak Portuguese at home and use English for when you’re out in public.

International schools in another language: This method is a practical one if you or your family members are monolingual. Even if you don’t know the second language yourself, you can hand the reins over to educators who will teach your child in a more academic setting. Of course, you might hold off on this method until your little one is at least preschool age.

Make friends with a family who speaks the second language

Natural exposure to the second language is the best way to get your baby to learn it. If possible, befriend families who speak the language in your area. When your baby interacts with other children and adults who speak this minority language, they’ll realize they need to learn it to converse outside the home. This instills the importance of the second language in your baby’s brain as they will want to communicate effectively with their new friends.
If playmates are scarce or your second language is just not popular, try searching for a tutor or caregiver who can play with your child at least a few hours a week or more. This is also practical if your child isn’t old enough for school yet.

Introduce the language as early as possible

The earlier you introduce the second language to your baby, the better. This way, they won’t form the idea that one language is more important than the other. They’ll also be less likely to prefer the majority language even when you’re speaking to them in the minority language.
Singing songs, reading lots of books, dancing to foreign language songs, and playing games are great ways to introduce language to little ones. Babies can distinguish different languages at an early age, and they’ll soon know to speak to different people in different languages.
If they’re old enough, let them watch foreign language videos and play interactive electronic games to bolster their interest. When you keep language learning fun, they’ll learn much more naturally than adults do. Read: Rote memorization and forced repetition just won’t work on children. They learn through play, movement, and interaction.

Persevere and embrace the challenge

Mother and father holding child near map
Kelly Sikkema/

Throughout your baby’s language learning journey, you’ll likely face some setbacks. They might flat out stop speaking to you in their second language. They might mix up the languages when they speak (perfectly normal!). They might take a long time learning certain words and phrases.
The best thing to do is to keep pushing, make lessons fun, and keep in mind that this second language is not going to make or break their future. You’ve already put them ahead of the curve by introducing a second language, so even if they fall behind on some lessons, they’re actually still very much advanced.
Seek advice from families who might be in the same boat or who’ve walked the walk. From there, you can learn more methods and more language hacks you can try at home. If one approach doesn’t work, you can always try another.
So, there you have it. We hope these four great tips for raising a bilingual baby help calm any anxiety about language learning. This isn’t a one-and-done deal like teaching your child how to ride a bike. It’s a continuous journey you’ll be glad you set out on. When your little one can hold a conversation in their second language, you’ll be grateful you persevered through every challenge.

Editors' Recommendations

Why your kids should do their own spring cleaning – none of you will regret their little helping hands
Everyone benefits when the kids help with spring cleaning
Little girl cleaning her home

There are two types of people in this world: those who love spring cleaning and those who absolutely dread it. Let's face it, spring cleaning can be a daunting task because there's so much to tackle. Not only do you need to do your regular, everyday cleaning, but when it comes to spring cleaning, you also want to do a deep clean, declutter, and organize everything in sight. 

Quite honestly, it can be a lot for one or two people to take on. This is why it's important to include all members of the family when it comes time to roll up your sleeves. Involving all members of the family in spring cleaning, including your children, means you can divide the work and get things done faster. You'll also teach your kids a little something about responsibility and teamwork at the same time. Yes, those anti-cleaning cutie pies of yours should be an active part of this annual affair. 

Read more
5 children’s books about inspiring Asian American women
Children's books about Asian American women in history
A mother reads to her young daughter

Whether you're celebrating Women's History Month in March, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May, or bringing representation to your child's bookshelf any time of year, these AAPI women kids' books will help teach about inspiring Asian American women in history to kids in elementary school or middle school. These five illustrated books for kids about AAPI women in history tell the stories of dozens of historical figures worth learning about.
Asian American Women in Science: 15 Inspiring People You Should Know

This book, for readers ages 8 to 12, tells the biographies of 15 Asian American women in history who broke barriers in science. Some of the women include Kazue Togasaki, the first Japanese American woman to become a doctor; Chien-Shiung Wu, a Chinese American physicist who worked on top-secret projects; and Isabella Aiona Abbott, who became an expert on the marine plant life of her native Hawaii. It's a must-have for those looking to add to their collection of AAPI women kids' books. By Tina Cho.
The Fearless Flights of Hazel Ying Lee

Read more
Skip the adults and learn about these amazing kids for Black History Month instead
Teach your children about these amazing Black kids in history for Black History Month
Black History Month poster

We always learn about the same people for Black History Month -- and they are almost always adults. But there are plenty of amazing Black kids in history who have done outstanding things we all need to know about. Spend this Black History Month talking with your children about these outstanding kids in history instead of the grown-ups.

Claudette Colvin
If you asked your children who Rosa Parks was, they would be able to tell you all about her story. But really, there's a child that figuratively stood up first. Claudette Colvin was arrested when she was only 15 years old for refusing to stand up and give her seat to a white woman. The incident happened in Alabama in early 1955, before Rosa Parks followed suit later that year.
Mikaila Ulmer
Talk about taking your lemonade stand to the big leagues. If you don't watch TV reality shows, you don't know about Mikaila Ulmer. This young woman appeared on Shark Tank in 2015 when she was 11 years old and landed a deal with the sharks to sell her homemade lemonade. You'll find her lemonade, Me & the Bees Lemonade, in stores like Target, Kroger, and Whole Foods.
Misty Copeland
While her ground-breaking feat happened when she was in her 20s, Misty Copeland's journey started when she was only 13 years old. A ballerina prodigy, Copeland became the American Ballet Theatre's first Black woman to be made a principal dancer in 2015, the first in the company's 75-year history at that time.
Mo’ne Davis
Don't tell girls what they can and can't do. Mo'ne Davis is the living epitome of that statement. In 2014, Davis broke records when she became the first girl to pitch a winning game in Little League World Series history, also making her the first girl in the post-season to pitch a shutout. Her accomplishments then landed her on the cover of Sports Illustrated, making her the first Little League player -- at all, boy or girl -- to do so.
Sandra Parks
Sandra Parks was only 13 years old in 2018 when she was shot in her home in Milwaukee while watching television with her brother. What makes her story so much more powerful is that Sandra had just won an essay contest where the topic she wrote about was gun violence.
The Little Rock Nine
We've all seen the picture of little Ruby Bridges being escorted into her school after desegregation. The story of The Little Rock Nine is in a similar vein. Nine high school teenagers were chosen in 1957 as the first Black students to go to Little Rock's Central High School after the Supreme Court ruled segregation schools were illegal.

Read more