Tuesday, December 7, 2010

How can I teach my child to read in two languages?

Ms. Dorothy -
The greatest challenge I have revolves around raising and educating kids in a bilingual (French/English) setting. The biggest questions are: How do I go about teaching them how to read? One language at a time? If so, when can I introduce the second language? If I can teach my children to read in both languages at the same time, how do I go about it? What do I need to watch out for? How do I do it??
- Homeschool Teacher

Children usually learn one language as the household's primary language, and another as a secondary language. Some families, on the other hand, raise their children completely bilingually with no distinction between a primary and secondary language.

Learning to read should follow suit with the way your children are learning to speak.

If your children have one primary language, and they are learning a second, they should learn to read the primary language first. If they are truly bilingual, you can pick a preference for one to teach first, or follow suit with the local school districts' primary language as the one to teach first.

Once your children have control of a reading vocabulary of some simple common words in a first language, and can recognize the groups of letters that comprise various sounds in words, they will be able to read along with you in beginner books in that language.

Even if they can't read words accurately on their own yet, they will have enough of an understanding of how print works and how stories work to begin decoding and making meaning from text.
At that point, introducing the second language in writing will be less confusing because they will have something to compare it with.

Certainly, do not refrain from reading to them in both languages, always! They should see and know that there are books in your home, and books available to them in either language.
The decision about exactly when to introduce reading in the second language, or how much overlap there can be, may be answered by your child's interest in books he knows are in French or English.
Don't be afraid to follow your children's lead!

If you are comfortably literate in both languages, there is no reason to believe they will not learn to read and write as easily as they learned to speak both languages.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for answering my question, Ms. Dorothy!! I guess my gut instinct to teach them to first read in English was right on. I have to believe that learning to read and write in French will be a smooth learning curve!