Marriage & Family

How to help your baby pick up a language during their early years

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Most Singaporean households use two languages to communicate with their kids – English and a preferred mother tongue.

But there are some families who stick to one preferred language and use it as the central lingo to make contact.

While there is no right or wrong method, some parents are looking to help their babies pick up a second language during their early years. Maybe you have not been exposed to Mandarin as a kid and hoping that your child will keep up the pace while he or she is young.

Great idea! If you believe that babies can learn within the first year of their lives and it’s crucial for them to get proper exposure for language learning in their early childhood days, stay on this page for tips.

#1: Magnify your expressions

Well-trained preschool teachers are usually very “big” with their gestures. To the average adult, their body language may look a little crazy. But it’s such craziness that your baby needs to attract their attention.

#2: Be responsive

In fact, not just for babies alone, most young children are encouraged by responsiveness. Pay close attention to your baby’s feedback and reply in your preferred language accordingly. Remember our previous point? Be sure to exaggerate your response to capture their concentration.

#3: Repeating is key
a grandmother reading a storybook to her grandchild

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Even adults frequently repeat specific phrases in order to remember it. If you’ve had the experience of learning a third language, you would be well aware of how repetition plays a huge part in retaining new sounds, words, and phrases. This process is similar for your little one!

#4: Use children songs with visual aid

Children songs and nursery rhymes are usually filled with actions to stimulate a child’s interest. If you prefer not to expose your child to the television for prolonged periods, then do it yourself! But too much of something isn’t productive and may even wear out your baby. So, watch the clock.

#5: Keep interests in mind

No one person would like to continue an interaction if it doesn’t interest them. Hence, it pays to use your baby’s curiosity, for example, in a particular object, to engage in a “dialogue” with them.

#6: Q&A works fine
a dad talking to his baby

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Q&A is a system adults use to confirm understanding. Your baby may not be able to speak right now, but they can respond to your questions in their unique way. To make sure they understand the language you’re using over time, ask simple questions and watch their reply.

#7: Include storytimes

One of the things I admire about European families is the presence of storytimes before bed. It’s not just a wonderful way to teach a language but also a fantastic time to bond with your baby. Don’t forget to slow down your reading speed and make sure you’re articulating those words clearly.

#8: Avoid over rectification

As we come to a close, perfectionist parents should keep in mind not to go overboard with correction. Even if your child is unable to pronounce certain words accurately, that’s okay. They are still in the process of speech development, and you can aid them by giving them the confidence to speak freely.

Time and patience will go a long way. Take heart!

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