Bilingual Snippets

Information for parents

Abstracted from:

van Hees, J. (1999/2016). The bilingual snippets. Auckland, New Zealand: University of Auckland.


Why is it good to be bilingual?

  • your child has two worlds  – your first/home language world and the world of the second language
  • language and culture are one…so your child will understand two cultures better
  • your child develops an ‘elastic’, thinking brain

How do I do this?

There is a choice of ways to do this:

  1. You may choose to use one language at home. This would be your first language and the one in which you feel the strongest. Your home language can be as rich as it can be and this can make it easy for your children to learn English outside your home.
  1. You may choose to use both languages at home – your first language and English. This could be more confusing for your children as they may have difficulty understanding which language is which.
  1. Each parent/family member speaks a different language to your children. This is not confusing as the children will know which language is used with which person.


What choice is best?

The most successful bilingual children are those who have two languages available in a rich form – a rich home language and a rich “outside home” language.


How can parents help?

  • use one language at a time
  • if your home is a dual language home, use each language separately with your child as much as possible
  • enjoy and praise your child when they try to read in your home language
  • give your child lots of words/vocabulary and enriched language
  • give your child your language/s
    • speak it
    • read it to him/her
    • teach your child to write it
    • encourage your child to learn it and use it too


How can children learn two languages?

Information available about language learning shows that two languages can be learnt, understood and used separately. They can both be well developed. Both languages add to and develop a deeper understanding of language in general. Children can use one language to support and compare with the other.


What is important?


What is most important is that:

  • as parents you continue to use your home language – even if your child replies in English
  • you encourage your child to use your home language but do not growl at them if they don’t …just encourage and explain why it’s good
  • you talk to your child about how it is clever to know and use more than one language


When should we use our home language?

The best choice is –  all the time when you are with your child

Another choice is at certain times every day:


for example

  • at dinner time
  • for at least one or more  hours every day
  • at night only
  • when you are all there as a family


At these times, everyone tries to use the home language, including the children.


  • If you as parents always use your home language with your child…

and even if he/she doesn’t use it, but can understand you and enjoys reading it with you, then the brain is learning it anyway!!!

  • The language brain is amazing


Being a bilingual person is a treasure!