Tips for Introducing a Second Language at Home
Hello! First I will introduce myself! I'm Deborah Sigler, Founder and Director of Bambolango. In this article I am going to tell you a little more about who I am and what we do at Bambolango in our day to day life. And we will also explore together some ideas and tips on how to introduce or reinforce a second language with our children from an early age.
Who am I and what is Bambolango?
I was born and raised in London with a British father and sister and a Colombian mother, but I have lived in Valencia, Spain, since 2004. I have two wonderful daughters and when my eldest daughter was born, I discovered certain obstacles on the way to bilingualism. There were very few bilingual resources that could be used with babies from an early age. Most of the materials on the market were aimed at children aged 2 or 3 years and older, with complex content that was not appropriate for babies.
And this is what inspired me to start Bambolango, where we are dedicated to helping families and their little ones to acquire or reinforce a second language.
I decided to use my personal experience as the penultimate generation of an incredibly multilingual family, and embark on this project. So, with the help of another member of my multilingual family, we decided to design our own resources for babies and toddlers! And now we have a whole series of bilingual English-Spanish products, called "Adventures Series", for sale in our online store.
We also design fun and educational activities, 100% in native English, for our Spanish public. In this way we want to help the little ones to acquire a second language, submerging them in a natural and relaxed English environment. We want them to play, to have fun, to discover, to imagine, to build ... and to be exposed all the time to another language.
And this year we have launched a novelty on our journey to help the little ones acquire a second language! These are online English or Spanish classes for parents who are raising their children in a language that is not their native language. So we offer conversation sessions and everyday vocabulary, and normal routines that live with their children, to give them the security and confidence they need to strengthen the language at home.
So, as you can see, in bambolango we offer something more than a methodology to learn languages. I myself have lived and breathed (and I continue to live and breathe every day) bilingualism in the family environment. And we want to share our experiences with you.
And that is why our motto in bambolango is: it's not about teaching, but about having fun in different languages!
Tips for Introducing or Reinforcing a Second Language at Home
At the headquarters of Bambolango, our house, we raise in three different languages. I speak to BigBoo and LittleBoo (my daughters) in my native language, English, while their father speaks to them in his native language, Catalan. However, the "dominant" language of the Boo is Spanish since it is the language to which they are most exposed during the day at school and therefore is the language with which they feel most comfortable.
So, on a day-to-day basis, I have to work hard to find different ways to strengthen minority languages at home. And during this process, I have been able to reflect on and test most of the ideas that I am going to share with you now.
1. Read, Read, Read
Reading is a very enriching activity for children for many reasons. It allows to strengthen bonds, expand vocabulary and stimulate the imagination. It also makes it easier for children to ask questions so that we can talk with them in the language to be introduced / reinforced.
We are lucky that both BigBoo and LittleBoo love to read! Having said that, it is very important to choose the right time to read a good book. It is not easy to read when the children have too much energy, are distracted or have been sitting for a long time. So once you have identified the best moment, share a special time with your children and stimulate their imagination.
If you are thinking about introducing or reinforcing a language at home that is not your native language, we recommend that you choose books with which you feel comfortable. Try stories you already know or books that also have audiobooks to help with pronunciation and intonation.
2. Talk, Talk, Talk
This advice sounds easy, right? And it is, because all you have to do is remember to talk or constantly describe what they are doing in each moment, in the language to be reinforced or introduced.
In the day to day we tend to simply comply with the routine, but we do not usually stop to talk about what we are doing, or why, or how. This type of narrative helps children, because it exposes them to the language, especially to everyday and useful words. In Bambolango, we believe that the process of acquiring a second language should be as natural as the acquisition of the mother tongue. So commenting on the habitual routines and occurrences of home is very good way for children to experience the language naturally.
And be sure to ask many questions too, because bi-directional interaction is the key (even if your children still do not know how to respond, you can help them).
3. Create a Support Group of Friends and Family
Having other people around who speak the language to introduce or reinforce it is extremely useful. It allows children to develop the need to speak the language and understand that it is not only used in their family environment.
If you have other family members who speak the target language, encourage them to do so. If you live in other parts of the world, you can enter frequent Skype sessions. And if you have the opportunity to visit family or friends in countries where they speak the target language, where your children can be immersed in the language and culture, we encourage you to do so!
We also recommend that you look for activities for children in the language to be reinforced / introduced in your neighborhood. Or simply try to meet other families who are raising their children in the target language and arrange playdates.
More information on Bambolango...
We hope our advice is useful, and we would love to hear your comments. Please let us know if you have tried any of our tips and how it worked! Or get in touch with any question you want us to answer or help you.
Born in London to a British father and a Colombian mother, I lived in the family home until I was 18 years old. I studied Law and Spanish at the University of Cardiff, Wales and soon after, I studied for a Master in Human Resources Management at the University of Valencia.
For almost ten years I worked as a Human Resources consultant in national and multinational organizations. I helped numerous clients, in different countries, and worked on many different projects. All of them, however, had a key element in common: people. So my career has always focused on helping others develop their skills and knowledge and continuing education has become one of my specialties.
This experience along with my bilingual skills (English-Spanish) have given me the perfect base and the motivation to create and direct bambolango. Our motto is "It's not about teaching, it's about having fun in different languages!" And our goal is to accompany families on their journey to raise their bilingual children through activities and our own bilingual materials