Children also have fewer inhibitions and will not feel shy or hesitate to test their language skills and converse with new people, unlike adults, who might feel conscious.
So, if you are teaching a child to become bilingual, it would be wise to :
- Have one parent speak only one language and the other the second parent to speak the other language.
- Speak only your native language at home, as your child will probably learn English in school.
- Allow your child to hear and practice both languages.
This is perhaps the most important of the top 6 tips to become bilingual that you should keep in mind. It is always easier to learn a new language when you are younger, which is why most schools offer second languages as a part of their curriculum, to instill in children the skill and knowledge of another language.
That being said, it is never too late to learn a new language and equip yourself with that particular skill. All you need is oodles of perseverance because the road to becoming bilingual is a long one. So, patience, grasshopper.
Start with the Alphabets and Vocabulary
It is essential to remember to expand your vocabulary in whichever language you decide to learn. Learning new words will improve your articulation. It can be intimidating to start learning a new language from scratch. So, start learning a few words every day. These words can be objects, animals, food, places, numbers…anything.
So, here’s número dos on the 6 tips to become bilingual. Just start small and add a dozen words to your vocabulary every day, writing it down with the meaning and pronunciation. As you make some headway, try forming simple, single clause sentences using that word, and remember to maintain a book to note down what you learn.
Most European languages like Spanish and French— scusi, Español and Français— have the same scripts-Latin or Roman alphabet. But other languages from other continents- like Hindi, Tamil, Arabic, and Mandarin have different scripts. In such cases, you will need to start learning the alphabets of that language before learning the vocabulary.
Related: Top 5 Exam Prep Tips
Once you’ve learned the alphabet’s and a goodly number of words, you can start trying to string them together using…. grammar!
This is perhaps the trickiest part of learning a new language. Each language has a different set of grammar rules, and it can be quite challenging to pick up the subtle nuances.
There are rules in place for verbs, adverbs, adjectives, pronouns, articles, tenses, and some languages, and all these rules are extremely sensitive. Again, maintaining a written record of what you learn is vital, and going back to review what you learn, even more so.
Read, watch movies, listen to movies
The easiest and perhaps most effective of the top 6 tips to become bilingual is to watch TV shows, movies, or even the news in that language with the subtitles on to pick up the language.
This is a great way to pick up new words in their specific context, and not in an isolated situation where you search for a random new word to learn. When you learn a new word in context, you are much more likely to use that word again.
Try jotting down the words you find particularly difficult to understand so you can get back to it later and review them.
This is also a great way to pick up on the pronunciation of the words. You might not understand every word being spoken, but this is a great way to instinctively know what that particular word means, just by understanding the context in which it is being used.
You can start with shows meant for children, but there are some fabulous and lengthy telenovelas to keep you hooked for a long time, long enough, perhaps, for you to learn the language just by watching the show,
Reading comics or subscribing to a newspaper in the language you’re learning for snippets of news, is also a great way to learn.
Keep in mind, though, that while watching movies and reading comics will undoubtedly help you pick up the language, you will need to be at a certain level of learning that language to be able to understand what you’re reading or watching. This tip is more for advanced beginners, or for those of you on the cusp of becoming intermediaries, to advance their skill, rather than start learning it.
Who knows, your experience may be a lot like “Emily in Paris”, the good parts though!
Find a language buddy
This is perhaps my favorite of the top 6 tips to become bilingual.
It is all well and good to practice by yourself at home, but actually having someone to talk to other than mirror-mirror-on-the-wall and converse within the new language you are learning is the absolute best.
1.When you speak to someone else, especially someone more skilled at that language than you are, you will be able to learn from them. You will have the opportunity to improve your pronunciation by listening to them speak and even pick up conversational phrases and idioms instead of reading and learning them from a textbook.
2.Having a language buddy encourages healthy conversations, debates, and discussions. You don’t just pick-up vocabulary and grammar, you also pick up facts, information, knowledge about cultures, and customs. Ideally, having a native or already fluent speaker to practice on, rather than practice with, increases your scope of learning, and you will have someone to correct and guide you.
3.That being said, having a fellow beginner is also excellent. You will both have the opportunity to make plans and set goals together and have someone to practice with. Unlike speaking with a fluent speaker, in this case, both of you will not feel conscious or hesitant and will be more confident, and less inhibited about making mistakes and learning from them.
Take a class or join a course
Right, so the last of the top 6 tips to become bilingual is practice.
You can do everything right, learn how to read, write and speak a whole new language, become bilingual…but it won’t matter at all if you don’t practice and keep practicing, because technically, you are never finished with learning a language.
Fluency is the key to mastering a language, and the only way to become fluent is to make sure you don’t get rusty. You can use reading material, movies, TV shows, and music to keep yourself from losing touch with the language. Talk to people in that language as often as you can, do everything to keep practicing until one day, it will become second nature to you.
So that was a lot.
Learning a new language is not an easy feat, but something you should definitely attempt and in some cases can be somewhat achieved in 24 hoours. Having the ability to speak 2 languages opens so many opportunities from a travel and career perspective and can transform you’re your life in so many ways.
If you are trying to learn English in your bilingual journey, remember to try and use free tools such as TOEFL preparation resources, as they are some of the best out there, especially with organizations like Magoosh.
Make sure to keep pushing though and progressing, the more you speak the language, the more you will get the hang of the dialects and accent differences.
Remember though, you will fail multiple times before you feel comfortable. Go at your own pace, but from time to time go out of your comfort zone. This will allow you to fail with people you know, and when you get something wrong in public, it does not matter, you just dust yourself off, laugh about it and continue.
We all know the US is a hugely diverse country and learning new languages can provide you with new potential relationships, being able to converse with people on their level and open new doors and experiences.
Let’s work together to break free of our English-speaking bubble and expand our linguistic expertise.
Happy learning, language lovers.
Hey, I’m Kris Taylor. I’m a Learning and Development professional currently in the healthcare field, with over 8 years of experience in the area of corporate education. I have created numerous instructional content for various corporate projects including eLearning, in-person facilitation, and virtual training across a wide variety of learning interventions and sectors. On Taughtup, I discuss topics ranging from how to succeed through K-12 to college all the way to instructional design tips for L&D designers.