How to raise bilingual children is a question I really struggle with. I myself am bilingual having moved to England from Holland when I was a child. I attended primary school in England and secondary school in Holland, before coming to England to attend university. I have lived in England ever since.
I really would like to give my children the best start in life and being raised bilingually could really help in that.
My issues with raising my children bilingually:
- My wife doesn’t speak Dutch: Although she has expressed an interest in learning it’s not an easy language and finding the time to teach her is very difficult. This also raises another issue. If I do teach my children Dutch they could speak it in front of my wife and she wouldn’t know what they were saying. I imagine two young children could get very mischievous with that.
- Dutch isn’t the best second language to have: It’s not a world language like Spanish, Mandarin or even German and French. Although a second language can be a big advantage I’m just not sure how much of an advantage Dutch would be. We don’t have that many friends and family there and those that we do have speak good english.
- My Dutch isn’t the best anymore: Although I was born in Holland and have been to school there I have lived in England so long now that my dutch isn’t that great anymore. I sometimes struggle to remember words and I definitely feel english is my mother tongue now. Therefore it doesn’t feel natural to me to be speaking Dutch and it is why I often forgot to speak it in front of my children.
- Finding the time: We attend toddler groups or classes most days usually with friend and the conversations we have there are naturally in English.
I would still like to raise bilingual children
Despite all the issues mentioned above I would ideally want to raise bilingual children and teach my daughters Dutch. Below are some potential ideas
- Read more Dutch books to my daughters, especially at bedtime.
- Try and have dedicated Dutch times/days where I can teach both my daughters and my wife Dutch.
- Let them watch some Dutch childrens programmes on youtube.
I would really appreciate any other ideas that anyone has. Being bilingual is a life skill and it would be a shame not to pass that on to my daughters.