Here are a few tips from our experience:
1. Move to another country
Living in Bangkok significantly helped us to step out of our comfort zone. My son was three months old when we moved here and my daughter was born in a hospital across the street.
2. Introduce native speakers
While there are lots of household helpers who can say some very basic sentences in English, only a few of them can speak English fluently. Hence, as a full-time maid/nanny, we rather hired a 50+-year-old Thai who cannot say anything in English.
She could only speak to the kids in Thai which forced them to learn. Are you hungry? You’d better ask for food in Thai! 🙂
3. Get to a bilingual school
We found an English-French kindergarten nearby. At first, it sounded crazy, because I can only say “bonjour” in French and my wife can count up to 3 🙂
As we like to experiment, we gave it a try! And it worked for three years.
What does it look like in practice? On Tuesday and Thursday, they have an English day. Monday and Wednesday is a French day. Fridays alternate. And always with native speakers.
4. Speak with kids in another language
This goes without saying if the parents are from two different countries, say Thailand and UK. A very common combination in Bangkok indeed.
However, both my wife and I are from Slovakia and speak the same language.
At some point, I felt Marko had difficulties catching up with English, so I started speaking to him in English—all the time, for a year. It helped him so much that at some point he had more English vocabulary than Slovak and had difficulties speaking with grandparents 🙂
Fun fact: Although I’m fluent in business/IT English, I couldn’t answer a simple question such as “What happens when the water goes down the drain?” My vocabulary in this basic area is very limited, hence I had to switch back to Slovak one day!
5. Read books in foreign languages
Here in Bangkok, we can only buy English books, but we also got a few dozen of Slovak books from friends who were moving out. And we read quite a lot, every day.
All the workbooks we practice with are in English, too. It comes naturally after some time to solve the exercises in English.
6. Join or organize local playgroups
If you live in the bigger city, try www.meetup.com. All sorts of local meetups are organized. If you cannot find anything, organize your own playgroup and invite friends.
7. Get audio content for kids
There are lots of podcasts and audiobooks for kids, too! I think it’s better for their language development to hear a spoken word than to listen to some crazy pop music in a radio.
Related article: Does It Still Make Sense To Teach Children Foreign Languages?
- Bilingual Kids Rock
- Read Francois Grosjean’s blog: www.francoisgrosjean.ch
- Get François Grosjean’s book Bilingual: Life and Reality
Have fun teaching your kids different languages!