In today’s short Vlog, I talk about some really powerful language building techniques for children birth to five that you can use rather than interpreting back and forth between languages to help your child understand. 

Show, Don’t Interpret.

I see parents and preschool teachers acting as an interpreter for their child when they’re trying to help them learn new words. Often, we’re trying to be efficient and helpful so we tell a child the name of something in the language that they’re already familiar with. For example, we’ll tell them in Spanish to, “put their shoes inside the closet” and when they look slightly confused, we switch back to English and tell them to put their shoes in the closet, because that’s what they already understand. But, and this is especially true for small children, they won’t have learned that phrase more solidly in the language we’re targeting if we just switch back to the language they already know.

So, we can show them the closet, we can point at the shoes, and we can repeat where to put them. And then we can comment on what they just did, “You put your shoes in the closet!” And to get them speaking and using these words, follow up with a choice in your home language or a question. This gives them a chance to respond back and really solidify what they’ve just heard. “Which shoes are your favorites? The blue shoes with the horses or the red shoes with balloons?” 

What if I want my child to learn two (or more) languages at once. Shouldn’t I interpret back and forth?

Sometimes we’re in a rush to make sure that our child’s bilingualism is completely balanced. But, there are different ways of doing that, meaning that interpreting back and forth may not be the best way to “balance out” their bilingualism. So long as your child gets different opportunities throughout the weeks and months of their childhood in each language, they’ll build both of their languages. They don’t necessarily need to learn both languages at the same time. So, if you’re interpreting back and forth with the hope that they’ll learn both languages simultaneously, and you’re feeling exhausted by it, well, your child might be feeling it too! So, slow down. Use a lot of repetition and a lot of showing, doing, practicing  and offering opportunities for commenting rather than interpreting. 

Now, there will be times when you’ll need to use the language your child knows best just to get something done quickly and efficiently. And that’s alright! If you need to get out of the house quickly, then use the language your child understands best, if they have a more dominant language. But, when you can show, comment, act out, etc. rather than just interpret, then that will allow your child to really remember and understand what you’ve said. 

You’re doing great! Please share this if you’ve found it helpful. If you have questions or comments, leave them below or shoot me an email!