Four Proven Methods For Raising Bilingual Babies

There are long lasting benefits that come with being fluently bilingual.  They range from giving one a leg up in the job market and having the ability to converse with different people and understand the nuances of another culture, to improving brain function such as the ability to focus and perform mental tasks.

More importantly, if your native language is different from the majority language, you’ll feel emotionally closer to your baby if your baby is able to communicate with you in your native language.

Well, it turns out that the ideal time to start bilingualism is maybe even before your baby is born. Recently, neuroscience researchers have been able to actually see what is taking place inside developing babies’ minds. The results were published in the journal Acta Paediatrica. Apparently, babies understand things about language even before birth and develop verbal skills way before they say their very first words.

What’s more, the brain is primed in the first three years of life with synapses, which is the point at which a nervous impulse passes from one neuron to another, creating optimal neural pathways to mediate language. This building of the brain’s language chip goes on, however, at an ever-slowing rate from the age of 6 until the age of 12 years. Therefore, as a child grows older their superior power language abilities weaken.  And so, by the teenage years they are almost entirely lost. This means that parents should take full advantage of the critical period if they want their child to be perfectly bilingual.

Keep in mind, though, that babies acquire language and they can’t actually be taught language. They identify the word form in the stream of speech.  Then they map these words onto meanings they have gathered from hearing repeated utterances of the same sound chunk in the same setting or context. Therefore, the idea is really to expose babies to languages through meaningful conversations that are attached to real life to support the language acquisition process.

With that being said, it would not be such a great idea to rely solely on any “ultimate foreign language course” where you park your toddler in front of a computer screen listening to and repeating phrases.  Needless to say, that does not qualify as meaningful communication. In my opinion this method should just be used to train pet parrots and cockatiels how to talk, not children. Like these birds, children most certainly will learn a few phrases, but the “repeat after me” method will not help them to carry on actual conversations. Plus, language is made up so many intricate expressions of culture and computer language learning programs never effectively cover them.

There are four methods for raising bilingual babies that are commonly used, so I’ll concentrate on them and show how they encourage bilingual development.

One Person One Language (OPOL)

The OPOL method is where each parent consistently speaks a different language to the child. This could mean that mom speaks her native language with her child, while dad speaks to them in English or his native language. The method is considered the best one for teaching babies two languages as it is believed that it results in less language confusion. It also ensures that the baby is equally exposed to both languages on a regular basis and can help both parents connect with the child in their respective languages. It’s especially great when the parents understand each other’s languages because neither one feels left out when the other is speaking their native language with the child.

Minority Language at Home (ML@H)

With the ML@H method the minority language is spoken at home by both mom and dad with the baby and the majority language is used with everyone else.  The risk with this method is that these children may not be up to speed with their monolingual pre-school mates. For this reason, some parents choose to switch to one of them speaking the majority language about year before their child starts school.  Parents needn’t, however, be too concerned about their child being at disadvantage when starting school.  For better or worse, children usually discover far more from other children than from any adult. When children interact with other children speaking the majority language on a daily basis, the time it takes to catch up is just six month.

Time and Place (T&P)

The T&P method is where one language is spoken at home, and another language is used at school. Or, the minority language is spoken only during the week, while the majority language is practiced on the weekends. This method is also commonly used in bilingual daycare centers and immersion schools whereby a set of activities and subjects are reserved for one language. If neither parent speaks their native language well, enrolling the child in a school that centers on bilingualism may be the best option.

Mixed Language Policy (MLP)

The MLP method uses the mix of languages in any circumstances – independent of person, time and place.  Mostly this is applied where many family members are at least bilingual. MLP can cultivate the child’s ability to be more flexible and get used to very different sounds and sayings. Then again, it can also lead to confusion, where the child starts to mix up the languages.  To prevent the latter, simply use the language that is appropriate to the situation. For example, the majority language may be used for reading stories and singing songs and homework, while the minority language may be used to chat about more personal and everyday subject matters.

Above all else it’s most important that you have a language acquisition method and follow it. And then just start early. Too, every child is different, and a parent is the best expert on what motivates their child, so work with what drives your child. Trips to where the language is spoken and play groups in the language are fun incentives for its use.

A Parent = A Child’s Most Important Teacher

The children being born each day in 2018 will be the decision makers, leaders and the conscience of our society tomorrow. As a parent, I have long known just how critical it is to spend time investing in your children’s most impactful environment – that of his or her earliest developmental years, 0-5. Today it has become universally recognized that it is beneficial for a parent to consistently exercise the very young mind of their child…as early and as often as possible. In addition to the genetics passed along, it is the absolute best means for a child to reach full developmental potential as an adult. The toughest aspect of such diligence, if you will, is that after a certain time frame…you can’t return to the most important window of opportunity. The more we know as parents, the more we’re called to do as we foster the best in our children and for our children. This isn’t a forceful missive but one that encourages proactive attention and nurturing along the way.

Early Days of Parenthood

Most parents remember the early days of parenthood as one of the most exciting points in life but that is typically years later once they have caught up on missed sleep.  Everyone knows being a new parent can be exhausting and in general, things do get better when it comes to parental sleep deprivation. But don’t underestimate the dangers, especially in those early days. Studies have shown that sleepy driving can be as dangerous as or worse than drunk driving. Plus, plenty of research links insufficient sleep to various health problems and problems at work.

Loss of Productivity

According to a recent Harvard research study, insomnia leads to the loss of 11.3 days’ worth of productivity each calendar year for the average worker. That’s the equivalent of $2,280.

This may be a bigger issue than many of us ever thought. For even a small business with 15 employees, that would equal nearly 170 days of lost productivity … or the equivalent of $34,300. Nationally, insomnia may be responsible for an estimated loss in productivity worth $63.2 billion.

Physiological and Psychological Consequences

A recent study conducted by researchers at non-profit organization RAND Europe, titled ‘Why sleep matters – the economic costs of insufficient sleep’, is the first of its kind to quantify the economic impact of sleep deprivation. Researchers found that a person who sleeps on average less than six hours a night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between seven and nine hours.

Research leader, Marco Hafner, at RAND Europe is the report’s main author, explains “Our study shows that the effects from a lack of sleep are massive. Sleep deprivation not only influences an individual’s health and wellbeing but has a significant impact on a nation’s economy, with lower productivity levels and a higher mortality risk among workers.”

Although life with a newborn is a round-the-clock endeavor, don’t lose hope. By ages 3 to 4 months, many babies can sleep at least five hours at a time. At some point during your baby’s first year, nighttime stretches of 10 hours are possible.  Proactive parents can give their baby the benefit of a progressive developmental tool like the BabyPlus Prenatal Education System®.  Although nothing guarantees your baby will sleep through the night quickly, a 3rd party survey reported 80% of moms who wore BabyPlus during pregnancy considered their children good sleepers.

BabyPlus® is a developmentally appropriate curriculum that introduces patterns of sound to the prenatal child in the only language he or she understands-the language of the maternal heartbeat.  As a baby discriminates the simple rhythmic sounds of BabyPlus® from those of the mother, auditory learning begins.

Learn more at

A Fitting Award

It is super fitting that our most recent consumer award is the 2017 Mom’s Choice Award. I say this because it is truly our very own BabyPlus moms in over 60 countries to date who have created and sustained the global awareness for our brand! Mom to mom, sister to sister, friend to friend…each relationship scenario has served to spread the word and illuminate the message of the BabyPlus opportunity. Call them brand evangelists or market ambassadors, we just call them part of our growing global BabyPlus family.

It’s such an honor for us to know each and every Mom… along the way.