How to raise multilingual kids


Before coming to China, I had been coaching and teaching for five years and in the very beginning I started asking myself, why is it so hard for students to learn English as a second language, when the first one is already mastered well at the age of 5, with most grammar patterns and a broad vocabulary? Second language learners struggle with pronunciation, get frustrated, confused, lack motivation and will not even achieve fluency and accent-free speech in the nearest ten years. The first language was not nearly as difficult.

Soon I met my current girlfriend, things got serious to the point that we discussed having a baby. The first thing we needed to decide upon was the first language of the kid. I realized that it is possible to raise the kid bilingually, but did not know anything about it. So I started my research. I am very skeptical and prudent, I needed scientific proofs, not pop-science article with sensationalist and exaggerated headlines. And what I found really astonished me. Not only there are no side-effects in raising a kid bilingually, but it’s also very beneficial to cognitive development and not very hard to do even if you are not a native speaker.

I spent two and a half years to achieve my present level of Mandarin, but when I started I didn’t know a single word, while a lot of middle class Chinese adults in tier 1-2 cities already have the same level in English, lacking only in pronunciation fluency and self-confidence. I am certain that several months of accent polishing and English baby raising training will produce a parent competent to raise a bilingual kid. It is an easy task with modern abundance of digital tools. And by the age of five we will be able to make a vivid learner IN the target language, with a passion to read books, speak and watch videos at least in two languages.

And if you are reading this article, you will succeed if you just follow the instructions. It consists of three parts:

  • Advantages of being bilingual and concerns of raising kids bilingually.
  • The theory of brain development and language acquisition.
  • Bilingual parenting methods and techniques.


We all know the advantages of knowing a foreign language (specifically English) such as better career prospects, ability to travel without a necessity to rely on tour companies and active gesticulation, reading great classic literature the way it was intended and many more. Nevertheless it’s all common sense. Scientific research and statistics discovered many new subtle benefits and confirmed the old ones:

  • Improved mental flexibility

In one study, researchers taught 7-month old babies growing up in monolingual or bilingual homes that when they heard a tinkling sound, a puppet appeared on one side of a screen. Halfway through the study, the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen. In order to get a reward (just enjoy watching the puppet) the infants had to adjust the rule they’d learned; only the bilingual babies were able to successfully learn the new rule. So even in a very early age, bilingual kids have more mind plasticity.1

  • Improved concentration, self-control, attention control and decision making skills

Those who speak two languages have better critical thinking and decision making skills. The bilinguals outperformed the monolinguals on “conflict tasks,” or tasks that required resolving multiple simultaneous attention demands. Researchers found that early bilinguals (those who learned both languages before the age of 3) had the fastest reaction time in attention control tests. Attention control refers to an individual’s capacity to choose what they pay attention to and what they ignore. In lay terms attention control can be described as an individual’s ability to concentrate. 2

Another research showed that 11 months old bilingual kids’ brains were more developed in the areas, responsible for the executive functions. More developed here stands for greater concentration of neural connections and their activeness.3

And the third experiment, where teens had to complete a series of intellectual tasks, both bilinguals and monolinguals performed equally well, until they were given the most difficult tasks, that required to avoid distractions. In these most difficult tasks bilinguals reacted significantly faster. The research states that bilinguals develop executive control earlier and maintain their ability to control those functions longer than monolinguals. Such processes are very common in everyday cognitive life. 4

  • Better empathy and socialization skills

Multilingual individuals get higher average scores on tests for certain personality traits such as cultural empathy, open-mindedness and social initiative. Constant switching between languages (code-switching) and communication with monolingual people make them aware of other people’s qualities and abilities since early age, and leads to a deeper understanding of culture too.

This was also proved by Sally-Anne test in both kids and adults, where adult bilinguals showed better empathy and awareness of other people, while bilingual kids started to be able to complete the task earlier than monolinguals. You can easily understand the task yourself:

In the test process, after introducing two dolls, the child is asked the control question of recalling their names. A short skit is then enacted; Sally takes a marble and hides it in her basket. She then “leaves” the room and goes for a walk. While she is away, Anne takes the marble out of Sally’s basket and puts it in her own box. Sally is then reintroduced and the child is asked the key question: “Where will Sally look for her marble?” Usually, kids start realizing that Sally doesn’t know about the changed location of the marble at the age of four. Bilinguals are a year ahead of them in it.5

  • The higher chance to achieve deep, fluent, accent-free speech

The earlier the language is learnt, the deeper and broader is the understanding of the language. The ability to learn a foreign language declines with age, with a very little chance to acquire native-like fluent and accent-free speech after the age of three.

The major threshold here is 8-10 months, as in the research of Japanese and American babies. It is the exact age when babies stop distinguishing between R and L in English, since in Japanese there is only one sound for both L and R. 6

At this age baby learns the subtlest pronunciation nuances of any language. Therefore, all other languages, learnt later, are acquired through a sound system of mother tongue, thus, resulting in speaking with an accent.

  • Better financial productivity

This one seems to be obvious, but just to illustrate I want to give the example of Canada, which ranks among the highest in quality of life, economic freedom, and education. Yet, a bilingual employee can earn up to 40% higher salary, then his/her monolingual counterparts.7 And it is a country with two official languages. In less multilingual countries the advantage can be even higher!

  • Damage resistance and better mental endurance

Bilingualism enhances cognitive control. In the studies it was confirmed, that lifelong bilingualism protects against age-related cognitive decline and postpones the onset of symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s syndrome for 3-4 years in average. It’s a very long-term benefit, and maybe not a very big one since we are talking about raising kids, but this case also shows that bilingual brain is more capable and enduring. According to the evidence, it does not withstand the disease, rather it boosts brain to handle more damage.8

  • Better word memorization

And this is the least ambiguous and clear advantage. There was an experiment to measure word memorizing efficiency for bilinguals. In the experiment the researchers created a list of words (not real, they made them up). And then they tested 20yo monolinguals and bilinguals. It turned out that natural bilinguals learn new words faster. Since learning definitions and new words represent a big part of education, we may say that bilingualism boosts learning.9

1 Cognitive gains in 7-month-old bilingual infants. Ágnes Melinda Kovács and Jacques Mehler. PNAS April 21, 2009 106 (16) 6556-6560;

2 Kapa, Leah L.; Colombo, John (2013-07-01). “Attentional control in early and later bilingual children”. Cognitive Development. 28 (3): 233–246. doi:10.1016/j.cogdev.2013.01.011.

3 Speech discrimination in 11‐month‐old bilingual and monolingual infants: a magnetoencephalography study. Naja Ferjan Ramírez, Rey R. Ramírez, Maggie Clarke, Samu Taulu, Patricia K. Kuhl. DOI: 10.1111/desc.12427

4 Ellen Bialystok (2007) Cognitive Effects of Bilingualism: How Linguistic Experience Leads to Cognitive Change, International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 10:3, 210-223, DOI:10.2167/beb441.0

5 “Reasoning About Other People’s Beliefs: Bilinguals Have an Advantage”, Journal of Experimental Psychology:Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2012, Vol. 38. No. 1, 211-217, DOI: 10.1037/a0025162

6 Aoyama, Katsura; Flege, James Emil; Guion, Susan; Akahane-Yamada, Reiko; Yamada, Tsuneo (2004), “Perceived phonetic dissimilarity and L2 speech learning: the case of Japanese /r/ and English /l/ and /r/”, Journal of Phonetics, 32: 233–250, doi:10.1016/S0095-4470(03)00036-6

7 Christofides, Louis N. and Robert Swidinsky. “The economic returns to a second official language: English in Quebec and French in the Rest-of-Canada” IZA Discussion Papers, No. 3551, Bonn: 2008

8 Schweizer TA, et al. Bilingualism as a contributor to cognitive reserve: evidence from brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease. Cortex. 2011 DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.04.009}

9 Kaushanskaya M, Marian V (2009). “The bilingual advantage in novel word learning”. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. 16 (4): 705–710. doi:10.3758/PBR.16.4.705.


Even in a modern globalized world, many parents are reluctant to expose their infants to more than one language mostly because this is not the way they used to grow up, they have no idea how to do it, how it works, and are afraid to harm their babies. Here are the main concerns regarding bilingualism in total and raising a kid bilingually in particular:

  • Multilingualism isn’t normal

According to the latest statistics more than the half of the planet can speak more than one language. And historically early humans were multilingual too. Every tribe used to speak their own language, and in order to communicate with neighboring tribes they had to learn their language and vice versa. Monolingualism wasn’t the usual state of things until the emergence of national states in the 19th century, and it had to be imposed upon those groups of population, who spoke languages and dialects other than the capital of the state. You can look at the history of Great Britain, France, Spain, Russia, etc.

  • It causes an impairment deficit, stunted intelligence

These concerns were an academic consensus, but were debunked because contained methodological flaws. Studies without these flaws proved that there is no impairment, conversely, bilingual kids were more intellectually capable in certain tasks, mentioned in the “Advantages.”

  • Confusion and language mixing

At the age of 3-4 bilingual kids tend to mix, which scares parents and many give up one language, just to discover that now it has to be learned as a second one with all aforementioned difficulties. By the age of five all bilingual kids already can discriminate the languages. It’s not a real concern, but parents tend to be anxious about everything.

  • Kids cannot handle so much information

Many uneducated people tend to project their experience over their kids’ future. They think it’s too much to learn more than one language for a kid at once – kids’ brains are not capable, or it can result in lesser vocabulary. However, the truth is that the human brain is capable of many amusing things, baby brain can even more. Due to the physiology of the brain development, baby not only can handle two and more languages, but starting as early as possible is the best strategy. There are millions of natural bilinguals in the world, yet no one had language development problems because of bilingualism. As for the vocabularies – it’s just a matter of exposure. As long as it’s qualitative and takes at least 30% of child’s time, the vocabulary size in each language is going to be equal to that of a monolingual kid.1

1 A bilingual–monolingual comparison of young children’s vocabulary size: Evidence from comprehension and production. Applied Psycholinguistics 35 (2014), 1189–1211, doi:10.1017/S0142716412000744

The theory of brain development and language acquisition

Still uncertain about why you should start your baby’s second language education from birth? Why not wait until the age of 4, so he/she can learn how to speak one language correctly and then add another? For this purpose I want to explain underlying processes in baby’s brain and timeline of its development.

So the basic unit of any brain is a neuron – a nerve cell that has numerous connections to other neurons. The connections are called synapses. At birth, baby’s brain already has about all of the neurons it will ever have. Even more importantly, synapses are formed at a faster rate during the first three years than at any other time. In fact, the brain creates many more of them than it needs: at the age of two, the brain has up to twice as many synapses as it will have in adulthood. These surplus connections are gradually eliminated throughout childhood and adolescence. You can see it on the picture below:

The synapses and their map can be called knowledge. Every time we learn something the new connections are established. The more we learn (from language to gross motor activities), the better and more efficient those connections are. But don’t be confused, the more doesn’t mean the better. There is a reason those surplus connections are trimmed – the aim is efficiency, and too many connections are a burden. As if you built a city and every neighborhood would have too many roads with crossroads and traffic lights every 10 metres.

A child’s senses report to the brain about her environment and experiences, and this input stimulates neural activity. Speech sounds, for example, stimulate activity in language-related brain regions. If the amount of input increases (if more speech is heard) synapses between neurons in that area will be activated more often. This repeated use strengthens a synapse. Synapses that are rarely used remain weak and are more likely to be eliminated. Synapse strength contributes to the connectivity and efficiency of the networks that support learning, memory, and other cognitive abilities. Therefore, a child’s experiences not only determine what information enters the brain, but also influence how the brain processes information for the rest of her life.

The outstanding abilities of newborn babies demonstrate the extent of prenatal brain development. Newborns can recognize human faces, which they prefer over other objects, and can even discriminate between happy and sad expressions. At birth, a baby knows mother’s voice and may be able to recognize the sounds of stories his/her mother read in the 3rd trimester.

At about three months, infants’ power of recognition improves dramatically. For the first few months, a baby in an English-speaking home can distinguish between the sounds of a foreign language. The ability is lost by the end of her first year: the language heard at home wired the brain for English. I have already mentioned it in the section “Advantages” clause 4. After this period, all the other languages learned later will function differently in the brain and achieving accent-free speech becomes a very hard task.

The second year’s most dramatic changes involve the brain’s language areas, which are developing more synapses and becoming more interconnected. These changes lead to a spike in language abilities and vocabulary volume. Often a child’s vocabulary will quadruple between his first and second birthday.

Synaptic density in the prefrontal cortex probably reaches its peak during the third year, up to 200 percent of its adult level. This region also continues to create and strengthen networks with other areas. As a result, complex cognitive abilities are being improved and consolidated. At this stage, for example, children are better able to use the past to interpret present events. They also have more cognitive flexibility and a better understanding of cause and effect.

Early brain development is the foundation of human adaptability and resilience, but these qualities come at a price. Because experiences have such a great potential to affect brain development, children are especially vulnerable to persistent negative influences during this period. On the other hand, these early years are a window of opportunity for parents, caregivers, and communities: positive early experiences have a huge effect on children’s chances to achieve success and happiness.

That is why exposing your kid to a second language since birth is not a burden for your baby, but a favor, saving him/her thousands of hours, spent struggling through boring grammar books and exercises.


Ok, now you must have made a decision to raise your kid bilingually. Where do you begin? What should you do? The vast majority of parents worldwide treat it negligently, to say the least. Although, they prefer the term “naturally” or “normally”, which usually means transferring all their biases, misconceptions and childhood traumas to their kids. Quite often they even skip the transferring stage and just delegate parenting to kids’ grandparents. However, since you are reading the article up to this page, you are certainly not this type of a parent. Below you will be able to read a complete step-by-step guide applicable to any language and situation.


You should start with it, because it is going to be a big relief during the first years of your baby, when you will barely have any time to sleep, let alone to plan. While doing it, don’t be too persnickety, the plans are to be changed in the modern world, the main purpose of the plan is to create a vision in your head so you know what to do next without even looking at the plan. Nevertheless, don’t hesitate to amend it every time you decide to make changes in kid’s life.

  1. Strategy

The most common strategy is one parent – one language. As it can be understood each of the parents speaks a different language. It can also be another caregiver – a nanny or a grandparent. The point is to assign only one language to everyone involved. This strategy is also the only one which was studied and the majority of bilinguals, who were researched in every cited experiment, were raised this way. Because it is easy to implement, since the responsibilities are clearly divided. And it doesn’t confuse the baby. Don’t forget to take into account the languages of the family members involved and the environment so the input of each language is equal or at least 1/3 of all the time.

If you decide to raise your baby trilingually, you can speak one language each to the kid and a third language with each other. It is most convenient to use the dominant language of the place you live in.

  1. Consistency.

Since you have started raising your baby in one manner, it is very important to keep it this way at least until your kid reaches the age of five. So if you move from country to country, where dominant language coincides with one of yours, do not switch the languages you speak to your kid to keep the same level of exposure. It’s better to find a target language-speaking nanny than frustrate your kid. So keep in mind your occupation for the first five years of your baby and adjust your strategy plan accordingly.

  1. Facilities

Speaking of a place you live in, think about the conventional educational institutions. Are there bilingual kindergartens you can afford? Schools? Which language do they teach? If you move from place to place a lot, you may consider a boarding school or homeschooling. You can combine homeschooling with online schools (there are plenty in English) and a local public school. Think ahead which universities your kid would like to attend so you can prepare to it.

  1. Community

Language is a tool of communication first of all, so interaction with other speakers is crucial. Another important thing is identity, where language plays a key role. If a kid interacts only in one language which differs from languages spoken at home, he/she can refuse to communicate in languages other than dominant. It is a very common occurrence among bilingual families. Therefore, you need to maintain the sense of necessity of every language. The best tool is to cooperate with like-minded parents and conduct events with their kids in the target language and related to culture. Watching a cartoon made in your home country followed with discussion. Celebration of national holidays, feasts, parties, culinary lessons, hiring tutors, inviting guests for a cup of tea and talk etc. The goal is to show that not only one person in kid’s life speaks this language, but many other people too. And that the languages have value and speaking more than one makes your kid unique.


Books are very important since one of our main goals is developing baby’s literacy skills so that in the era of information the kid will sooner or later be able to educate him/herself. Here are the type of books for certain uses and periods:

  1. Picture story books – have simplistic pictures on every page (sometimes black and white) and very little text (one sentence per page). Every page is sturdy and thick to help a baby turn pages easily, throw it with zero damage, and even bite.
  2. One or just a few very big books “My first words”, with vocabulary arranged in categories and sets of pictures for repetitive pronunciation. It’s nice if it has pictures of babies. It may have textures for a baby to touch. You are going to use this book routinely, teach counting and word relations.
  3. Children classic literature your kid is going to read before 10. Something like Harry Potter, Arabian Nights, Tales of Mother Goose, etc. The task here is to have them on the shelves while your kid is growing up. He/she is going to look at them from time to time, getting more and more interested in the content, and eventually will open and read it without your pressure. But don’t hurry to put them on the shelf and wait ten years, you still can read it to your kid when going to bed and when got tired of the previous two types of books. By reading them, you will implant some words into baby’s memory so that a “discovery” of that story after acquiring literacy will be even more exciting due to familiarity.

Other materials

  1. Toys

As for toys, kids love to engage in activities their parents do often. Therefore, one of the best toys are the ones which represent daily things (like keys, fruits, animals, etc.) so you can play and comment. For literacy development I recommend using ABC shapes, made of wood or magnets, so you can vary approaches to your kid’s literacy development.

  1. Montessori sensorial materials

They are great examples of what are the best toys to help kid understand the basics of shapes, materials, textures and how to interact with them

  1. Writing and drawing.

A whiteboard and a set of markers to conduct your mini lessons without wasting paper.

  1. Electronic devices.

Tablet or/and TV or/and computer. We live in a digital era and electronic gadgets are a huge part of our lives. Thus, it is unreasonable and even harmful to deprive your kids of it. But, as with books, staring at close objects for long periods of time is unnatural and our bodies are not evolutionary adapted to it, so it can lead to nearsightedness. Therefore, make sure to implement reading-watching discipline since early age. With all necessary restrictions and wise management gadgets become a powerful tool of self-educating with games and videos. And they help maintain motivation, critical in children’s language development.

  1. Digital materials

Which movies in the target language would you like your kid to watch? Which games to play? If you don’t choose, then kid’s peers, TV, and ads will. And you had better start making the list now. Keep in mind copyright laws – the majority of any content is not commercially available in languages other than official in the country. E.g. some movies on Netflix are available in the USA and not available in Europe. So the most reliable way to secure desired content is to download it and keep in your home digital storage.

Bilingual parenting methods and techniques

Accent correction

If you want to speak to your kid in a non-native language and consider your current level enough to raise your kid, you may still be worried about your pronunciation. It is important because kids pick up the subtlest details of parents’ language. So here is a list of things to consider:

  1. Master all the sounds of the target language.
  2. Tongue twisters. When you master all the hardest tongue twisters you can consider you have mastered the language pronunciation.
  3. Exaggeration. You should pronounce the accent you are striving to achieve in a child-like teasing manner, exaggerating the major features that differ this accent from the others.
  4. Recording yourself. Due to the anatomy of human skull we hear ourselves in a different way than the others. So use the power of modern technologies and listen to yourself in the same way others have to deal with the sound of your voice.
  5. Speak slowly, learn to pronounce in a desired manner first, and then work on the speed.
  6. Read out loud. Just take a book and read it out loud. Rhymes and poems are even better. Combining it with recording your voice makes it perfect.
  7. Teacher. And of course use native speakers to give you feedback. You don’t have to pay, there are lots of people who can help you for free. You can search online, visit local international events. However, if you want professional help, you might want to consider a few sessions with a specialist.


It is the most important part of the bilingual education. Start from reading stories in the third trimester of pregnancy. It sounds ridiculous and I had been skeptical to it before I did my research. Babies really start listening from the third trimester, and just a day after birth they can distinguish the stories they heard in womb from the new ones. And of course, they prefer familiar. It also slightly affects the efficiency of language acquisition. So don’t feel shy or embarrassed, it feels weird just for a short time, but the results remain forever. 1

And don’t stop after the birth! Babies engage in adult activities so easily! The whole procedure of sitting down and reading prepares baby to future learning, develops concentration and creates a lifelong habit. Do it for ~10 minutes few times a day, depending on your babies attention span, and increase it when possible. Don’t rush to finish a book, the whole point is in the process and the only goal is baby’s enjoyment.

Important aspects of reading:

  1. Repetition – repeat words as much as possible, as long as it is entertaining, to enhance memorization.
  2. Pointing – point every picture when you mention what is on it, point at the words while reading, showing a connection between text and speech.
  3. Singing – try to sing some of the passages and sentences, babies like it.
  4. Signs and gestures – imitate everything, with your hands and body, be creative.
  5. Verbal routines – use some word combinations you use often (e.g. turn over the page, point X, where is X? Show me the X), assign a certain gesture and pronunciation to it.
  6. Intonation and role-play – use different voices and intonation for different characters and situation, exaggerate.
  7. The most important is to HAVE FUN! Your kid learns emotions from you, so do what you like, experiment and enjoy every moment.

Don’t hesitate to learn ABCs even before your kid starts talking, just be very gentle and don’t push, it will create a negative attitude, which is very hard to change, and we all know how childhood issues affect our future lives. Besides books, you can also use songs, flashcards, and puzzles.

Baby talk

Baby talk, or parentese, it is a special way to talk to babies in many cultures. Many people say it is bad to speak with babies like this, but research states otherwise. Babies like adults speaking this way, and it is the only way for a baby to understand that the speech is directed to him/her.

Two-day-old hearing infants of deaf mothers show preference to parentese, even though they have no experience of listening to anyone’s speech. In an experiment babies watched some people speaking in an infant-directed manner, and another in a usual adult-directed speech. Then, they were shown two images – one with those adults, and one with an unfamiliar person. Infants looked longer at an image of a person, who spoke parentese, than at an image of a novel person; by contrast, after hearing a person speaking in an adult-directed manner, infants instead preferred the novel person. It obviously indicates that babies like listening to baby talk.2

In another experiment it was proved that parentese induces word recognition and memorization in infants.3

How to speak parentese? That’s easy, you just raise pitch, so your voice sounds higher, prolong vowels and use short consonants, but be careful and do not use it all time. From time to time use your usual voice, with the same words you used in parentese before. Then the baby will most likely remember the word. You will feel when to stop using parentese, usually it’s soon after your baby starts speaking. After the babbling stage (around 1yo) engage in “meaningless” conversations with your baby, so he/she gets used to communication because verbal aspect is not the only one in it, sometimes even not the most important. And it’s beneficial to encourage speech. It prevents from starting to talk late, getting anxious about it and so on. And the last thing to facilitate speech development is to use dummies less.


You should start watching them together after 18 months, commenting and explaining to your baby.4 Videos are extremely helpful, but you must realize there should be limits. The best way is to watch them together, or conducting movie parties with neighbors and their kids followed by a discussion of characters, values, morals and so on. Don’t blindly delegate parenting to it, keep your kid away from YouTube (I would recommend downloading all desired materials and watch offline), use a big screen to protect from myopia, and supervise content.

Nursery rhymes with fingerplays

You can use any classic nursery rhymes. And it’s better if they include some finger play, which not only develops fine motor skills, but also is more engaging to babies and creates a funny daily routine. Thus, it is very easy for kid to start doing it him/herself later. The best example here is “Eensy Weensy spider”.

Songs and lullabies

The best ones are those, which have a video of your choice, so that after 1.5yo you can also watch them. And also it’s very useful to use songs that involve a certain category of vocabulary, like “Head and shoulders” teach about some body parts, or numerous “ABC” songs which can also teach phonics. Some songs are “situational”, like lullabies form a reflex to fall asleep, some songs can be used to relieve pain when a baby is hurt and can’t stop crying, etc. And the most popular are songs you can dance, e.g. Mulberry Bush.


It is a huge part. It is very important for language development because it creates links between speech and real life actions. There are three intuitive types of commenting – describing what you are doing, what your kid is doing, and what other people/animals/characters are doing.

Here are some ideas when you can apply this technique:

  1. Watching photos and videos of their parents and kids itself – children are very sensitive when it comes to their identity and identity of their parents. This can have a more profound effect than reading a picture book. Just look through photo albums or galleries in your phone and describe/discuss them.
  2. Drawing – especially good to learn colors and shapes
  3. Playing toys with them – you can talk about actions and interactions
  4. Talking about parts of the body while changing clothes
  5. Observation walk – speaking about the environment you are in when you are not at home.
  6. Correction. When they start speaking, they are likely to make language mistakes. Be careful to correct them in a right manner – just repeat what they have said with right grammar. E.g.: “Dog run” – “Oh, yes, dear, the dog is running”. As your kid learn you can start making your own mistakes to let him/her correct you.


Asking questions starts long before talking because babies understand you before they learn to talk and even walk. You can hold two toys and ask to point one of them, encouraging with a smile and little praise in case of a successful answer. Don’t ask too many questions, it overwhelms and stresses out kids. Follow a rule of thumb – say four statements for each question you ask and give them time to answer, dropping hints if it takes too long. Furthermore, give choices during daily routines (which shirt to wear, which food to buy in a supermarket, which game to play), showing the kid that he/she has control.


They are an important tool that bonds parents and kids. Usually they are played no longer than 10-15 minutes, but it’s not a big deal since you will get tired much earlier than your kid. Here is a short list of available games:

  1. So big
  2. Heigh-ho or ride a little pony
  3. I spy with my little eye
  4. Counting certain categories of objects you pass by
  5. Charades
  6. Rhyming
  7. Guessing a letter/word you write on their hands
  8. Rubber band words or stretching words

1 Moon, Christine; Lagercrantz, Hugo; Kuhl, Patricia (2013). “Language experienced in utero affects vowel perception after birth: A two-country study”. Acta Paediatr. 102 (2): 156–160. doi:10.1111/apa.12098

2 Infant-Directed Speech Drives Social Preferences in 5-Month-Old Infants. Adena Schachner, Erin E. Hannon. DOI: 10.1037/a0020740

3 Influences of Infant-Directed Speech on Early Word Recognition. Leher Singh, Sarah Nestor, Chandni Parikh, and Ashley Yull. DOI: 10.1080/15250000903263973



This is the basic stuff you need to know so you have a full picture how to raise your kid bilingual. Soon there will be detailed lists of songs, books, games, videos, and situations so even if you are a timid non-native speaker of English or Mandarin you can just repeat and learn those activities without any further research.