Teaching your baby two languages at one time is the most effective way to raise a bilingual speaker. Babies are adept at picking up on language sounds and they absorb what they hear, Erika Levy, an assistant professor of speech and language pathology at Columbia University Teachers College, told Parents Magazine. Introduce a few activities into your baby's daily routine, starting at about 6 months of age, and he'll pick up English and Spanish at the same time.
The Earlier the Better
One-month-old babies make up to 3 billion synaptic connections per second, Learning Revolution International founder Jeanette Vos wrote in an article published on the website Early Childhood News. They are aware of external stimuli, such as the sound of someone talking. They are also able to store what they hear in their brain cells for retrieval at a later date. So, a baby hearing two different languages will store that information until she is physically able to speak and carry on a conversation.
Activities for Babies Under Age 1
During the first six months of life, babies are able to make the sounds of any language, but without constant exposure their brains will discard the sounds that aren't part of what they hear on a daily basis, according to Vos. Eventually, a baby will stop making sounds she doesn't hear regularly. If a baby hears Spanish regularly, she is more likely to learn the language. Expose your baby to the sounds of Spanish by playing music in the language, Rob Kaye, co-founder of Yak Academy, a language acquisition institute, told MetroParent. If you're fluent in Spanish, read books to your baby. Point out objects around the house or while you run errands, and tell your baby the words in English and Spanish. If you buy talking toys, select those that speak in Spanish.
Activites for 1-Year-Olds
As your baby gets older, you can continue playing Spanish music and reading Spanish books, but you can also incorporate more complex language acquisition skills. Talk to your baby as much as possible. Tell him what you're doing in both English and Spanish, and encourage him to say the words back to you. If you don't speak Spanish, consider hiring a Spanish-speaking nanny or babysitter, suggests Roxana A. Soto -- co-founder of a website for parents raising bilingual and bicultural children -- in an article for the website BabyCenter. As your 1-year-old masters the skill of speaking words, encourage him to speak to you in Spanish for a portion of the day.
Activities for 2-Year-Olds
Older babies might benefit from Spanish language immersion classes. Look for a bilingual daycare center or preschool that will expose your baby to both English and Spanish. In such an environment, your baby will not only learn to speak Spanish but will also learn how to read and write in it, Soto notes. Children this age can also develop Spanish-speaking skills by listening to more complex stories in the language and by hearing new Spanish words on a regular basis.