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Parenting Expert Sylvia Ford Gives Tips on Developing Multilingualism in Children

At her Jan. 23 parenting program “Multilingual Development” at Northside Library, Early Childhood Consultant Sylvia Ford (sylviaford.com) suggested that parents create a photo album of their child with photo captions in the foreign language they are learning. Ford offered other tips to help enhance a child’s proficiency in another language besides English.

“I’m here to promote you, to help your child know your home language,” Ford said. “Or maybe you want them to be bilingual with a language that’s not in your home at all. If you have a really young child, it’s the best time to start, even if you have a baby.”

During her talk, Ford suggested keeping language consistent with certain people and places.

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“Having a real person in their life who is a native speaker and is consistent is important—for example, the caregiver who comes every week or more than once a week,” Ford said. “One language professor that I had said that her and her husband (also a language professor) when they got married, they said, ‘we’re going to experiment when we have kids.’ They knew English and three romance languages. Each room of their house had a different language they could speak, but not English. The parents still live in the same house. When the kids, now adults, come home, they still speak the same languages in each room as they’d done when they were kids. That shows how powerful it is to have language compartmentalized with a person, activity or a space. It makes it easier for you to be consistent.”

Ford encouraged parents to use slow and clear speech.

“When you know your language, you can speak quickly,” she said. “We take for granted that children can follow along that quickly, but they can’t.”

Also, Ford discouraged parents from correcting children’s language by saying, “That’s not right.”

“It’s better to acknowledge what they want to say first,” she said. “When they hear you say it right, their brains will want to copy it.”

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