My husband and I both came to Canada from Bosnia and Herzegovina and are both fluent in at least two languages (my husband speaks German and I speak French). When we started dating TEN years ago and we talked about our future, we always said that we would hope to raise our children in a bilingual household in order to help uphold some traditions and help them understand their roots. An entire decade later, here we are and let me tell you - it's been an interesting ride.
I've wanted to write a blog post about this for a long time - just to share our experience so far - rather than to provide any sort of advice. As parents, we know what works best for us but this is our story!
Anyone who follows me on social media knows that my oldest daughter is a chatterbox. And her primary language is English. Which is pretty fair because we live in a predominantly English-speaking part of Canada. And my older daughter still attends daycare a few times a week where they (obviously) speak English. But she fully understands everything in both English and Bosnian - and responds in a nice little unique mixed language that I like to call Englian (or Bosnish? I don't know - what sounds better? Both? Neither? Anyways..).
She is surrounded by both languages at home and at both my parents and my husbands parents house. In addition, we constantly play music, songs and videos in both languages to stimulate her brain. I was initially worried that exposing her to two languages at once would confuse her - but a really great resource that helped guide me was this wonderful blog - www.bilingualparenting.com. It includes a ton of awesome posts about the benefits of speaking multiple languages at home, challenges myths about raising bilingual children, and provides resources on how to introduce different languages to your children. What I've learned throughout my research is this: It does not confuse them to speak multiple languages, bilingualism is not responsible for speech delays in children, and children are able to differentiate each language from a very young age.
In addition to this blog, I also constantly use the best resource I currently have - my intuition. So if I'm playing with my daughters and I sing "Wheels on the Bus" to them, I'll sing it once in English and then once in Bosnian. They understand that it is the same tune and Ena has started singing along to both versions. And YouTube has about a billion videos in both languages which a) are great learning tools for parents to use and b) allow us to drink a hot coffee while the children are being intellectually stimulated in multiple languages - WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE FRIENDS!
Of course I am hard on myself a lot - constantly worrying if she will be able to conquer both languages - but I think as parents, the only thing we can do is provide them with all the resources we have and encourage them to do their best. Our biggest test now will be our trip to Europe this summer - where she will be exposed to more Bosnian than English. I for one, am so excited to see her hopefully pick it up and have conversations in our native tongue.
Mini Public Service Announcement:
We are at an age where Ena talks a lot. Like she will NOT. STOP. TALKING. But this wasn't always the case for us. When Ena started daycare after our one year of maternity leave was over, they did a developmental test on her (a checklist - nothing too fancy). Initially, they had concerns that her language skills were a little bit behind. I don't remember the exact details of what was expected, but at one year old - she was maybe saying a couple of words. Like any parents, we were worried and spoke to our doctor who said that it was completely normal and that she would pick it up one day and her language skills would improve. And boy were they right. Around 18 months - her language skills started to improve significantly and now she's putting full sentences together and surprises us every single day. So I sometimes want to kick myself for worrying so much - and I know a lot of parents are currently in the same boat as I was. Every child develops differently and as a parent - you are doing everything absolutely right - so cut yourself some slack!