When Raising a Bilingual Child, Consistency is the Key

My daughter, Jasmine, and I were sitting at the table playing and I was talking to my wife in Turkish that it was bed time for Jasmine.  Jasmine looked at me and said, “不要睡觉 (I don’t want to sleep).”  She completely understood that we were speaking in Turkish about her bed time, but when she responded to that communication, she responded to me in Chinese.  She could have said it in Turkish, as she’d said it before to my wife, but she chose the language we speak with each other instead.

Lots of families raising bilingual children have children that understand, but don’t speak the language.  The key to ensuring this doesn’t happen to you is consistency.  I only speak Chinese with my daughter and she only speaks Chinese back to me.  This is because I only respond to her when she speaks in Chinese and only use it when speaking to her.  My wife and I speak Turkish at home and my wife and daughter speak Turkish with each other.  My daughter constantly hears me speaking Turkish, but never uses it with me because she knows I won’t answer.

It’s probably the single best piece of advice I can give to a parent.  It’ll get harder with time as your child enters school in English and you all have busier lives, but it’s worth it 🙂

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