Some Tips to Raising Bilingual Children
Consistency. Whatever bilingual pattern you choose, stick to it. Some families choose to use only the home language in the house, and the second language outside the home. Some bilingual families have parents from two different cultures, and each speaks to the children in his/her home language. Although children can learn two or more languages in what seems like chaos, a reasonable amount of consistency will make their job, and yours, simpler. Once children learn the pattern, they are often disturbed when a parent breaks it. Whatever rules you establish about language use, be clear and consistent about your choices. (For example, a Somali family might have rules such as: Somali only at the dinner table, unless American guests are present. Somali only among siblings in the house, but it’s OK for siblings to speak to each other in English at school or the playground. Always respond to an elder in the language he/she spoke to you in.)
Rich Environment. This doesn't mean the children need expensive toys or special tools, but they need to hear songs, bedtime stories, and other linguistic stimulation just as monolingual children do - except that bilingual children need it in both their languages. This will mean an extra demand on your time, both to give them this stimulation and to find the books, recorded music and other objects you want - but it is by no means impossible. Be sure your child hears the target language as much as possible, both by adults and other children. Go to target language parties, celebrations, and events. Children need to understand that although they are a “minority language speaker” in this particular culture, the target language is also a public language, spoken by an entire country or countries. If at all possible, visit a target-language country for extended periods for maximum exposure.
Children's Needs First. Children should not be forced into bilingualism if it really does make them unhappy. Talk with your child about the problem, and be sure he/she understands why it is important to you. Above all they should not be asked to "show off," which embarrasses children and makes them all too aware of being "different.”
Playing It Down. The more you can make bilingualism seem like a natural and unremarkable part of family life, the more likely it is that the children will grow up to enjoy being bilingual, and the more likely it is that you will succeed in keeping both languages active in your home.