The Challenges of Raising Bilingual Children

Bilingual Children in Dubai ‘I speak German to my kids, even when other kids are around. I just don’t care’, says Susanne Thiebe, a mother of three from Australia. She and her husband migrated from Germany 20 years ago, and she does not plan to let her native language go unlearned with this generation. ‘If the other kids don’t understand – tough. I speak English to them but I speak German to my kids’, Mrs. Thiebe states.

A Worthwhile Trade

The Thiebe children are among the early bilingual learners – children who are taught a second language as soon as their faculties allow them to, setting them up for fluency later in life but a delayed linguistic acuity early on.

To parents like Susanne, such is a minor setback for a goal as worthwhile as keeping their language known to their children, assuming that late language emergence does manifest. ‘If you don’t teach them, you miss a chance’, Mrs. Thiebe said. ‘It’s a huge chance you’re giving away’.

Time and Words

Instructors from SISD.ae attribute this insistence more to the parents’ value for lineage and tradition than to their attempts to set their child ahead, academically speaking, though either way, bilingual children achieve fulfilment on both aspects.

‘I’ve seen a lot of families that have lost their language’, says the now 17-year-old Max Thiebe. ‘Because it’s so difficult to maintain it, you’ve got to be strictly regimented at home and say, “At home, we’re going to speak this language”’, he says, referring to the amount of effort his parents put in just to make sure he and his siblings would grow up fluent in German.

There may be one general approach to bilingual education at home –the strict one. But, with dedication and consistent input from the parents, children are bound to grasp both the home and school languages sooner rather than later. It is all a matter of the parent’s willingness to bring the learning far beyond the classroom.