The world is getting smaller, the number of bilingual families is growing and with this, there is a need and a desire to teach both languages to children. There are a few strategies to raise bilingual children, one of the most popular one is OPOL (One Parent One Language) in which each parent (or carer) speaks to the child exclusively in one language. For example, a bilingual family where dad speaks to the child only in English and mum speaks only in Spanish.
Bilingual books can be a good resource for parents, teachers or carers to teach a target language. But, what are bilingual books? As you can imagine, bilingual books are books that have the same story in two different languages. The text is generally split in each language as the objective for children is to read without mixing languages. This way, for example, the carer that always talks to the child in English, will read the story in English, and the carer that talks in Spanish, will read the story in Spanish. Nowadays, there is more demand for bilingual books in different languages, and while I focus on bilingual books for children in English and Spanish, there are bilingual books in many different combinations. In fact, my local library has books in English-Greek, English-Mandarin, English-Italian and many more. This is because those are the books that the international communities in my city are looking for.
Now that I told you about bilingual books, I also need to tell you what bilingual books are NOT. Bilingual books are NOT books to learn languages or grammar, Bilingual books are NOT books that mix language and they are NOT books that are translated too literally.
How do I read a bilingual children’s book?
It’s very important to be aware that if you are the parent or carer that always speaks in English, your role will be to always read the story in English. On the other hand, if you are the carer that always speaks Spanish, then you will read in Spanish. It’s also useful to point at the illustrations, objects and characters. Ask your child questions about what will happen next. Bilingual books are not a magic pill that will make your child speak another language overnight, however, they are a powerful tool, that combined with daily conversation, music and lots of patience, will help you raise bilingual children.
What do you think? I hope I piqued your interest to learn more about bilingual books and that you can find books that can entertain your kids while you give them the gift of speaking another language.