16 Months – How to Promote Bilingualism

Earlier on we had written a blog post about the positive effects of bilingualism. You yourself may be bilingual, but we know how hard it is to promote the other language especially if everything and everyone around us is English speaking. Here are some tips on how to promote another language (or two or three!)…                                                                   

Roman and the wall. Talk while you DO – Nothing is better than modeling language while you are in act of doing something. It makes it real for your child and allows it to stand out. It not only increases their expressive language, but also receptive language. Try to repeat the same actions and language in the same context as many times as you can. The more exposure your child has the more likely they are going to learn that vocabulary. Some great beginning action and word pairs are waving and “hi”/”bye”, opening and “open”, gesturing toward you and “come”, pointing and “look”, requesting gesture and “I want”, nodding or shaking head and “yes”/”no”, etc.                                                 

Roman getting a book for storytime. Storytime – While you’re reading take the chance to label familiar items in the other language, use carrier phrases such as “I see”, model directives/commends such as “Turn the Page” and “The end”… so much could be done with one book! And the more you read that book in one language the more familiar your child will be with the vocabulary. And do not worry if they don’t imitate at first. Instead, you can practice pointing to target words in the new language.          

Roman with grandmother. Set Aside Specific TIME/PERSON – Many people find it helpful to devote a particular time of day (e.g. – morning until babysitter comes, after nap until evening, etc.) to really focus on the 2nd language. Some even find it helpful to have a specific person in the family speak the target language (e.g. – grandparents, nanny, etc.) so the child associates them with that language. Even if you are not very specific as to when and who (like us!), toddlers will know who speaks that language and will naturally know how to switch according to the setting and person. They are much smarter than we think!                           

Roman with ipad nd cousins.Incorporate Shows or Apps/iBooks – A great way to learn any language is with technology! If screen time is allowed in your household we recommend introducing shows or movies in the specific language, downloading apps/iBooks, etc.                                                                                        

Roman playing in playspace. Playgroups – Another great way to encourage different language is to bring your child around others who speak that same language. There are often playgroups in the community where the target language is spoken during free play, stories, play, snacktime, etc. It’s also a great way to meet new mommy/daddy friends!     


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