To enrol my child in BAPS (or BES) do I need to be fluent in English?

No, you do not need to.

If parents are fluent English speakers, do they have to speak English to their child at home?

No, they do not have to.

Can bilingualism cause children delays in first language acquisition or confusion?

No, children have an innate ability to discriminate between language and non-language sounds. They have no difficulty in learning the sounds of two or more languages. First language acquisition takes place before the age of three. After this age the child’s brain plasticity enables them to learn a second language - with correct pronunciation - without any confusion between first and second language.

What is the best age to become bilingual?

The best age goes from birth to pre-school. To grow bilingual children it is important to expose the child to both languages as early as possible: the longer you wait, the bigger the risk to miss the cognitive benefits that bilingualism gives to the child’s brain, which is highly plastic in the earliest months of life. In other words, children are able to manage multiple languages from birth.

How long does it take to become bilingual?

It depends on different factors, including individual characteristics. Various studies show that it takes children in bilingual programs about two years to develop verbally, and from 5 to 8 years to implement their second language skills academically. Infant bilinguals have an advantage: they can speak their second language without an accent. For this reason it is important to expose children to both languages as soon as possible. This is also why, it may be limitative to start a bilingual path and interrupt it in Year 5.

What happens if my child does not understand the language spoken by teachers and schoolmates?

Bilingualism must be gradual rather than forced upon a child. To ensure that all the children understand English, teachers use visual aids, gestures and images. Body language and other appropriate strategies are also important to support communication and learning.

Do children mix languages?

Sometimes children do mix languages. However, this tendency, which is normal in second language development, will disappear in time. This phenomenon, known as code switching, is frequent in young and adult bilinguals and it is not a problem.

What are the advantages of bilingualism?

Bilingualism represents a kind of enrichment because it enables a child to move between cultures. Being able to communicate in two languages gives also advantages in the workplace. Bilingualism has positive effects on attention: bilinguals are in fact favoured in situations that require an ability to focus on relevant information. This ability might be due to the fact that bilinguals have two simultaneously active languages in their brain.

How can I support my child’s second language development or help him with his homework, if I do not speak English?

Parents do not have to be English speakers to foster their child’s learning. Children can simply be encouraged to teach their family some words, to read some stories or to sing in English with them. Most of all, parents can show enthusiasm for their child’s language development. Teachers can help parents find suitable ways to support their child’s language development.

How do I know if my child is making progress?

Teachers provide parents with an updated feedback. Besides, parents often realize that younger children start to use their second language when they play independently or with their siblings.

Will my child have any academic or linguistic difficulty compared to his monolingual peers?

No, speaking two languages early in life does not affect academic learning. When people speak about children’s learning however, it is advisable to avoid making comparisons as every child progresses differently. Scientific studies demonstrate that bilinguals tend to outperform their monolingual peers, both academically and linguistically. Bilingual children become as competent as their monolingual peers in both languages, without any problem.

When I ask my child to say a word in English, he replies he can’t; however, he has been attending this school for three years. I think he is not learning...

Children link the use of their second language to the school environment and the teachers who speak that language: if parents ask them to speak their second language at home they can be shy, discouraged, less prone to share their experience. It is better not to put children under pressure: parents, interested in seeing their child’s progress, are advised to participate in the school activities.