We’re raising Ananya to be bilingual — to speak and understand both English and Hindi, but we haven’t had much of a strategy to date. The closest thing to a strategy has been something we’ve seen work with different friends we know: speak to your children in Hindi (or whatever non-English language you want them to learn) exclusively, or as close to that as possible, without worrying about their English skills. The idea is that they’ll pick-up English whenever they start school.
My Dad, Ananya’s dadaji, is probably the most conscientious about speaking to Ananya in Hindi, but the rest of us pretty regularly speak to her in Hindi as well. And Ananya’s done pretty well so far — she appears to have the same level of understanding of both Hindi and English and I’d day her vocabulary, which grows everyday, is split 50/50 between the two languages. Some things she knows both in Hindi and English and uses them interchangeably (examples: “water” and “paani”, “come on” and “aa ja”). And some things she just knows the English word for (“apple”, “cherry”, “orange”) or just knows the Hindi word for (“gardi” for car, “dhudh” for milk, “chaaval” for rice). An interesting thing that I’ve learned along the way is that children that grow up learning two languages at once (aka dual language acquistion) generally begin talking later than children learning only one language. Another something I’ve learned is that television can be a great language teaching tool. Actually the TV thing really shouldn’t come as a surprise to me since my eldest sister first learned English from Sesame Street.
Anyways, as Ananya’s about to turn two I’ve decided it might be a good idea to read up some more on language acquisition in children… So I’ve got two books on the way from amazon.com “The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language” and “What’s Going on in There? : How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life”. I’ll write reviews of them in the context of dual language acquisition once I’ve read ’em. And if there are any other books you recommend, send me their titles.