FAQ: I want my child to be bilingual, but where do I start?

For some parents bilingualism comes naturally, however for others, it can be a cause for concern and unnecessary stress.

There are essentially two ways in which a child becomes bilingual; simultaneous acquisition and successive acquisition.

Simultaneous acquisition is the process of learning two languages straight from birth.

Successive acquisition is learning a language after already being well-versed in another.

Many mothers state that when giving birth to a child, they find it near impossible to talk to their newborn in anything but their mother tongue. This is a common phenomenon and if this is the case, it helps to introduce clear language settings for your secondary languages. For example, as the child’s mother, you may speak to her in German, whilst her father speaks to her in Arabic. Or as parents you speak to her in Mandarin whilst her grandparents speak to her in English. The boundaries are for you to decide! If situations become a bit muddled, remember that children are largely able to distinguish between two languages and are comfortable building two language systems.

Some parents plan on enacting simultaneous acquisition when their child is born, but when they find themselves in the situation, find that they all want to speak to their child in the same language. This is acceptable as well, and is a situation more suited to successive acquisition, building a second language whilst the first is largely established. This often occurs by the children starting to have interactions with their community and needing to find a way to communicate with the wider world.

It’s never the wrong time to start another language with your child. But as you raise a child that is bilingual or multilingual, it’s important to not have the same expectations of those of monolingual children. Although they may start talking slightly later than their peers, bilinguals generally talk within a normal age range.

If you do have any concerns about the language development of your child, feel free to reach out to us here at Little Sprouts, or with professionals that are able to measure your child in all of their languages.


Games to stimulate the minority language

A request we hear often from parents these days is ‘how can I get them talking in their minority language?’

For many parents, the draw to one language over the other is a frustrating concept, but if you are desperate to stimulate speech in the minority language, games and silliness are generally a great way to go, rather than formal instruction.

Here’s a post from Stephanie Meade to get you thinking. She raises trilingual children and often struggles with this situation herself.


Let us know what works for you, we want to be able to support you and your children to achieve the best possible!

Kōrero – to talk

It is so exciting to hear our community speaking more and more te reo as we approach Maori language week!

Sometimes learning a country’s native language can be daunting, especially if you’re still only coming to terms with the most spoken language.

But remember, for the team here at Little Sprouts, we are not just here to support your children, but to support you as a community as well.

If you’re interested in building on your te reo Maori, but not sure just where to start, feel free to comment, email or pop in and see us. We also have our end of the month July parent evening centred on building te reo with your children, and have a special guest coming to speak about New Zealand as a bicultural landscape.

He wiki pai! (Have a good week!)

FAQ: Isn’t there a danger to bilingualism?

One of the common misconceptions surrounding bilingualism, is that infants who learn two languages simultaneously will become confused children that have a very loose grasp of language concepts.

However, it is quite the opposite.

Infants that learn two languages simultaneously are essentially going through the same processes as their peers, instead just creating two language systems instead of one. There is also a large group of people who believe that bilingual children will be later to start talking than monolingual children, and will have significant delays in all language concepts. Yet studies show that although some bilingual children start talking slightly later than monolingual children, it is still within a normal monolingual age range.

There is a stage in bilingual development known as ‘code-switching’, which often leads parents to believe that their children are confused and resorts to parents putting bilingualism on the back burner. Code-switching is a term that explains the situation where a child will comfortably swap back and forth in different languages in a single speech. This may be because they lack the vocabulary in the primary language, the environment and people within it evoke a different language or the thought processes change mid-sentence. Whatever the case, code-switching is normal, and nothing to worry about with your children! This is a phase children grow out of naturally, just give it time.

For children that learn another language after their first is already near fluency (successive acquisition), learning languages is a breeze. Children have remarkable neuro-plasticity, meaning that their brain easily adapts and soaks up new information, just like a sponge. It is great to make use of this time linguistically, as learning language will never be as simple again. I’d love to be able to pick up a language as quick as some of your children!

There is no proof of any danger relating to bilingualism in children, in fact quite the opposite. Improved cognitive abilities, deeper thinking, and greater concentration are a few of the abilities generally associated with bilingualism – not to mention that it opens up a whole lot of opportunities worldwide in the future!

Bilingualism is a real treasure in life, it is up to us as a community to make sure it is treated as such.

Matariki: The Maori New Year

The end of May to the beginning of June is when the stars of Matariki rise, and once a new moon rises, this signifies the start of the Maori new year.

Matariki is widely recognised as a time to celebrate our connection to the land, and to our ancestors and history, and is basically a great time to learn about all things Maori.

This coming week we hope to share several waiata (songs) and stories with the children that celebrate both te reo Maori (the language Maori) and te ao Maori (the world Maori).

Want to extend this learning at home, but not quite sure where to start? Here’s a waiata about Matariki with a backing track and lyrics provided. Even if you’re not a regular te reo speaker, your children will appreciate the music and language all the same!


Any parents out there that consider themselves reasonable te reo speakers?

Do you have any memories of learning Maori when you were at school?

How do you plan on celebrating Matariki? I can’t wait to get out in the garden and celebrate our connection with Papatuanuku (Mother Earth)!

He wiki pai! (Have a good week!)