5 Ways You Can Support Your Child's Bilingualism During Distance Learning

At Silicon Valley International School (INTL), our rigorous bilingual curriculum – whether in French/English, Chinese/English or German/English – is what sets us apart and makes us exceptional. Naturally, when we were faced with the challenge of quickly adapting to a Distance Learning model in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, we worked hard to keep bilingualism at the heart of our students' experience, and we are proud that we were able to maintain a strong level of language learning, even from afar.

Of course, nothing can match the richness of an in-person bilingual education, where children naturally become fluent through daily complex interactions with their teachers and classmates in the target language.

However, INTL Chinese Academic Dean Cindy Chiang and INTL French Academic Dean Olivier Monteil have some simple and fun suggestions for how you can support and enrich your child's bilingualism at home during distance learning.

1. Surround your child with books! It may sound simple, but providing your child with a print-rich environment at home, with colorful, inviting books in their target language to discover, goes a long way towards encouraging your child to engage with their second language. When your child's imagination is captured by a story, this creates an intrinsic motivation for language development.

Two great places to discover new children's titles include "Il était une histoire" for French language books and the "Children's Cultural Center" website for Chinese language.

2-32. Tour the Louvre or the Forbidden City – from your couch! As international travel has become impossible for many of us, museums and cultural sites around the world have made virtual tours available to the public. This is the perfect chance for your child to virtually explore the cultural treasures of China, Taiwan, and France – in their target language – building both language skills and cultural fluency.

Chinese Academic Dean Cindy Chiang recommends the virtual tour of the Forbidden City National Palace Museum in Beijing, as well as the tour of the Taiwan Taipei National Palace Museum.

French Academic Dean Olivier Monteil recommends the Louvre's video series for kids that explores some of the museum's legendary works of art, as well as the Eiffel Tower virtual exhibit.

1-13. Cook together – in another language. Cuisine is an great way to learn about another culture, and following a recipe in your child's target language will get the whole family engaged in your child's bilingualism/biculturalism – all while creating something delicious in the process!

Cindy recommends the "Momo" series of recipe videos for kids – in both English/Chinese for non-native speaking families, or Chinese only.

Olivier recommends trying out this traditional French crêpes recipe. 

4. Write to a pen pal by snail mail. INTL has partner schools in China, Taiwan, and France. Although we are not able to travel to these schools for cultural exchanges during the pandemic, we are encouraging our students to keep in touch with the local students/families they stayed with during their cultural exchange trips by snail mail. Having a pen pal their own age will encourage authentic engagement in the target language, in addition to building your child's cultural fluency.

Many INTL families have family overseas who speak French, German, or Chinese. You can also encourage your child to start a written correspondence with a grandparent, uncle, or cousin!

5. Even 10 minutes a day helps! When it comes to language enrichment at home, frequency and regularity are essential. Spending 10 minutes each day on an enrichment activity is a great way to start. With time, your child will discover an activity or book that interests and excites them, and will be intrinsically motivated to learn the language because it is fun!

Language enrichment activities are most effective when they are not a chore for your child, but rather a source of joy!