Learning Two Languages, Improving Writing Skills
Q: My husband and I both come from Spanish-speaking countries. Now that we live in America, we want our daughter to be able to speak both languages fluently. How do we do this without getting her mixed up?
A: Being able to speak both languages will definitely benefit your child in the future. If your daughter has been hearing both languages, she is well on the way to learning each one. When children pick up two languages before they are 3, one language may dominate at times. Research shows, however, that early regular exposure to two languages allows most children to become successfully bilingual.
There is some disagreement about whether or not bilingual children develop vocabulary slower than those who speak just one language. To help your child learn both languages, she will need to hear each one frequently to acquire sufficient vocabulary to speak them well. Use both languages in a natural way in your home. It’s also a good idea to read books to your daughter in both languages to expand her listening vocabulary in each one.
Improving writing skills
Q: How can I help improve my 9-year-old daughter’s writing skills? She is a brilliant reader, but her writing skills are below average according to the teacher. She never is “in the mood” to write, even on my laptop.
A: The secret to becoming a better writer is for children to write a lot. Unfortunately, writing simply does not appeal to many children. Poor handwriting skills may stop some from writing. Others may not be able to think of anything to write about. Teachers have been successful getting children to write by having them write briefly in a journal every day. They can even supply the topic.
Your asking — or even requiring — your daughter to write every day is not likely to help improve her writing unless she is motivated to do so.
Talk to her about how being a good writer leads to future success in school. Plus, when you read to her, talk about such things as how the author describes the characters and the setting as well as begins and ends a story. This will teach her more about writing. Another approach would be to have a relative write a brief e-mail to her every day with the expectation that she responds. Grandmothers can be especially good at this.