Choosing to Raise Bilingual Children

by Marti Ahlquist

The information on this page is just a brief summary of a complex issue that can be different for each family. For more information please check the resources listed on Books on Raising Bilingual Children or Links on Raising Bilingual Children where you will have access to more in-depth descriptions and examples.

Bringing up your children as bilingual (or multilingual) is an important decision. It will impact them for the rest of their lives. Parents have different reasons for deciding to raise their children bilingual.


There are many advantages for your children to grow up bilingual. Below are five reasons for raising children to be bilingual.


What does it mean to be bilingual? The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines it as

1: having or expressed in two languages (a bilingual document) or 2: using or able to use two languages especially with equal fluency (bilingual in English and Japanese) 3: of or relating to bilingual education (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

What is your definition of bilingualism? Does your child need to listen, speak, read, and write equally well in both languages to be bilingual? Or, could he be able to understand but not speak the second language? Is the child bilingual if he is stronger in one language than the other? Parents tend to have their own definition of bilingual and work towards meeting that goal.

The level that a child will become bilingual will depend on many things but their success will be directly related to your definition of bilingualism and the strength of your decision to pursuing your children’s bilingualism.


There are a lot of misunderstandings about bilingualism and they have resulted in seven myths as stated by Naomi Steiner in her book 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child. The author is coming from the point of view of someone in the United States promoting bilingualism but people from other languages might have these beliefs also.



Myths and Facts about Bilingualism (Naomi Steiner, 2009)

For more information read Helping Your Child Become Bilingual.

Works Cited

Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved May 11, 2012.

Myles, C., (2003), Raising Bilingual Children: A Parent’s Guide. Los Angeles: Parent’s Guide Press.

Steiner, Naomi, (2009). 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child. New York: AMAC

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