Relaxed but Consistent
Make Sure YOU are Convinced
You want to know not only the benefits of learning a language, you also want to know how the specific language you're speaking will be helpful. One interviewee noted that he spoke French but he decided to just do Hebrew with his child, as part of their Jewish heritage. If you're teaching the language for cognitive benefits, that's wonderful.
Also, find out how the specific language you're teaching can be helpful. If we take Spanish, for example, obviously there are a multitude of arguments as to how it is useful in the US and abroad. But did you know that learning the infrastructure of Spanish is also extremely helpful if your child later wants to learn another Romance Language such as French, Italian, and Portuguese. Since Spanish is part of the broader Indo-European family of languages, it's also a helpful base from which to learn German, Albanian, Armenian, Greek, Lithuanian, etc. This will keep you as a co-learner more motivated to learn/teach.
Know your Goal
Your goal is to teach children the second language and to attain the goal, children must be encouraged in a relaxed but consistent manner. Anxiety is one of the number one inhibitors of language acquisition. "Foreign Language Anxiety" has been named and "diagnosed." If you're forcing your child to speak in a non-loving manner, like anything else, you child will rebel.
Lower Anxiety by Offering Consistency and Praise
Relaxed does not mean that just anything goes. Otherwise your child will just naturally speak the language of the country you are in. Be consistent. We teach children that things in the house have a place so that the kids shoes aren’t strewn all over the living room and toys in the bathroom floor, etc. We teach them that certain behaviors have a time and a place, using phrases like, “inside voices” to learn to keep their voices when inside. The same should be true of which languages children speak to which people. Be consistent even when it’s tiring, even when you don’t feel like it, even when you’re mad. Just as you have to discipline a child when you don’t necessarily have the energy, that level of consistency is important to help your kids see order in the world and learn that language is part of that order.
Respond to and praise your child when they speak in the second language. If they do not, give them some help until they have spoken in the second language. This help can be consistent without being harsh. Find examples and helpful methods from Child Understands but Doesn't Respond in my Native Language.
Speak the Language Even When in Doubt
Remember that you are a model for your child. Don’t switch to your native language just because you don’t know the word in the second language. [Circumnavigate] until you can look the word up or even better, have dictionaries handy (in your briefcase/purse, car, kitchen, office, playroom).
Just be sure you have enough reasons to keep yourself motivated. Later you child will most likely ask why she must speak this other language and you'll be ready to respond with confidence.
Don’t Wait until your Children are Already Talking
It is imperative if you are doing the one parent one language method that you talk to your child as much as possible. Even parents of monolingual children should do. It's not as limiting language-wise if they don't because their children are still exposed to the majority language. The children hear it when the parents converse with each other at home, with others outside the home, on tv and radio, and in daycare/preschool. If you are the main speaker of the language, however, it is helpful to children's later learning that (s)he receive input in the language in the first 9 or 10 months of the child’s life.
Find ways to talk to the child. You may feel foolish at first, telling your two month old, "Okay, let's change that stinky diaper, then it'll be naptime. We might take a walk when you wake up." But it'll become habit after you make yourself start to talk more.
Be consistent but with Gentle Tones
There's a fine line between being a dictator and being a teacher/co-learner. You want some of the discipline and consistency of a dictatorship, but with the lighter touch of a vote-conscious democracy. Gently prompt or respond when the second language is spoken.
Many parents complain, "I speak the language to my child but he only speaks English back to me." Such complaints are often heard from parents who are teaching their first language to children, a language other than English. (For example a French woman living with her American husband...she speaks French, he speaks English to the child).
Your child will speak the language if you consistently speak it to her and if you gently press for the language in your child's response. "Pressing might be saying the word in the second language when the child only says the word in English to you.
Two year old: Mais (More) juice. Parent: Mais o que? (More what?) Two year old: Mais juice! Parent: Mais suco? Two year old: juice! Parent: suco. Fala 'suco'. (Juice, say 'juice') Two year old: sss Parent: Muito bem! Mais ssssssuco. (Well done! More jjuuuuice)
In that last part, you are basically praising anything close to the word you're trying to get, the kid is only two and you can tell she's getting frustrated. Frustration is never the goal of course so praise small bits of progress. Let's say after all this, your child still says "suco" and appears to be dying of thirst. Your last ditch effort might be, "Voce quer suco?" (Do you want juice?) Insist on his saying "yes" or "no" in the foreign language...this should be much easier.
If you just accept the English words, you will only get English words. If you speak the second language to the child, but they do not speak it, granted you've accomplished something...at least they have a passive knowledge. But they can and will speak the language and become comfortable in doing so if you are consistent, loving in your approach (avoiding the point of utter frustration), and if you push for the second language as much as possible. See other examples for specific questions and responses concerning a child not responding in the foreign language.