The earlier the better.
If you are going to be a mother soon, remember that your child can recognize your voice before he or she is born. And before your child is 6 months old, he or she knows the difference between the main language and other languages.
OPOL means One Parent, One Language. If you are a French mother, then you speak French to your child. If your husband is Russian, then he speaks Russian. Each parent speaks his or her native language to the child.
MLAH means Minority Language At Home. In this style, both parents speak the minority language in the house. If you are a Japanese mother with an American husband living in the USA, both of you speak Japanese at home. This method is especially good if your child does not have many chances to use the second language outside the house.
For either OPOL or MLAH, both of you have to be consistent. When you start mixing languages or using these methods only on certain occasions, your child may not become bilingual. Or your child may become a passive bilingual where he or she understands the language but does not speak it.
Remember that every child is different.
Some studies show that girls start talking earlier than boys. Also, some boys are better at learning languages than girls. But children all around the world eventually reach their own level of language competence.
Be aware of the critical period.
The peak of development of your child’s brain is at age 3. After age 5, it becomes difficult for your child to understand accents. And as a teenager, it is almost impossible for your child to have a natural language skill.
Motivate your child.
Give your child a reason to speak the second language. You can create opportunities by finding families who speak the language and plan playdates with them. You can hire a nanny or a babysitter who speaks the language. You can go to cultural centers. You can borrow DVDs, CDs and picture books from the library. You can travel to countries where the language is spoken. You have a lot of choices.
If both of you, as the mother and father, teach your child your own language, you will bond with your child. You can give your child a chance to perform better in school and to be more creative. Your child will get more job offers. And your child will grow as a global-minded person.