I already wrote an article in regards of a parent, who stopped speaking the minority language to her son: "No English! Motivation is the key". Recently I read another article published in The New Republic - "For Three Years, I Spoke Only Hebrew to My Daughter. I Just Gave It Up. Here's Why".
The author, who is a father and a senior editor at The New Republic, stopped speaking the minority language ( Hebrew) to his three years old daughter.
He lists many reasons why he decided to stop speaking his heritage language to his child
- Different personality in heritage language vs country language. (He find himself not as funny in Hebrew as in English.)
- Parental competition for attention.
- Parent identity issues.
But if you read the article, you can also find OTHER REASONS , the author prefers not to talk about them as much.
- Bilingual child's resistance to speaking minority language.
As he says, at age of 3, 5 years his "...daughter understands Hebrew and will even speak it under duress." Under duress means under pressure or force.
- Lack of vocabulary for communication on different topics.
"But the older my daughter got, the less plausible the whole routine felt. Last fall, she started going to pre-school five days a week. Like any parent, I was keen to know what she’d been up to all day."... It also occurred to me that I was getting nowhere—my daughter was clamming up."
She was not saying things just because she did not know the words in Hebrew. Her life at preschool is all in English. Someone needed to tell her how to say in minority language all what she was experiencing.
Would you ever stop speaking your heritage language, if the child is responsive and eager to do so? Probably not.
In most of the cases a child does not want to speak the parents language just because s/he does not know the words. This is the initial stage and later more reasons grow on this one.
Parents, who live outside of their language home country, can not just speak to their child and expect that the child will pick up the language the same way other children, who live in the country and learn their country language, do.
You need to start early with activities related to language development , such as reading aloud and direct interaction with your child, and be persistent in your efforts.
If your goal is to have a child who speaks your heritage language fluently, you or someone else ( nanny, school, tutors) has to work on it. And work hard. Sorry, there is no other way, if you are the only parent who tries to pass on your mother tongue and your goal is to have a child who speaks the language and not just understands it.
Here are the steps of successfully raising a bilingual child, the way I see them:
0. Set your priorities from the day 1.
How do you prioritize the language learning? How do you figure out what’s important? This article will help you setting your priorities.
1. Start speaking to your child early and use any opportunity to do so.
The early you start the better. As I already mentioned in the language strategies for parents, your child can hear you speaking even when he is in the womb. Ok. I was not speaking to my child my heritage language so early, but for some of you it might be a useful piece of information. You can start preparing yourself and your child :)
The best way to start building your child's vocabulary and maximize the language learning is by taking your bilingual baby on a stroll.
It is also a good idea to keep speaking your language to your child in public.
2. Start reading to your child early. Read a lot. Everyday. Several times a day.
For tips read:
Bilingual child: when to start reading to your baby?
Bilingual children: How to read to a baby?
Child rips books apart ? Alicia found a way to keep books safe and to read to her child.
3. Start preparing your child for reading and teach your child to read in minority language early.
While your child is still small, letter learning will be just like another game for him. Do not miss this unique opportunity!
Read these articles on the topic:
How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool.
Teaching the letter sounds before letter names.
7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read.
If you see your child is interested in playing , let's say, with boats, try to provide the needed vocabulary in the language you are exposing your child to. Play, talk, read books about boats, show cartoons and documentaries on the topic. He will absorb the words faster as he uses them in his games over and over again.
If you see your child learned something new in the community language, rush to introduce the same in minority language.
5. Draw together with your child.
This is time when you can talk, learn new words, practice writing letters and words. Experiment: Mixing art, material objects and imagination - a recipe for language development
6. Sing to your child and with your child.
Small children love music and songs. They are able to learn so many words just from this fun activity.
Looking for nursery songs in Russian?
Русские колыбельные песни. Колыбельная песня для двойняшек.
7. Be creative.
You would need to come up with new activities for extending your child's vocabulary on different variety of subjects. Experiment and look for things that can trigger new words learning and/ or a conversation.
8. Use media.
Differentiating the ways a child receive the language input is always good. However, you should try to avoid using media before your child turns 2 years old. Researchers tell us it is not good for a child to watch television at this age. Plus small children learn best from direct interactions with them. However, after this age, media in minority language (such as games, cartoons and movies ...) can provide a lot of language support. Children learn more about your culture and remember many words and expressions from the new digital world you open to them. But remember, your child still needs you! I like the way Maria puts it in her life story: “Life Story of one family. Educational Apps – How they affect multilingual development of small children?”
Also do not forget about radio! Your children can listen to it while they play. Here is the list of children's radio stations from around the world.
9. ? What would you add? Leave a comment bellow!
I wish you best of luck on your multilingual journey! It is such a joy to see your child speaking your language, especially when you don’t live in your home country!
What does help YOU successfully pass your mother tongue onto your bilingual child?
Contact me to be interviewed or join others in the Life story series by sharing your own or your multilingual family story.
You might also like:
Plan to raise a bilingual or multilingual child, but not sure where to start? - Click to read
Get inspired by reading bilinguals and multilinguals Life Stories
Can babies distinguish foreign languages?
How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child.
Should I correct my child speaking?
Inspirational Quotes about Language for Bilinguals and Language Learners
Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?
Fun way to learn letters and start writing: What should I order? Mortadella alphabet!
Naming languages with their proper name.
Language learning resources:
Children's radio from around the world. Let me know, if I am missing a radio station in your language.
Kids Books in Russian
Best Russian Children's Cartoons and Movies. - Лучшие Руссие Детские Мультфильмы и Фильмы.
List of children's books in Polish language - Lista książek po Polsku dla dzieci
Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language? Click here to find it now!