Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: How to explain your bilingual child the importance of speaking a minority language?


Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to explain your bilingual child the importance of speaking a minority language?

Do you want your child to speak your (minority) language with you and/or with a sibling? Or do you want her/him stop mixing the languages? Use this great tip from Berna to explain your bilingual child why it is important to stick to speaking the minority language and to speak it more often.

by Berna

We live in the USA and have two kids. Their majority language is English and minority is German.

My older daughter always speaks to her little sister in our minority language. I usually leave it be when she slips and uses English words every now and then, but recently she has been talking more and more in English (majority language!) to her sibling.

I kept reminding her by saying
"Remember we need to speak to your sister in German so she can learn it too" .

My daughter’s response was
"She's a baby. She'll learn it eventually".
I guess it is something she heard another adult was saying.

She didn't seem to quite 'get' it why it is very important to speak German to her sister. So I decided to show it to her in the form of a little game.

1. The sponge represents our brain. Two colors represent our languages.

I have chosen the dark color for the majority language English and the light color to represent the minority language - German.

2. Each time we counted where we (must) speak English we made a dot with blue color.

3.We did the same for German in yellow.

4. “Now what happens when we choose English between us?” I asked her.

The German gets diluted and eventually we can't see it!

I asked my 5 year old what can we do so this doesn't happen?

5. She took the yellow color representing German and said "we speak speak speak it all the time" and added that daddy can get some yellow too cause he's too blue.

7. At the end we got a beautiful color and she understood that this is the result of keeping up with German. She also asked if we could add red for Turkish. “Absolutely!” - I said. “We just need to keep practicing so we don't forget the languages.”

If you have a child who refuses to speak with you in the minority language and who is old enough to understand the concept using the colors same as I did above, maybe this fun way of explaining how the brain works is just what you need!
For those of you, who speaks more than one language to your child, try to use two sponges and more colors. Be creative! :)

Are you interested to participate in the Life Story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent?  Would you like to take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series ? You can contact me here.

You might also like:

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Kids Radio Sations from around the world!
In so many different languages !

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

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Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Plus resources for teaching phonics and reading to children in English.

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