Back to School – How do I keep up the minority language?

Back to school for bilingual kids

Are your kids back to school and you feel like the minority language is taking a hit?

Your children are back to school and all the progress they have made during the summer with their minority language(s) seems to be vanishing in front of your eyes. Bad news:  You are right, once the kids are back to school, their minority language will take a hit. Good news: Your kids’ language skills will not disappear. No worries, as soon as you are back in an environment where your kids need to speak the minority language, their language skills will pop back into action as quickly as you thought they had lost them.

But what can you do once the kids are back to school to keep up their minority language skills?

TALK

Talk, talk, talk as much as you can, even if they answer in the “wrong” language. They understood you, correct? Big congrats bilingual parent!! Your kids are bilingual 🥳. You might not think much of it, however, this is the most important step to raising bilingual kids. They understood you. So, now that you have done the first step, don’t stop and continue using the language around them whenever you can. And…we truly feel strongly about this one…don’t force them, your kids are smart, as frustrating as it may be when they do not answer in your preferred language, continue offering opportunities to practice that they perceive as meaningful and fun. Bake with them and go through the steps and list of ingredients in your home language, dance to music that you used to hear as a child, tell them about the history of your country and maybe some embarrassing anecdotes from your own childhood (kids looooove these 😂 ).

BOOKS

Read aloud to them. Reading aloud is helpful at any age, even if they are proficient readers. My 10 year old still enjoys being read aloud sometimes. Already 15 minutes a day make a difference in the amount of vocabulary your kids will learn. Reading is in our opinion, but we are definitely (and correctly) biased, is the most important activity you can do with your kids regardless of how many languages they speak/understand. An under-rated side benefit: the cuddling up during reading session is just the best!

MOVIES

Not the best, as a language needs interaction. However, if they understand a full-length movie or TV show in the target language – hey that is impressive! For them the benefit is that they are allowed to watch TV, the pro for you, they are watching it in their minority language.

FAMILY NIGHTS

Games, dinner together, cooking together, sports, just having fun is always bonding and you are using the minority language. Even if one of the parents does not speak the minority language, why not let the kids translate.

BILINGUAL VILLAGE

Friends are always helpful and kudos if they have kids that speak the minority language well. We have Spanish Barbecues at home about once a month. The kids actually end up speaking Spanish most of the time, even though all speak perfect English. Build yourself a “bilingual village” with other families that speak the same languages and you will see that raising bilingual kids is much easier when you do it together.  Sometimes, this is even more important for the parents than for the kids.

Above all do not give up.  Once the kids are back to school they will have less time and exposure to their minority language, but remember raising a bilingual child is a moving target.  Their language skills go up and down as they have the opportunity to use their various languages, so don’t despair, you are in it for the long term.  And if you need help, please reach out, we are all in the same boat and we have all had our ups and downs, so let us help you.

 

 

 


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