Multilingual Language Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic Please follow the link to find out more about this research… Are you a #multilingual family in the UK or Ireland? How is the #lockdown affecting your children’s use of English and their other language(s)? Take part in this collaborative research project to help… Read more
These resources are for families to use at home. One file is for nursery/primary age, with some links relevant for babies/toddlers. Another is for secondary age. The third came from Peterhead ASL team who were happy for it to be shared. These resources will be helpful for bilingual families, but… Read more
Book Detectives – Arabic, Bulgarian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Spanish These are translated tasks to support reading comprehension. If children are literate in first language they could read them to support their understanding of tasks. Tip: To help learners understand the purpose for reading, set questions before reading the text… Read more
https://montessorisociety.org.uk/Articles/4333290 Supporting Bilingual Children by: Irene Fafalios This is an excerpt from a lecture given by Irene Fafalios at the Montessori Society AGM in London What do we mean by bilingualism? Simply defined a bilingual person would be one who has the ability to speak two languages. I could further… Read more
Benefits of reading
Reading to young children sets them up to succeed
The more you read to your children, the more knowledge they absorb, and knowledge is important in all aspects of life.
Reading develops language skills
3.Exposure to reading exercises your child’s brain
Reading enhances a child’s concentration
Reading together encourages a thirst for knowledge
A range of books teaches children about different topics
Reading develops a child’s imagination and creativity
Reading books with children helps to develop empathy
Books are a form of entertainment
Reading together helps to create a bond
Advice on raising a bilingual child
Tips for Bilingual Parents
How to raise a bilingual child at home?
How to deal with the bilingual rebellion?
4 Common mistakes parents make when raising a bilingual child
Understanding the bilingual child:
How to raise a bilingual child at home?
One of the biggest challenges for bilingual parents is how to raise a child bilingually. There are two scenarios possible.
The first one is when everyone in the family speaks the minority language at home and there’s another language outside. In this scenario the child will acquire the second language quite easily as there is a good balance between both languages.
The second scenario is when one parent speaks the minority language or each parent speaks a different minority language. Parents will often choose the One person One language method.
The earlier you start the better. There is no limit to what age a child should start. And don’t panic if you see the child not being able to speak either language properly at first. Research has shown that bilingualism doesn’t lead to any delays of any sorts. It is natural that your child might mix languages at first. A monolingual child will use other strategies such as using words like “this thing” or “like” … a bilingual child will use his other language to fill in the gaps. Later on, as his/her vocabulary improves you will find that the bilingual child will no longer mix languages. While it is sometimes true that bilingual children start talking later, experts say the delay is temporary and the advantage of knowing two languages outweighs that small disadvantage.
Claude Hagège talks about the warning threshold of the 11th year where children build filters and no longer hear sounds like they used to. This critical age limit doesn’t make it impossible to learn a language it just makes it more difficult to speak the language without the accent. Also teenagers develop a fear of making mistakes, which makes it harder to learn another language. Finally the world of a child is a little bit less complex than an adult and therefore the repertoire of words isn’t as complicated.
How to deal with the bilingual rebellion?
Everything is going well and suddenly parents find it very challenging to maintain their child’s bilingualism. This often occurs when your child starts school. Here are a few tips to overcome this “bilingual rebellion”:
1.Don’t give up: I have had parents coming to me in distress saying things like “my child refuses to speak French to me”. This phenomenon is natural and happens a lot with a minority language, especially when the child starts school. Don’t take it personally; your child is not rejecting you they are just trying to build their own identity. They are trying to fit in with the others but speaking a different language is being different. Be strong about your own cultural heritage. If it really harms your relationship with your child maybe find a compromise that meets you both. Maybe set up a (flexible) rule such as speaking the minority language at certain times during the day, or different places in the house. I met a family that had geographical limits within their home: The living room was English, Dining room French etc… Such rules are hard to maintain on the long run but are worth trying. The key is to remain consistent and to make the experience fun.
- Value bilingualism: A strong partnership between both parents is essential in maintaining bilingualism. This doesn’t mean both of the parents need to speak the language fluently. It just means both of you need to value the language spoken at home.
- Encourage your child: Both of the parents need to encourage the child in his “bilingualness”. It is important to encourage your child and to understand what it means to be bilingual (see section The bilingual child below). You need to remember that although bilingualism is common, the world still sees it as an exception and if your child is in a mainstream school they will be seen as someone different because of their bilingualism. It is therefore important that they are assisted in growing up with this gift so that it is seen as a gift and not a handicap.
- Maximise the exposure to the second language: I have found that although parents don’t need to both be fluent, it does help to understand the languages spoken to maintain bilingualism within a household. When the child interacts with Mum or Dad, if everyone understands the languages spoken, it means everyone is included in the conversation. If only one person speaks the language, make sure you interact with them as much as possible and supplement it by turning the TV/radio on, travelling to the country, talking to family members etc.
Find a motive: It is important that the child realises that the minority language is spoken elsewhere, not only at home. They need to see that many people speak their language, not just Mum or Dad. If children can interact and play with their language, they will understand the need to speak the minority language. Having friends over, or enrolling your child in a playgroup where the minority language is spoken will really help.
4 Common mistakes parents make when raising a bilingual child:
It can be hard to raise bilingual kids and there are some common mistakes that are to be avoided if you want your child to be confident in the language. Here are three mistakes that need to be avoided:
1.Make fun of them: Your child will come up with the cutest little mistakes and at times, it will be very hard not to laugh at them. However, children are very sensitive and the last thing you want is to discourage them. Children need to be reassured and praised rather then laughed at.
2.Correct them: While it is important for children to be corrected you need to be careful not to crash their confidence. Children that are corrected too much in their second language will be reluctant to speak out of fear they will say something wrong. One way to correct your child can be to just rephrase nicely what they said so that they hear the correct way and don’t forget to praise them as much as possible!
3.Test them: Learning a language should be fun. It shouldn’t be something they need to be tested on. If they feel they are assessed/judged they will no longer want to engage in the language.
4.Be inflexible: You need to be consistent of course but be flexible. Speaking a second language shouldn’t be a burden for your child. Try to make it as natural and fun as possible or it will become a struggle for everyone in the family, especially when your child gets older.
Understanding the bilingual child:
A bilingual child has a multicultural identity. He is bicultural i.e. he has access to two worlds. Because he grows up with two languages, he values both languages equally, language A and B are just as important. It is often very hard for a bilingual individual to say which language –out of A or B- is their native language. In a way, bilingualism is their native language. To say that A is more important than B, would be to underestimate one language.
Language isn’t only a tool used to communicate; it is also an important symbol, which shows that you belong to a particular group. It is part of your identity. When a child enters school he needs to fit in with everyone else. This is why children will try to adapt to the country they live in and sometimes refuse to speak the language spoken at home.
Reactions of some professionals can jeopardise the linguistic development of a bilingual child. Indeed, some professionals (teachers, speech therapists etc.) might encourage a bilingual child with speech delay to give up his/her language in order to maximise the use of the language spoken at school. These professionals don’t see any benefits in the fact that the child already has a language. On the contrary the child is seen as having a “linguistic handicap”. However, research has shown that switching to just one language could have negative consequences on the linguistic development of the child. An individual is emotionally attached to a language, this attachment can be cultural, linguistic, social etc. Trying to eliminate a language means removing a part of oneself. To avoid speech impairment, it is important to keep a structured setting in order to help the child in his bilingual development.
Other useful links
Blogs for further information and advice
The world of the internet offers a great variety of blogs and websites related to Bilingualism, although I have to say that one needs to be quite selective and critical when finding information:
Adam from Bilingual Monkeys
– Japanese, English
Ana from PreK12Plaza
– Spanish, Italian, English
Annabelle from The Piri-Piri Lexicon
– French, Portuguese, English, German
Audrey from Españolita…¡Sobre la Marcha!
– Spanish, English
Eowyn from On Raising Bilingual Children
– French, English, Dutch
Esther from Third Culture Mama
– French, English, (Mandarin Chinese)
Galina from Raising a Trilingual Child
– Russian, English, Italian
Dr. Grosjean Publishing in Psychology Today Blog
Ilze from Let the Journey Begin
– German, Latvian, English
Jonathan from Dad’s The Way I Like It
– Welsh, English
Leanna from All Done Monkey
– Spanish, English
Maria from Trilingual Mama
– Spanish, French, English
Marianna from Bilingual Avenue
– Spanish, English, German
Olga from The European Mama
– Polish, German, Dutch
and Rita, from Multilingual Parenting
– Swedish, Punjabi, Finnish, English
Books for further reading and advice
- Baker, C. (2014) A Parent and Teacher’s Guide to Bilingualism, Bangor University
- Beck, A. (2016) Maximize your Child’s Bilingual Ability. Hiroshima: Bilingual Adventures
- Grosjean, F. (1982) Life with Two Languages: An Introduction to Bilingualism. Harvard University Press
- Koshy.V. (2010) Action Research for Improving Educational Practice. A Step-by-Step Guide. London: Sage
- Medina, J. (2014) Brain Rules for Baby. How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five. Seattle: Pear Press
- Miller, J. (1983) Many Voices: Bilingualism, Culture and Education. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul
- Rosenback, R. (2014) Bringing up a Bilingual Child. Surrey: Filament Publishing LTD.
Things you can do to boost your child’s bilingual ability
Today is another opportunity to nurture your children’s language development. Every effort you make today, and again tomorrow, will move you and your children a little farther along your bilingual journey. These small steps will gradually add up over time—over days, weeks, months, and years—and largely determine the distance you travel.
But in the end, it always depends on today.
Below, then, is a list of 96 things you can do, right now, to help nurture your children’s language development, whatever your target language. (Don’t worry! You don’t have to do them all today! )
Some of them are already part of your efforts, I’m sure. And, of course, there are many more than these 96 and I encourage you to add others in a comment below.
But I hope you’ll find this list a useful source of ideas and inspiration, with at least a few new suggestions to try at home. Modify them to suit your needs, and pursue them as playfully as you can. (The accompanying links offer further information from earlier posts.)
1. Read aloud to your child: a picture book, chapter book, or poetry. Pause often and ask questions about the text and illustrations. (The Secret to Raising a Bilingual Child and How to Use Poetry with Your Bilingual Kids (And Why You Should))
2. Look at old family photos and talk about them together. Prompt your child to describe what she sees and share her memories. (How Far Into the Future Do Your Efforts Today Matter?)
3. Try some tongue twisters in your target language. Find them online or make some up. (22 Funny Tongue Twisters for Kids (And Why Tongue Twisters Are Terrific for Language Development))
4. Enjoy a wordless picture book and take turns, page by page, telling the story. Wordless pictures books are a wonderful resource for any age and any language. (What to Do When It’s Hard to Find Children’s Books in Your Minority Language)
5. Encourage your child to read aloud to favorite stuffed animals, dolls, and pets. Match the books with the audience, such as a book about bears for a teddy bear. (It’s a Scientific Fact! Baby Praying Mantises Can Get Your Child Reading More in the Minority Language!)
6. Seek out a high school student or college student who speaks the target language well. Hire the student to serve as a weekly playmate for your child.
7. Make a video of yourself reading books, telling stories, singing songs, and simply talking to your kids, to be played in your absence. (The Busy Parent’s Guide to Cloning Yourself)
8. Open a cookbook and make something tasty. Most children love to help in the kitchen.
9. Make a shopping list, then go shopping. Search for the items on your list and ask about other things in the store.
10. Tell a true story from your childhood. Children especially enjoy hearing tales of their parents’ misadventures. (Strange-But-True Tales: Baby Chicks in the Bathtub)
11. Tell a fantastical “made-up memory.” Make up something that “happened” to you or to your children. (Using Made-up Memories to Engage Bilingual Kids)
12. Role play together in the target language using puppets, stuffed animals, dolls, or other favorite toys.
13. Name things around the house. You and your child can quiz each other.
14. Label things around the house with words in the target language.
15. Name things in your neighborhood. A little stroll could help strengthen your child’s vocabulary.
16. View images on the Internet and prompt discussion with the question “What do you see?” (How Images Will Stimulate Your Child’s Bilingual Development)
17. Respond to your child’s curiosity about the world. Find information on her questions, in books or online.
18. Go to the zoo or aquarium. Have your child make a long list of the creatures there, or dictate the names to you.
19. Go to a pet shop and talk about the animals you find. How would your child take care of each kind of animal?
20. Tell your kids some riddles. Find them online or make up some of your own. (Ridiculous Riddles)
21. Arrange a play date with another child who speaks your target language.
22. Explore the possibility of serving as a homestay family for a guest who speaks your target language. A visit of even just a day or two can have a very positive impact. (Getting a Bilingual Child to Feel the Value of the Minority Language)
23. Read a book together, taking turns, page by page. Ask questions about the story and illustrations to prompt conversation.
24. Buy a book for your child that will connect to his current interests and help fuel his language development and love of books and literacy. (POW! How Super Heroes Strengthened My Son’s Bilingual Ability)
25. Place books beside your child. Make a habit of placing several books by your child when she’s playing quietly by herself. Chances are, she’ll pick them up. (Don’t Read These Words!)
26. Start a family journal. Each week have everyone in the family write one sentence about something that happened to them, maybe the best thing or the worst thing.
27. Label each other with “body words” written on large post-it notes. Take turns sticking these labels all over each other.
28. Play children’s music for active listening or simply in the background as your child plays. Try a CD of good storytelling, too. (How the Power of Music Nurtures Bilingual Ability)
29. Order a new CD of children’s music, something that could get your child singing along. (Recommended Resources: Great Music for Kids (and Parents, too!))
30. Sing songs together. Sing songs you know, songs from your CDs, or songs you make up.
31. Write a message to your child and hide it in her lunchbox, school bag, or other suitable spot. (How Messages in the Minority Language Can Boost Literacy (and Much More))
32. Write a letter to your child and mail it. I bet he’ll be surprised and happy to get it!
33. Browse through a children’s dictionary, looking for interesting words to note. (If you don’t have a good children’s dictionary, order one!)
34. Visit an art museum and elicit conversation by asking questions about the paintings, sculpture, and other works of art.
35. Make a scrapbook with photos or pictures cut from a magazine. Your child can write the captions or dictate them to you.
36. Put something in a “mystery box” and give clues for your child to guess. Take turns. (A Sneaky Way to Get Bilingual Kids to Use the Minority Language)
37. Have a treasure hunt. Hide a special prize in the house, then write a series of clues which lead from one location to the next, ending with the “treasure.”
38. Watch a TV program or DVD together and discuss the content with open-ended questions.
39. Order a new DVD that you and your child would enjoy watching together and could prompt some good discussion.
40. Look at a globe and talk about the different countries. Quiz each other on where countries are located.
41. Look at a map of your city. Find your house and other places that are familiar to you and your child.
42. Put a whiteboard in the bathroom and begin writing daily messages to your child. (Why You Must Put a Whiteboard in the Bathroom)
43. Post a story, poem, or other text in the bathroom to encourage independent reading. (What Is Captive Reading and How Will It Help My Bilingual Child?)
44. Draw pictures together and talk about the colors and images.
45. Go to your local library and look for books in the target language. You may be surprised.
46. Go to a bookstore, even if there are no books in your target language. Look at illustrations and talk about them. Try retelling the stories together.
47. Look at pop-up books in a bookstore or library. Try to make a simple pop-up book at home. Ideas and instructions can be found online.
48. Play a game together, maybe a cooperative game where the players work as a team. (Recommended Resources: Great Cooperative Games)
49. Buy a new game to play with your kids. Be on the lookout, especially, for good word games. (Recommended Resources: Word Games in the Minority Language)
50. Interview each other on a chosen topic (animals, sports, etc.). Use a toy microphone, or make your own, to add to the fun.
51. Tell your child a fairy tale, one you already know or one you make up. Ask her to tell you a fairy tale, too.
52. Play a memory game. Put a number of objects on a table and ask your child to study them. Then cover them with a tablecloth or blanket. How many can he remember? Change the items and take turns.
53. Play a guessing game. Have your child put her hands behind her back, then place something in her hands. Ask her to describe the item (size, shape, weight, feel) before making a guess. Take turns.
54. Talk together with grandparents or relatives via Skype. (3 Good Ways to Boost a Bilingual Child’s Language Ability and Loving Bond with Grandparents and A Powerful Twist on the Use of Skype to Promote the Minority Language)
55. Find a useful website that offers language learning games your child can play.
56. Find a new app that could help support your child’s language development.
57. Order a suitable workbook for daily homework to help develop literacy in the target language. (Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1 and Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2)
58. Add a little mailbox to your home to encourage message-writing among family members. (What Positive Action Have You Been Putting Off When It Comes to the Minority Language?)
59. Have a “silent conversation” through writing. Instead of talking about the school day or another topic, hold the conversation without saying a word by passing paper and pencil back and forth.
60. Give silly commands. Take turns telling each other to stand on one foot, wiggle your nose, crow like a rooster, and anything else you can dream up.
61. Teach a magic trick. Perform the trick, then demonstrate how to do it so he can perform it for others. Simple magic tricks can be easily found online.
62. Look at an encyclopedia about animals, or another topic, and test her knowledge with a little quiz. Maybe she could quiz you, too.
63. Make a list of words on a theme, like animals or countries or words about winter. This can be done orally, taking turns, or in writing, together or individually.
64. Begin a longer-term list. Post a large sheet of paper on the wall and select a topic, like “things that fly” or “things that are yellow.” Put a pencil nearby for the whole family to add to the list, whenever the mood strikes.
65. Try writing and reading things backwards, using names, words, even sentences. (“Adam” becomes “Mada,” for example.) A fun and useful activity for literacy development.
66. Start a blog with your child. Post her writing and pictures to share with family and friends.
67. Spin a story together. Start with a title or character and take turns adding to the tale until you arrive at an ending. (The Importance of Stories and Storytelling in Raising Bilingual Kids)
68. Write a story together—actually, two stories. Take two pieces of paper and write a different opening sentence at the top of each. Then you write the next sentence for one story, your child writes the next sentence for the other. Trade papers, back and forth, sentence by sentence, until you reach the end of your stories.
69. Use playdough or modeling clay to make animals or other things. Can you guess what the other person made? Try forming letters and words, too.
70. Prepare a puppet show to perform for other family members. If you don’t have any puppets, try making some.
71. Watch YouTube videos on favorite topics and discuss them.
72. Help your child write a letter to grandparents or relatives. A letter exchange is a valuable way to strengthen both growing literacy and family ties. (Are Your Bilingual Kids Writing Letters in the Minority Language? and 3 Good Ways to Boost a Bilingual Child’s Language Ability and Loving Bond with Grandparents)
73. Look for a pen-pal for your child, another child of a similar age and ability in the target language.
74. Be a “dictation robot.” Offer to write down whatever your child wants you to record: a story, a letter, a sign for her bedroom, anything she desires.
75. Look at a newspaper or magazine in the target language. Read an article to your child and discuss it.
76. Play charades, acting out animals, actions, types of jobs, etc. Make choices on the spot or prepare some cards with the target words on them.
77. Write and perform a short play. Create a two-character scene with your child, perhaps a scene where you reverse roles: he plays the parent and you play the child. Practice and perform for other family members.
78. Make a colorful placemat. Put words and pictures on a piece of paper, then laminate it.
79. Play a rhyming game, starting with a simple word and making the longest list of rhyming words you can. Do this orally or in writing, as a contest or as a team.
80. Play the “scrambled words” game. Use letter tiles, or just paper and pencil, and make scrambled words for each other to unscramble. Choose a theme (animals, things in the room, etc.) and stick to shorter words.
81. Make a picture book together. Your child can dictate the story to you, then illustrate the text.
82. Make another picture book. Your child cuts out pictures from a magazine then dictates a story to match the pictures.
83. Post unfamiliar words and their definitions around the house to stretch vocabulary.
84. Ask your child to translate something from the majority language to the minority language, either orally or in writing.
85. Memorize a poem. Find a short poem and ask your child to practice it until she can recite it to you by heart. (How Rats in the Bathroom Can Boost a Child’s Bilingual Ability)
86. Have a “reading race.” Take a list of about 20 words or about 20 sentences from a story and take turns reading them, only one or two on each turn. The winner is the person who reads the very last word or sentence.
87. Read a comic book and try making one. Have your child make his own short comic strip or longer comic book, or work together. (How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers)
88. Make a collage of words clipped from magazines.
89. Label a large photo or a picture from a magazine with as many words as you and your child can.
90. Subscribe to a children’s magazine, something that will match your child’s age and interests. (Recommended Resources: The Magic of Magazine Subscriptions)
91. Quiz each other on images seen for a short time. Take turns asking and answering questions with family photos, pictures from magazines, or book illustrations.
92. Build a fort. Kids love making hideouts and building one offers a good opportunity to engage in conversation about how to construct it.
93. Make a big poster of words chosen by your child (favorite words, animals, etc.). Write in colorful block letters and draw decorations.
94. Try drawing and writing blindfolded. Take turns telling each other to draw different animals or other things, or write names, words, and sentences.
95. Make a video together in the target language. Maybe you could interview each other, taking turns as the interviewer and interviewee. (VIDEO: With Bilingual Kids, There’s a Madness to My Method)
96. Write a silly story that features your own kids as the main characters. Read it together or post it on the wall for them to read. (Turn Your Kids into Eager Readers with This Fun, Simple Strategy and My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language)