“Today’s kids don’t want to learn our language”, “Once they go to school it will all be out of the window”, “We really tried but our children just didn’t want to know”. Probably every bilingual person knows parents who have not been successful in passing on their languages to the children. Perhaps you also get unsure about how it’s all going to pan out. In the end, these parents may not seem that different from you – why would you manage where they didn’t? These parents may even be more highly educated than you are, so what chance do you have? Worst of all, these parents may try to discourage you from speaking your language to your children, to avoid the disappointment they have felt.
If they do, ignore them. The likelihood is that these parents never really thought about how to go about bringing up their children to become bilinguals. Maybe they thought that it would “just happen” and that they would not have to do anything extra to ensure that the languages would be passed on to the next generation. Perhaps they themselves grew up to become bilinguals fairly effortlessly, so didn’t think that any special measures were necessary.
Most likely, the way they used their languages with their own children wasn’t consistent and the majority language took over. At the point when they noticed that their children had gone over to only using the majority language, it would have taken a bit of extra effort to get the language patterns in the family back on track, but they didn’t know how to address the situation. Sadly this happens in many families.
On the positive side, these parents should remember that even though their children may not speak the language, they most likely do understand it. The children have become so called passive speakers, which will be of great advantage if they decide to learn the language later on in life.
So you may think that these parents are no different from you, but they most likely are. As you are reading this blog (and other information, I’m sure!) on raising a bilingual child it shows that you are aware of possible challenges in your quest to raise an active speaker of your language, and that you are taking steps to ensure your family will be successful. I believe you can do it, so why wouldn’t you?
May the peace and power be with you!