Question

I love your website! It has helped me so much in learning how to raise our son and daughter in a bilingual home.

My husband is Thai, and I am American, and we live in America. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and conversational in Thai, so I speak Thai at home with my 2-year-old son and 4-month-old daughter. My son has started to speak mainly in Thai. I read mainly to him in English though since my Thai reading skills aren’t very good, and my husband reads to him in Thai.

He has taken a great interest in the English alphabet, which is completely different characters from the Thai alphabet. We are always pointing out letters together, and he has some activities that have the alphabet with an English word that corresponds to it. I’m wondering if I should try to say those words that go with the letters, but thought that would confuse him since I always say Thai usually when we talk about those words?

If you could give me some advice on how to help him, but not confuse him, that would be great!

Thanks!
Sherri

Answer

Hello Sherri,

Thanks for writing! It sounds like you are very committed to raising your children with both of their heritage languages! Just out of curiosity, does your husband also speak only Thai to your children? If that is the case, I am assuming you have opted for the minority language at home (mL@H) method.

I sense you are fairly enthusiastic about being able to speak Thai to your children even though you are American and your mother tongue is English. If this is what you wish to do with your children, I would encourage you to continue. Raising a bilingual family should be a thrilling, happy experience. Your children will feel your enthusiasm and this will be an added benefit. Enthusiasm is contagious!

If you wish to help your son (and later your daughter) with letters, sounds and words in English, this should not pose a problem to your children’s progress in Thai, nor confuse them. To help your children make a clear distinction between the languages, you might want to set aside a special time during the day for this activity: as an early morning activity or during quiet time in the afternoon.

Another idea would be to create a small language corner dedicated specifically to English. You could fill the corner with books in English and whenever you go to your English corner, your children know that you switch languages for a short time. See more about setting up a language corner here: A language corner for teaching a foreign language in the home

I wish you the best of luck in your bilingual endeavors and don’t hesitate to let us know if you have additional questions.

Sincerely,
Maria

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