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Dec 292016
 

How to introduce two minority languages to your kids?

Question

Hi Rita,

Thank you for the lovely pieces of advice. I am Mongolian and my husband is Italian. We have two kids aged four and and two years. We live in the U.K and we always used English at home. My daughters are absolutely great at talking and expressing themselves in English. Although I tried couple of times teaching my language, I have failed.

Some time ago I made strong decision to teach my language to my kids and be consistent with it. They have shown interest and unexpected improvement. However, my husband still speaks English. Do you thing we should wait to introduce Italian or he should start now?

Also, how can I encourage my husband to speak more Italian? He finds it very difficult to communicate with kids other than English. As their verbal expression is very clear in English and gets bit upset when other language comes along. Is it too late?

Thank you,
 Zoya

Answer

Dear Zoya,

Thank you for your question about teaching your small children two minority languages, Mongolian and Italian. It is not too late!

It is great to hear that you have been able to bring in Mongolian and that your daughters are interested in learning it. Keep going and try to make it as fun and motivating as you can for them. Introduce games, songs and rhymes in Mongolian – you can also give a teddy (or some other toy) a distinct Mongolian name and tell your girls that it only speaks Mongolian. When you do this, you can have a “dialog” with the teddy and model discussions in Mongolian for them.

Many parents have successfully taught their children two minority languages simultaneously (even when they speak the majority language between them), so it is doable. However, as you already have a routine of speaking only English as a family, it does require a firm commitment to introduce the family languages (as you know from your earlier attempts to start speaking Mongolian). Please read my earlier post for further thoughts on when to start with a family language.

When it comes to Italian it is naturally up to your husband to be the person who teaches your daughters the language. I can understand that he finds it difficult to switch from English to Italian, as they can now communicate well in the majority language. Will you have an opportunity to spend any time in Italy as a family? Your husband might find it easier to start with the Italian in an environment where others also speak the language.

Have you discussed the importance of your girls learning to speak Italian? How does your husband feel about it? You can encourage your husband to use Italian with your daughters, but you cannot make the decision on his behalf. He needs to feel motivated and committed to speaking Italian with them, so he can keep this in mind if he struggles to stick to Italian. Read these posts for more advice on how to approach the situation of introducing a language to your kids and some practical tips.

Wishing you a successful trilingual family journey!

Kind regards
Rita

Rita Rosenback

  Rita Rosenback Rita is an author, Family Language Coach, blogger and speaker, who was born into a bilingual family on the Swedish-speaking west coast of Finland. After studying languages in Finland and Germany she worked as a university teacher, translator, interpreter and manager of multinational teams. Rita is now a full-time writer and coach and has been living in the U.K. since 1998. Rita is the mother of two grown-up multilingual daughters, who are the inspiration for her book: “Bringing up a Bilingual Child”, an easy-to-read guide for parents, where she navigates the reader across the “Seven Cs of Multilingual Parenting: Communication, Confidence, Commitment, Consistency, Creativity, Culture and Celebration”. Currently English and Swedish are Rita’s main languages, but she instantly switches to Finnish or German or to her Finland-Swedish dialect when the opportunity presents itself (and when push comes to shove, she can communicate in a very basic Punjabi). Rita is the creator and driving force of this website, and she gives talks and holds workshops for parents and teachers on the topic of bilingual children. She also coaches families on how to make the most of their languages and raise their children to become confident speakers of the chosen languages. Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

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