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Rita

Feb 162017
 

How to do OPOL as parents if you are used to mixing languages?

 

Question

Hello

My wife is Australian, I am Flemish (Dutch-speaking Belgium) and that is also where we live. We are expecting and want our child to be bilingual English-Dutch to pass on both of our cultural identities.

Nowadays, since my wife’s Dutch has become very good, my wife and I speak a mixture of Dutch and English to each other. We sometimes have conversations in one language, but also sometimes each speak in our own language during the same conversation, we regularly code switch, use specific words of each other’s language, etc…

Should we avoid this behaviour once our child is around us (code switching and mixing)? If we apply OPOL, should we each stick to our own language when we speak to each other as well? Or is it better to pick one language we speak to each other? What will we do later in group conversations? I’m really wondering about this.

Thank you for your answer.
Niels

Answer

Dear Niels

Thank you for your question – you are not the only bilingual parent who is mixing languages and thinks about this!

You and your wife use your languages in a way which is very natural for two bilingual people who know each other’s languages – switching between them depending on topic and situation. As you mention, this is called code-switching and I don’t see a reason why you should change the way you talk with each other for the sake of sticking to only one language.

What you want for your child is to be a confident speaker of both English and Dutch, and the two of you will initially be the main sources of exposure to the languages. When either of you speak to someone else who only knows either English or Dutch, you change your way of speaking and only stick to the language the other person understands. This is of course what you would like your child to be able to do as well. For this to happen, it is important that your child gets exposed to the languages in a way that allows him or her to keep them separate.

You could consider the 2 parents, 2 languages (2P2L) approach which has proven to be successful when both parents are bilingual – note that in this scenario you would normally also have plenty of other exposure to both languages. Thus, the crucial aspect here is exposure. In your situation, it sounds like English may be a minority language and your child will generally hear more Dutch than English. (Unless you for example opt for daycare or education in English.)

So for your child, you need to consider whether there will be enough English exposure, and I would recommend that your wife consistently sticks to English when speaking directly with your child. Consistency is not a be all and end all when using the one parent, one language (OPOL) approach – the need to be consistent depends on the amount of exposure (read this article for further thoughts on language consistency with OPOL).

I understand that it is difficult to imagine how future family conversations will take place – who will speak what? I can assure you that things will fall in place, and when the time comes you will find a way that suits you. In a bilingual family, it is perfectly normal and fine for people to be using and mixing languages in a very similar way that you do currently with your wife. At some point, you might however notice that there is a need for more English exposure for your child and then decide to stick to English as your home language. The dynamics may change over time, but by being aware of how your child’s languages evolve you will be able to make the best decision on your language choices.

Wishing you a successful bilingual 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
Feb 082017
 

Grandparents as language support for bilingual children

As parents raising bilingual children we know how important it is to give our kids as varied an exposure to their languages as possible. This becomes even more crucial if we are passing on a minority language. Building a network of people who can support us in this task is important and a good and natural place to start are the grandparents.

Heritage and culture

Culture and language go hand in hand – and grandparents are in an ideal position to pass on the family culture. By speaking to their grandchildren about the traditions and customs they are not only bringing in essential words and phrases but are helping your children understand their heritage and background. Encourage your children to ask about traditions, what has changed, how they did things in their youth – you will probably learn something new yourself as well.

Reading

A child can never be read to too often! Due to the busy schedule of many parents, it might be a struggle to get enough reading time with your kids. This is where grandparents can be of a great help – if they live close, maybe they can visit the library with the kids and choose the books they are interested in. If they live far away, arrange story time online with granny or grandpa.

Letters and messaging

Practice that writing and reading by staying in contact the old-fashioned way: write letters and cards! Grandparents are of a generation more used to this form of communication so they will be happy to participate. It really does not take that long and we all know what a joy it is to receive a note or a card. Tip: put stamps on your shopping list so you are all prepared. That said, most grandparents nowadays are used to phones and computers, so encourage your kids to stay in touch and help set up the communication channels by making sure that both your parents and your children have the email-addresses, phone numbers etc. for each other.

Confidantes

GrandparentsI had a very close relationship to my mother when growing up, however, I remember how it was sometimes easier to speak to one of my grandmothers (unfortunately, I never got to meet any of my grandfathers). I wish that all children would have a close relationship to someone, in addition to their parents, who they can trust and share their feelings with – another reason why the family languages are so important. Grandparents may just have that extra bit of time patience when a small person needs someone to talk to. They will stop and listen instead of saying “Tell me later”.

When grandparents are far away

Bilingual children often grow up with at least one half of the extended family living far away, sometime both sets of grandparents live in a different country. You can find tips on how to stay in touch in this article: Bilingual children and long-distance family relationships.

If there are no grandparents

Of course, due to family or other circumstances not all children have the luxury of a close or even any relationship with their grandparents. If this is the case in your family, maybe you can find an older person in your community who could step in and be that older generation connection?

“A child needs a grandparent, anybody’s grandparent, to grow a little more securely into an unfamiliar world.” – Charles and Ann Morse

 

G is for Grandparents is my chosen topic for the A-Z of Raising Multilingual Children organised by The Piri-Piri Lexicon. Don’t forget to check out all the other inspiring posts from my fellow bloggers!

the piri-piri lexicon

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

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Jan 192017
 

Is it necessary to arrange additional tuition for a child’s minority language?

 

Question

Hi,

My question is, do you need to set aside time for language lessons either by parents or professional for the minority language? My 3-year-old daughter speaks Spanish (we live in Spain) and English (minority language) and she is well on her way to being bilingual, her English level is above most 3 year olds that only speak English – so we are off to a good start.

My question is more about how will she advance to be on the same level as English-only speakers going forward by only doing what we have done so far (complete English in home, English books, English TV etc). For example, she can count to 20 because of all the books we do, but how will she count to 100 without lessons. Or how will she learn advanced vocab and grammar without lessons? or do these kind of things come with time?

Thanks!
Trent

Answer

Dear Trent

Thank you for question on whether you need to arrange some formal language tuition in the minority language for your daughter.

You are using the minority language at home approach (mL@H), and with great success as per your description – I agree, you are off to a fantastic start. By immersing her in English in the home she will naturally pick up the language just as a monolingual child would do. You read books and watch English programmes with her so she this will add to her vocabulary.

If you want her English to stay at the same level as of children living in an English-speaking country and attending an English school, with the extended vocabulary that entails, then you would need to arrange similar exposure for her. I don’t think you would necessarily have to arrange additional tuition for this, though. Instead, you can incorporate this into your family’s routines. Of course, it depends on how much time you can dedicate to this, but my feeling is that it might be more effective than having occasional formal lessons. As her parents you will know best which area to work on.

When your daughter’s English skills develop, you will naturally read books where the language gets more complex and she will be learning new words. Since you are in the fortunate position that it is English which is your minority language, you will also find a lot of resources online. You can use materials which are designed for schools or homeschoolers. For example the British Council offers free educational games and resources for schools which you can adapt according to your daughter’s interests.

When she is a bit older you could also consider enrolling her in summer camps for English-speaking children, if this can be arranged. Having a chance to use her language with other children is another important aspect of her language development.

Wishing you a successful bilingual 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
Jan 182017
 

Bilingual children – no language confusion!

 

We have answered more than two hundred questions on the topic of raising bilingual children, and the worry that gets mentioned most frequently is whether kids growing up to learn more than one language can get confused by the languages in their family and environment. Again and again we emphasize that this is a myth: bilingual children’s language development may proceed differently than that of monolingual children, but they are not confused!

Will bilingual-to-be children be confused if …

… they learn more than two languages while growing up?

NO.
Children have an amazing ability to pick up several languages while growing up – providing they get enough exposure to them and have the chance and need to interact in them. Millions of children worldwide grow up in truly multilingual environments, learning them as they grow up, and they are no more confused than monolingual children. Bilingual children often mix their languages to start with, but this is just a part of the learning process and does not mean they are confused about their languages.

… they start nursery in a language they do not know?

NO.
When immersed in a language, children learn a language quickly. They will of course go through a phase where they are only listening and taking it all in, but sooner than parents think, they learn to understand and also to speak.

… they learn to read and write in two languages simultaneously?

NO.
Just like learning to speak two different languages at the same time, children can learn to read and write two languages (and scripts). The important thing is to take the cue from the child and start teaching when they show interest for it. Reading books in all the languages a child is learning is a good foundation for learning to read and write.

… the parents speak different languages to them?

NO.
Children very quickly learn to distinguish between different languages, according to some research already in the womb. Kids understand that there is a mummy’s language and a daddy’s language (or grandma’s or nanny’s etc). Children do not question the fact that people in their environment speak different languages, and it certainly does not confuse them.

… the parents speak a different language between them?

NO.
In many families, parents do not speak each other’s mother tongues and use a third language as their common language, while speaking their respective native languages with the children. This also does not confuse a child – however, the kids do quickly learn to understand a fair deal of it, so don’t think you can keep a secret language forever!

… one parent speaks two different language with them?

NO.
A parent can pass on two languages to a child. It is not an easy task and it requires commitment and discipline, but it can be done. Read how our coach Maria does it in her family.

… a parent mixes the languages spoken to the child?

NO.
Most bilingual people mix their languages when they speak with other people who know the same languages. This is natural bilingual behaviour and is called code-switching. It has its own rules and adds many fascinating nuances to the communication. Children will of course grow up to do this, but since they will also hear the language when it is not mixed, they learn to keep the languages separate and not to mix them when there are monolinguals around.

… a parent switches the language spoken with them?

NO.
There are different scenarios in which a parent might want to switch the language they speak with a child. From my own experience, it is not a straight-forward thing to do, but by working with the child and carefully adapting the process it can be done. A child’s natural instinct is to generally resist change, but making a gradual transition from one language to another does not confuse your child.

… a mother/father does not speak her/his mother tongue with them?

NO.
A parent should speak the language they feel is right – in most cases this is their mother tongue, but not always. Don’t let anyone tell you that the mother tongue is the only right way to go if you have chosen otherwise. Your child will not be confused by your language choice.

… a mother/father speaks a language she/he is not fluent in?

NO.
A baby will accept whichever language a parent speaks to it. A close and loving relationship is what is vital for a child and a child will not be confused if a parent speaks a non-native language. If there is no other, native exposure to the language, the child will pick up the accent and the vocabulary it learns from the parent, but the child will not be confused.

To summarise the answer to whether you will confuse your child with your family’s language choices, I would like to finish with a quote from my younger daughter’s favourite song from when she was nine months old:

NO – NO – NO – NO – NO – NO – NO – NO – NO – NO!

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

 

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Jan 042017
 

How to be successful at raising bilingual kids

This is the time of year when we are all encouraged to make resolutions to improve different aspects of our lives. As parents of bilingual kids we are no exception to the expectation of making promises to change our behaviour to ensure that our children grow up to be bilingual. However, apparently only 8% of all resolutions are kept! I would certainly want you to have better odds than that, so what to do instead?

Define your goals for your children’s language skills

What is your expectation about how well your bilingual kids should be able to speak the language? There is a big difference in whether you would want them to be able to communicate in everyday situations or whether your goal is for them to be able to read and write and also express themselves in more academic situations. These two fluency levels have been defined by Jim Cummins as Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills – BICS and Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency – CALP

If you are going for the latter, then you will need to invest considerably more time or alternatively arrange some formal tuition for your child’s minority language. For basic communication skills, you should make sure your child gets enough exposure to the language – either from you or other sources.

You may also decide that it is enough for your child to be able to understand a language (receptive bilingualism) so not to feel left out in social situations where the language is spoken. This is a perfectly valid goal, if this is what you think is doable. Your children will still get a foundation in the language which can be worked on later in life.

Choose the family language strategy that works for you

There are several different ways for how to pass on family languages – read my previous posts on each one of them and (if you haven’t already done so) select the one which feels right for you.

One parent, one language (OPOL)
Minority language at home (mL@H)
Time and place (T&P)
Two parents, two languages (2P2L)

Be realistic about what you can and cannot do

There is no point in making a resolution to read for X number of hours with your child if your circumstances do not allow for this. Do you have a relative who could read a book with your child over Skype? Could they make a recording of a book that your child could listen to while following the text or pictures in the book?

Instead of big resolutions, make small adjustments to your daily routines which do not require significant changes. If you feel that your child needs more exposure to your language, start by giving a “running commentary” on what you are doing, be it when you are out and about, in the shop, cooking, working in the garden or playing a game. The more topics you can bring in the better. No need to change what you do, just talk more while you do it with your child.

If what you have the time and energy for does not tally up with what level of fluency you would like your children to achieve, then ask for ideas and look for resources that can help you. You are not alone, and by speaking with other parents in the same situation, you can get a lot of help and advice. However, remember to listen to others’ opinions with a what-works-for-us filter – every family is different. Should you want tailored family language coaching, please do get in touch.

What has worked in the past?

When have you noticed that your child has made good progress with their language skills? Can you do more of this? Can you arrange more one-to-one time with other speakers of the language? Would it be possible to stay somewhere where the locals speak the language? Can you find more of the type of books or comics that your child loves?

Building on what has been successful in the past is a lot easier than trying to create new routines – concentrate on an activity that you know your children will love, then incorporate the language into it. Trying to speak a language for the sake of it is rarely successful – the communication should be natural and it should “make sense” for your child.

Stick with it

Persistence and patience are the two most important virtues of parents raising bilingual children. Even when it feels that you are not making progress and are not sure if what you are doing is right, stick with it. I know from many other families as well as my own experience that not giving up is crucial – your kids WILL thank you in the end!

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

 

 

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Dec 182016
 

How to pass on both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese as minority languages?

 

Question

Hi,

Both my husband and myself are native in speaking Cantonese. We live in the US but we communicate in Cantonese with my 2-year-old as well. My husband is also a native Mandarin speaker while I speak Mandarin with some accent and sometimes just speak by guessing how to speak some of the words. I’m not concerned about English as my son has started preschool for a couple hours per day. Our Filipino nanny speaks a mix of Cantonese and English to my kid and she isn’t very fluent in either language.

My son has started to talk a lot of Cantonese, a bit of English. My concern is Mandarin. He refuses (very often crying hysterically) whenever me or my husband start talking to him in Mandarin. I’m considering Chinese school later on, but as far as I know, none of the people I know learned much from Chinese school here.

We also have an option to send my son to Chinese immersion school. But my husband does not like the idea as he likes my son to go into more popular and mainstream school. I’m planning to take my son to Mandarin/English summer school overseas next summer. It would be a 1 month program and hopefully we would continue sending him every year.

Mandarin and Cantonese are both dialects of Chinese, I learned Mandarin by speaking and making friends who speak it. Do I expect my son to speak it like I do eventually? But with English being a main language for him I’m concerned that he would end up not interested in either dialects.

The writing part is even harder to learn. Reading out loud in Cantonese and reading a book are completely different as well. Mandarin is speaking of what we write but Cantonese isn’t. Am I expecting too much for him to be able to read and write Chinese? How can he be trilingual possibly?

Kind regards,
Candy

P.S. “Chinese school” means Chinese class in general that happens on Saturday only and kids only learn to read and write Chinese there. But they are not meant to substitute kindergarten or elementary school. Chinese immersion school though is regular kindergarten and elementary school that has 80% Chinese, 20% English from kindergarten and slowly decreasing Chinese weighting to about 50:50 later on.

Answer

Hello Candy,

Thank you for your questions.  It was great to know that you and your husband have started the multilingual journey with your young son.  How exciting it must be to hear him speaking Cantonese to you!  Below are my recommendations for you at this stage.

Home language environment and input:  You and your husband are both speaking Cantonese to your son.  Your Filipino nanny speaks a mixture of Cantonese and English to him.  Therefore, your little boy has a high language input in Cantonese.  Your husband is also a native Mandarin Chinese speaker.  You speak Mandarin as well.  However, your son often cries when you or your husband speak Mandarin to him.  This is an alarming sign and it is important to know why your boy is associating Mandarin with an unpleasant feeling.  My question for you is how often you and your husband speak Mandarin to your boy.  Have you been speaking Mandarin to him since he was born?  Is this a new language that you recently added to his life?  If it is new, then I would recommend that it be introduced gradually, in a fun and comprehensible way for him.  For a toddler, using words and language to communicate is a milestone.  For your little boy it is a wonderful achievement that he can tell you what he wants and you can give him a response.  Therefore, the Mandarin input needs to be comprehensible for him and the percentage of the input needs to be increased gradually so he can pick up the language and speak it.

Language goal for your son:  You would like to set a goal for your son to be trilingual.  However, you wonder if it is too much for your son.   According to researchers and parents who have been on the journey it is a reachable goal and there are many families that have done this.  I recommend you read the book Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven and the article “Raising a Trilingual Child.”  Both are good references for you.

Current language input for your son: Cantonese has the highest input at this time with you, your husband (primarily) and the nanny (limited) speaking the language to him.  English has some input from his preschool.  Mandarin seems to have less input at this time.  Do you have a family language plan?  Do you plan to adopt one of the major systems such as one parent, one language (OPOL) or minority language at home (mL@H)?  Multilingual families such as yours have used both plans successfully.

Formal schooling:  If you go with the mainstream public school system in the U.S. it means the language input at school will be English.  Therefore, Mandarin and Cantonese input will fully depend on input at home.  If you go with the Chinese immersion school then the Mandarin language input continues outside of home.

Summer Camps:  Mandarin summer camps are a popular study-travel program used by many Chinese parents, parents with Chinese heritage backgrounds, and non-Chinese speaking parents.  There are many Chinese language and culture summer camps designed for children who are learning Chinese language as a heritage language or as a second language in China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.  When the child is young and has some basic understanding of the Chinese or Cantonese language they can also enroll in a local play-based preschool or a local play-based summer program overseas to have the full immersion experience in not only the language but also the culture.  This can be a very positive experience for your child and it will help him to bond with the language and the culture on a different, less academic, level.  It may also help him associate the language with positive experience and boost his language learning even after you return to the U.S.  I am speaking about this from a personal experience with my children, and the students and families I have worked with.  At the same time, there are Chinese immersion summer camps available in the U.S. if it fits the family schedule better.

Picking up Mandarin Chinese by playing with Mandarin-speaking peers:  Is it possible?  Yes.  The key here is environment.  Is there an environment available for him to pick up Mandarin by playing with Mandarin-speaking friends?  Is this a consistent input?  If there is a weekly play date with his Mandarin-speaking friends then you are creating a need for him to use the language even if it is parallel play at beginning.  When the interaction increases the language use will increase.  This is a great way to encourage the use of the minority language.

Reading and writing in Mandarin and Cantonese:  It is important to have a literacy-rich home environment with books and reading materials in Chinese language.  Read-aloud with age appropriate storybooks in Chinese is always a good start.  When your husband reads a storybook (Chinese edition) he can read it word by word in Mandarin.  When you read the same storybook (Chinese edition) you will read it as you speak Cantonese.  Although Cantonese is written in Chinese characters the reading and speaking are interpreted in Cantonese language structure.  For example: When you see Chinese characters “你住哪?” you will read to your son as in Cantonese “你住系边度?”  As you are reading to your boy he is also seeing the Chinese characters.   When you introduce Chinese writing to him the same system will apply.  When you teach him Mandarin you will read the character as it is pronounced in Mandarin.  When you teach him Cantonese you will read the character as it is pronounced in Cantonese with an explanation if a phrase is used differently in Cantonese.  For example: “喜歡” is used in Mandarin Chinese but “鍾意/中意” is used in Cantonese but both terms mean ‘to like’.

If you have any further questions or need clarification, please feel free to write again.  Wishing you the best on the multilingual parenting journey!

Amanda

Miss Panda ChineseAmanda Hsiung-Blodgett

Amanda “Miss Panda” is the founder of Miss Panda Chinese and the author of the top-rated audio program, Let’s Learn Mandarin Chinese with Miss Panda!  Amanda is a dynamic language instructor with over 15 years’ language teaching experience.  She coaches families and business professionals to reach their language goals.

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Nov 232016
 

Classic Arabic vs your local dialect – which one should your children learn?

Tarek RabieHekayatonaThis article has been contributed by Tarek Rabie, founder of Hekayatona, a digital platform committed to encouraging children to read and learn Arabic. For more help and advice on how you can best support your child’s Arabic learning journey you can visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter


One of the biggest challenges facing Arab parents living abroad is how to teach Arabic to their children, and whether the focus should be on the standard Arabic or on their local dialect spoken at home.

Arabic has tens of dialectics that can be very different from each other. They tend to differ from one country to another. In some countries, they even differ from one city to another.

Dialects in the Levant region are close and a Syrian will have no problem understanding a Jordanian, for example. However, it could be difficult for a Jordanian to understand a conversation between two Moroccans.

Those dialects are relatively different from classic Arabic – the language used for writing, reading, news and all official dealings; which explains the commonly asked question asked by Arabic language learners “which Arabic shall I learn?”. It is also a question for Arab parents who live abroad and want to teach their children Arabic.

Parents don’t actually have to choose one over the other. Children can learn both their parent’s dialect and classic Arabic simultaneously – exactly in the same manner their parents did. In the typical Arabic household, no one uses classic Arabic in conversation. Children learn it from books, cartoons, learning materials (e.g. educational toys and games), TV and finally they perfect it at school.

While parents living away from home cannot always expect their children to speak their dialect fluently, using it at home will get children acquainted with the language of the parents. They will be able to understand it and to speak it, as long as they hear it often and from an early age.

When it comes to the classic Arabic the sky is the limit. If parents put enough effort into it, the children can develop excellent Arabic skills. In today’s world, it is very easy to surround children with all kinds of Arabic materials to help them master the language.

Books and children’s stories should be on the top of the list. Parents should have Arabic books for different stages of learning, and they should invest time to read with their children.

There are also great tools like websites and apps that are designed to teach Arabic to children. From interactive e-books to games, technology can be a great way to make learning Arabic fun for the child.

Parents can also order learning toys and materials which use visual learning methods to teach the alphabet or new vocabularies among other things. Examples of those tools could be found through this link.

There is also very easy access to Arabic cartoons and other children’s programs on the internet.

There will be a point in the child’s development where direct teaching is necessary, specially to bring him/her to the proficiency levels. Search your local area for Arabic language institutes or for private teachers who specialize in teaching Arabic to children to give an extra boost for your child’s Arabic learning journey.

Classic ArabicWhile it is natural that parents want their children to learn their dialect, there should also be a focus on learning the standard classic Arabic. By being able to communicate with hundreds of millions of Arabic speakers, your child will have an edge in his or her future career. If you also aim at preserving your culture, standard Arabic is what they need. Everything from the holy Quran, to the great literature throughout the centuries, in addition to news, are all written in classic Arabic.


Thank you so much for this helpful article, Tarek!

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

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Oct 262016
 

Multilingual Parenting

 

Since starting the blog in 2012 I have published more than four hundred articles on my Multilingual Parenting site. 400 articles – that is a lot of posts and Q&As on the topic of raising bilingual children!

With this a significant number of articles, I realise that it may not always be easy to locate the exact piece of advice, knowledge or inspiration you are looking for. Therefore, I have decided to do a site revamp to give it a better structure and make it easier to navigate. It will still have the same look and feel, but you will hopefully be able to find what you are searching for more easily.

I am currently also creating an ebook based on my From the diary of a bilingual mother series. While I am working on the website and ebook (in addition to continuing with my coaching), naturally, there will be less time for writing new blog posts, so bear with me – normal blogging routine will resume before the end of the year.

The Q&As will continue as normal, with two new ones published every week – new questions are welcome, though the waiting time is currently about two months, so please make sure to check the Q&A archive before submitting your query. Thank you to my fellow Family Language Coaches for working with me to answer all the questions coming in!

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

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Oct 192016
 

12 discouraging comments about raising a bilingual child – and how to reply

As parents of bilingual children, many of us have been there: finding ourselves in a situation where others give us advise on what is best for our children when it comes to their languages, and how we should behave as a family. Sometimes we get brilliant ideas on how to succeed, but this is unfortunately not always the case, as I have seen from the many questions coming in and reading parent’s thoughts online. Below are some of the most frequent comments I have come across and suggestions on how to reply to them.

1. “Your child will get confused”

You would think that this myth would have been eradicated by now, but it isn’t, so it needs to be reiterated. Children are extremely adept at separating languages they speak with different people and will not get confused in a family with more than one language.

2. “Her speech will be delayed”

Bilingualism does not cause language delay. Older research that seemed to find a delay has been based on incorrect research methods: bilingual children were assessed based on monolingual standards and not all of their languages were taken into account. Just like with their monolingual peers, there are great differences in the pace of their language development.

3. “He will lag behind in school”

Knowing another language does not take away from your ability to learn. On the contrary, there is research that indicates that since bilinguals constantly have to suppress one (or more) of their languages, they get better at focusing and at avoiding distractions. These are abilities which are likely to contribute to a greater success in education.

4. “Two languages are too much for a small child”

The majority of the world’s population speaks more than one language. There are millions of children that are living proof of children’s ability to pick up two or more languages while they are growing up.

5. “Developmental differences? Only speak one language with your kid!”

Whether your child is on the autistic spectrum or is developmentally different in any other way, this is no reason for not raising him or her bilingual. On the contrary, it may be harmful for the child if a parent stops speaking a language the child is used to talking with them.

6. “Your language will be of no use to them!”

Any additional language is useful and a family language is particularly beneficial for a child. A language is not only a means of communication, but a route to embracing another culture. Knowing the family language gives a bilingual child confidence and helps them explore their background and understand their identity.

7. “You should concentrate on supporting them with the community language!”

While I do think it is important to learn the language of the country you live in, this does not mean that you should sacrifice a home language, both can be maintained and learned. Children will always learn the language of the surrounding community, but a home language can easily be forgotten if it is not used in everyday life.

8. “A bilingual child will not learn the majority language properly!”

Knowing a minority language does not have a negative effect on the learning of the majority language. On the contrary, having a strong foundation in any language is beneficial for learning further languages.

9. “Wait with your language until they are fluent in the language of the school!”

Children have the capacity to learn several languages at the same time. Simultaneous bilingualism is a common way to learn languages, so there is no need to wait for a child to be fluent in one language before introducing another, especially not a language which the child will have plenty of exposure to. If you start with the majority language, it can actually be quite difficult to start with the minority language later on – it can be done, but as a parent you will have to put more effort in.

10. “You should speak the language of the country you live in!”

If someone tells you to only speak the language of the country you are living in, they most likely have an underlying agenda, based on a narrow-minded view of the world. More often than not, there is no way you can convince this person to change their mind, so my recommendation is to smile, move on and forget about the comment.

11. “You don’t want your kids to be different!”

If your children are growing up with more than one language, it is highly likely that they already are in one way or another not exactly the same as all other kids in their class. Don’t deprive your child of a language because you are worried they could be bullied for it – teach them to be proud of it and of the culture it represents.

12. “We will not understand what they speak!”

Some of your relatives, maybe your child’s grandparents, may we worried that they will not understand if you kid learns the minority language first. Remind them that your children will learn their language as well and that their grandchildren will have many more benefits from becoming bilingual.

Always keep in mind that you decide how you want to raise your child!

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017


Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal.

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Oct 122016
 

7 challenges and solutions for raising a bilingual child

Parents who want to bring up their kids to speak the family languages can learn a lot from those families who have been successful at bringing up bilingual children. However, I also think that a great deal can be learnt from parents whose children grew up not becoming fluent in the family’s minority language. It is equally important to hear the views of monolingual adults who grew up in a multilingual family.

These are the most common reasons I have been given for a child of a multilingual family becoming either monolingual or a receptive bilingual:

  1. “We didn’t really think about the languages”

This is perhaps the comment that I have heard the most often. Bilingualism does not happen by magic – unless the circumstances are ideal. In the perfect scenario, a child is consistently exposed to both (or all) family languages and interacts with several people in them. Parents who are bilingual often admit that they thought their children would just naturally grow up to speak the family languages, in the same way they did themselves, so they didn’t pay much attention to how much their children were exposed to the different languages.

Read this article about planning ahead for the bilingual upbringing of your child.

  1. “We started too late”

Following from the above, when parents have noticed that their child was not learning a family language, they have decided to introduce their children to the lesser spoken language at a later stage. Other families may well have planned to raise their children to become bilingual, but of some reason or other decided to wait with the introduction of the second family language. In both cases, a change in the family language pattern is necessary – an easy thing to say, but a whole different matter to do in real life (in Pricken, the Swedish-speaking kitten you can read about my struggles switching to another language with my daughter). Several parents have said that they did not have the energy to insist that their children spoke a different language with them, or that they gave up because their children were not interested.

Read this article for ways to (re)introduce your child to a family language.

  1. “Our children did not want to speak our language”

Some parents state that their children did not want to speak their language at all, that the kids completely rejected the language. I find it a bit hard to believe that the resistance would have been there from day one. A child will learn the language a parent consistently speaks with him or her. The question to ask is what happened before the child started to refuse to speak the language. Was there enough interaction with the child in the language? Was speaking the language a habit in the family? Was there a positive attitude to the language and the culture it represents? Was passing on the language a real priority for the parents?

Read this article for ways of motivating your child to speak a family language and this with 40 ideas depending on the age of your child.

  1. “I spoke the language when I was small, but then I forgot it”

Quite a few adult monolinguals have told me that they remember being fluent in a family language when they were small, speaking it easily with their grandparents and other relatives, but then something changed and they stopped speaking it. The thing that happened is usually that they started nursery or school. Being immersed in the majority language all day, getting more friends who only speak the majority language, wanting to be like everyone else: the nursery or school start is a crucial time for a bilingual child. At this point it is more important than ever for parents not to switch to the majority language when they speak with their child. Many of these adults also state they wished their parents had insisted on them speaking the family language.

Read this article for things to take into consideration when a bilingual child goes to nursery or school.

  1. “My parents spoke the family language with each other, but not with me”

In some families maintaining the family language has been considered less important than learning the community language as soon as possible. As a result, parents have avoided speaking the minority language with their children. While understandable, especially if a family has just moved to a country, the fact is that the children will learn the community language in any case. However, if they are never spoken to in the family language they will not learn to interact in it. Be proud of your family language and culture!

Read this article about minority language at home (mL@H) and why it has proven to be effective.

  1. “We were told to stick to only one language”

Despite many researches showing the opposite, many families are still given the wrong advice of dropping a family language as a solution to various speech and language related issues, or been told that bilingualism causes confusion. Unfortunately, many parents have also followed this advice and their child has missed out on the chance of becoming bilingual early on in life.

Read this article about what to do if you are advised to drop a family language.

  1. “We were too busy as a family”

Lack of time is probably the most frequently used reason for not doing something, we can all admit that.  Then again, we may ask whether it is the true reason – normally we do find the time and a way to do something that is a high priority for us.

Read this article about all the benefits bilingualism brings with it.

In my book “Bringing up a Bilingual Child”, I walk you through the different stages of deciding, preparing and planning to bring up a bilingual child and give practical advice on how to do it and stick with it when life throws its curve balls at you.

[This is a revised and extended version of a previously published article.]

May the peace and power be with you.

Yours,
Rita

© Rita Rosenback 2017
Bringing up a Bilingual Child by Rita RosenbackNever miss a post! Sign up to the Multilingual Parenting newsletter and I will send you a recap of the week’s posts every Sunday. Every second week you will receive a more extensive issue with links to research articles and interesting posts from other writers, as well as handy tips and ideas!
Want to read more like this? My book Bringing up a Bilingual Child is available on Amazon and in well-stocked bookshops.
Do you have a specific question? You can send it to our team of Family Language Coaches and we will reply in a Q&A (questions are answered in order of arrival).
If you are interested in tailor-made family language coaching, please, contact me and I will send you a proposal. Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin