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Rita

Mar 152017
 

How to use monolingual toys to motivate bilingual children

 

“How do I introduce another language for my toddler?”
“How can I motivate my little one to speak my language?”
“How to have fun when practicing the kids’ minority language?”

These are questions I often get in the queries sent to our team of Family Language Coaches. One of the recommendations I often give to parents of small children is to dedicate a puppet, teddy or some other toy to the language. In this post you will find some practical ideas on how to use “monolingual toys” when raising a bilingual child.

Choice of toy

First, you need to choose the right kind of toy. The first criteria is that your child should like it – otherwise you fall at the first hurdle. Secondly it should be a toy that invites a child to communicate. Children can of course conjure up discussions with anything, be it a toy house or a ball, but I would recommend choosing a teddy, toy animal or doll of any type, be it a superhero or a rag doll. My personal favourite is a hand puppet thanks to its versatility. With a hand puppet, you can easily show different emotions and move in a way that supports the understanding of what is spoken.

Create a backstory

To make the “monolingual toy” concept more real, create a backstory for the chosen toy. Give it a name which is specific to its language. Give it any other additional external features that tie it to the language and to the country the language is spoken in: clothing and other accessories (our bear hand puppet comes with a Moomin-character!) It would be great if you could get someone to send you the toy so that it arrives from its “home country” (maybe an idea for a gift that grandparents or other relatives could send?) Together with your child, create a story about where the toy was “born”, what it has been doing until now, why it has come to your home, what it likes and dislikes and so on.

Give the toy a distinct personality

It is beneficial to give the toy some personality traits that will help you have a varied communication. Obviously, it should like to talk. It should be inquisitive and ask a lot of questions about anything, even the most obvious things. “Is this my ear?” “What is your name?” “How old are you?” “Where is the door?” It should sometimes get things wrong, so your child can help it. It should be engaging. However, it may not always listen you, so that you have to repeat what you have to say.

Act as a translator when needed

Depending on how well your child knows the language he or she is learning, you may have to do some translating. (Yes, I know that this means you will be talking to yourself, but just go with me on this one.) This is your opportunity to introduce vocabulary you would like your child to learn or expand on.

Examples of a dialogues

If your child knows nothing or very little of the toy’s language

– Tell your child that you are going to ask for the puppet’s name
– Ask the puppet for its name in its language. Repeat the question a few times (the puppet may be “distracted”, so you must ask again)
– Once the puppet has said its name, make it ask your child for his or her name
– If your child does not understand the question, make the puppet ask for your own name and give an answer (this way you are acting as the role model for answering in the toy’s language)

You can repeat this with similar other discussions, introducing simple, important words like yes and no, mummy, daddy, play, eat, sleep etc.

If you want to expand on certain vocabulary (in this case colours)

– Point at different colours in a book or in the room, ask the puppet what colour it is.
– The puppet answers with the colour, then points to something else of the same colour and asks your child to name the colour.
– The puppet could also answer with the wrong answer if you are sure your child already knows it. Children usually find it funny when someone else gets something wrong and engage in a discussion.

Your imagination is the only thing setting the limits to these discussions!

The concept of “monolingual toys” will of course work best with small children, but they can be the perfect way of introducing a new language to your toddler, creating more engagement in your child’s minority language or just having more fun while expanding the vocabulary.

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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Mar 052017
 

Speaking different languages on different days – a good way to raise a trilingual child?

 

Question

Hello,

We are a Russian couple living in the Czech Republic and bringing up our 11-month-old daughter multilingual. In addition to Russian and Czech languages, we want her to speak English as well. Both of us speak Czech and English fluently and Russian is our native language. We chose 2P3L strategy, meaning that both of us speak to her in 3 languages, one day – Russian, one day – Czech, one day – English.

We are trying to expose her to each language equally, so we read books to her, sing songs and rhymes in each language. We haven’t seen results yet since she is only babbling for now, but I have doubts sometimes how she is going to manage learning three languages at once. My doubt is mostly about the strategy we chose. For example, isn’t it confusing for her to hear that one day a Christmas tree is Christmas tree (English), the next day it is Елка (Russian), and another day it is Stromeček (Czech)?

When we were thinking about the strategy this one came as the most natural for both of us, but sometimes I have second thoughts about it. I cannot think of another strategy that could suit us since both of us want to use those three languages while talking to our daughter, but not to mix them.

My second question is about teaching our daughter to read in those three languages. We are not quite sure, if we should start to teach her reading in all languages at once or start with one language, wait for progress and add another language. Could you please advise us on this matter? Thank you in advance for your advices.

Best,
Galina

Answer

Dear Galina

Thank you for your question on how to best raise your daughter to become trilingual in Russian, English and Czech.

You have adopted a strategy where you and your husband switch between the three languages, speaking each language one day at a time. Am I correct in presuming that you both speak the same language on any given day?

I do think that normal bilingual switching between languages in a family does not pose a threat to a child becoming bilingual, as long as there is enough exposure to each language the child is learning. Children in multilingual family environments do not get confused, as evidenced by the millions of bilinguals who have grown up this way.

Simultaneous bilingualism is a perfectly normal way to learn two or more languages, so this is not an issue either. However, in most cases the child has one person or situation per language, e.g. parent 1 speaks one language, parent 2 another and the child attends school in a third language. In families that use the two parents, two languages approach (2P2L), the languages are usually also equally supported in the community, and the natural choice of language in each situation depends on the topic at hand or on the language skills of the people participating in the discussion.

While your approach is a variation of the time and place strategy (T&P), I share your concerns about your setup. Even very small children have indeed been found to be good at distinguishing different languages, but I would still recommend to look for an alternative way to expose your daughter to the three languages. I think your approach (with longer time spans for each language) could work at a later stage to maintain all languages – this means after your daughter already has a grasp of each one of them. (Though what you will find is that the language spoken in the community will need less support within the family than the minority languages.)

Maria Babin who does switch between Spanish and English with her children does so every two weeks. She found even one week to be too short a time to get into the flow of the other language with her children. I have not tried this approach myself, but I can imagine that switching every day could indeed become quite exhausting in the long run. I also think a more consistent exposure in terms of who speaks what would be beneficial for your daughter as she is becoming trilingual.

I do not doubt your commitment to passing on three languages, but I would also like emphasize the importance of a natural communication pattern in the family. You do not want the languages to become something that stops the communication instead of being the means to it.

I understand your desire to speak three languages to your little daughter, but I would look at it from her point of view and ask myself how can I best support my child to become trilingual? Identifying one language with one parent or situation has proven to be a successful approach. If you were to both choose one language which you speak directly with your daughter and speak the third language with each other, you would still be using all the three languages in the family. Alternatively, you could choose to speak only Russian and English at home (the minority languages where you live) and leave Czech to when she attends nursery or school. Czech is the language you need to worry least about, as she will learn the language of the community you live in.

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
Feb 222017
 

Miss Panda ChineseToday I am delighted to introduce you to our new Family Language Coach, Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, a.k.a, Miss Panda Chinese. Amanda is a successful language instructor with over 15 years’ teaching experience in Taiwan, the U.S., Morocco, Canada, and Ecuador. She now lives in the U.S. with her husband and two bilingual children. 

Enjoy Amanda’s excellent tips on supporting your child to be come bilingual:


Miss Panda Chinese: 8 tips to boost your family's multilingual journey

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
– Robert Collier, author

  • Valería walked up to me at a party and shouted, “One more time!”  Then we hopped and hopped and she laughed so hard. She got distracted by the food being put on the table, went to her mother and started speaking Spanish. Valeria is two and a half years old. Her mother is a native Spanish speaker and her father is a native English speaker who also speaks Spanish. Both parents only speak Spanish to Valeria.
  • Alex heard his mommy singing the “Pick it Up – Shōu qǐlái – 收起來“ song in Mandarin Chinese, an equivalent of the “Clean Up” song in English. He stood up from the play area and started putting things away. Alex is almost 4 years old. Alex’s mom is a native English speaker who is learning Chinese with Alex together in a program. His dad is a third-generation Chinese American who dropped out after 10 years of Chinese weekend school and does not speak very much Chinese.
  • My daughter Meimei stood in her crib bouncing up and down and cheerfully said “bonjour!” to me when she saw me walking into her room one morning. At the time, she was only speaking Mandarin Chinese at home to me and Dad even though Dad only spoke English to her. She started going to a local English-French bilingual preschool for a few hours a week in Montreal, Canada and this was what happened after just two months of going there. Meimei had just turned two years old at the time.

All the stories above are indicators of a great start in successfully helping a child to acquire another language. A key question, however, is  “How do I keep it going?” As your child grows their language environment will change and we will face some challenges along the way. What do you do when your child does not respond in the target language? What do you do when you want to increase your child’s target language vocabulary? What do you do when you want to have extended family support for raising a multilingual child?

Here are my top 8 tips for you to boost your family’s multilingual journey. Fireworks, please! [Boom! Bang! Pow!]  We have to make it fun, right?

1. Give constant input in target language

“We acquire language when we understand messages, when we understand what people tell us and when we understand what we read.”
– Stephen Krashen, linguist

We know that the early years in the child’s life comprise the most intensive period for acquiring speech language skills. We talk to our tiny little babies during their waking hours. We ask them questions when they are on the changing table. We play music for them. We chat with them when we are feeding them… We are thrilled when we see our baby react to our voice. We are excited to see the baby coo and makes happy sounds when she is talked to… We are providing an environment that is rich with sounds and language input. Then when we hear their first word it melts our heart. It usually takes about a year or more for a baby to produce his first word.

We will go through a similar process when we are introducing a new language to our child at an early age. We need to talk to them, read to them, look at books with them, sing with them, wiggle with them, play with them, and interact consistently with them in the target language.

Input is what you “feed” the ears and eyes of your child with aural, visual, and written language resources.

Note to native speaking parents

  • Have a home library with books in the target language.
  • Listen to online radio in the target language.
  • Create a target language playgroup.
  • Bring the target language to your child’s classroom with a culture program.
  • Implement OPOL – One Parent One Language method if suitable.

Note to non-native speaking parents

  • Learn the target language together with your child.
  • Speak the target language with your child whenever possible.
  • Have a home library with books, audio, visual materials in the target language.
  • Use online resources to increase target language input. For example, children’s songs, stories, and books in the target language.
  • Share the target language and culture to your child’s classroom by reading a culture story book in your native language.
  • Contact the International Student Office in a local university to sponsor a native-speaker student of your target language and bring the language live at home on a bi-weekly or monthly basis.

2. Be patient

“Patience is not simply the ability to wait – it’s how we behave while we’re waiting.”
– Joyce Meyer, author

Learning a language takes time. It does not happen overnight. Every child is unique. Every child has his own learning style. Some talk sooner, and some need more time. Some are outgoing, while others  are shy. It is okay if they are hesitant to speak the target language. Keep talking to them.

I had a little boy who came to my immersion program for three sessions and did not say a word. We had fun in each class and he participated in all activities, but he was just not speaking. One day, this little boy saw me on the playground, he walked over and sang a Chinese song we did in class for me to say “hi!” His mother was surprised to see that. She had such a big smile on her face and the boy had a beaming proud smile on his. During the whole time his mother spoke Chinese key phrases/sentences to him whenever it was possible. They listened to an audio program in the target language together every day.

Note:
Don’t have your child perform in front of people upon request (“Let me hear you speak Chinese!”). For a hesitant child, it can add an unpleasant feeling to the target language learning experience. 

3. Be playful

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.”
– Mr. Rogers

Miss Panda Chinese making soy milk

Making soy milk

Children are like sponges but they also need to be provided with a language rich environment. The more interactive and fun language input they receive the more opportunities they have to “play” with the new language. Parents need to play an active role in this. A child will not learn the whole language by herself if she is just left alone playing apps on a device, watching cartoons, listening to audio programs, or playing with talking toys in the target language. Language is life. Language is communication. Perhaps most importantly, language is interaction.

Are you having a good time learning and speaking the target language with your child? Playing is the best way to learn. Hands-on projects are for all ages.

If you are learning about fruit then play a fruit hunting game. Slice up different fruit and place each one in a brown bag. Poke small holes in each bag and have the kids sniff to find out the fruit in each bag. Have visual tools posted on the wall or place them on the table with pictures, words, characters, jars with a piece of fruit in each, fruit stamps, fruit peels… (What?!  Fruit peels? Yes!) We will also make some juice and taste a piece of each fruit. This messy fun uses the five senses to really make the learning stick. While we are learning the name of the fruit, we are experiencing its taste and smell, the texture of its peels, the color of the fruit inside and out, and its weight, shape, and size. And there is more. We will have a fruit race. We will roll each fruit and see which one rolls the fastest. We will also read stories about fruit. Woo-hoo, what an exciting learning theme! Do you think your child will come back for more target language “playing” tomorrow?

Note:
Playing is learning.

4. Be active

“The best classroom and the richest cupboard is roofed only by the sky ”
– Margaret McMillan, historian

Have you seen kids get bored on a playground? Have you seen children who are not interested in going on a field trip to the zoo, the aquarium, the beach, the pet store, chocolate factory, science fair for the family, or the ice cream shop? The chances are they might be the first ones running out the door when they hear you say where you are taking them.

These are wonderful opportunities to associate target language learning with joyful and positive experiences. I always prepare a field trip target language note beforehand. The note will include 1-3 sentences and 3-5 words in the target language. I will introduce or use the sentences and words during our activity.

Be active, head out, and learn. Invite extended family members to join you and let them see what you are doing if they are close by. If they know what you are doing and they see how you do it they might be able to support you and encourage the kids!

Note:
Go outside and explore with the language! Invite family members to join you.

5. Give surprises

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.
-Benjamin Franklin

Miss Panda Chinese secret in the lunch box

Secret in the lunch box

“What’s in the box?” ”Can you shake it?”  “I want to shake it.”  “Me, too” “One more time!” This happens every time when I take out my treasure box. Kids are excited. They want to know what is inside. It is a natural and engaging way to spark a target language session. This is a way to lead your child to respond to you in the target language.

Another surprise game is to leave ‘mystery’ cards in the house. This is a game to expose a kid to the written form of the target language. You can read the card to him or read the card together when a card is found. You child can put all the mystery cards together to see what the surprise message is.

Note:
When you give surprises, you might be surprised by your child’s enthusiasm.

6. Experience the culture

“Language is the road map of a culture.  It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.”
-Rita Mae Brown, writer

Language and culture go hand in hand. If you are teaching your heritage language to your child the culture learning starts right at home from you, your parents, and your siblings. The best way to start is to share your stories and culture experience with your child. If you are a family with non-heritage speakers, you can access cultural activities through ethnic communities, weekend schools, cultural centers, cultural events, books, and online resources.

Food, music, songs, crafts, art, clothing, schooling, religion, festivities, tradition, and values are all a part of a culture. While we are learning the language we also want to introduce the culture to the child. Children learn to respect a culture through understanding it first.

Note:
To experience a culture not only helps children understand the differences between cultures, but also to see the similarities in them.

7. Bond with your child on this adventure

“No significant learning can occur without a significant relationship.”
-James P. Comer, professor of Child Psychiatry

I have enjoyed bedtime stories with my kids since they were little. It is a time when we are relaxed, and it is a sweet time to snuggle. With my kids are in their tween years, now I tell them a short story and they tell me about their day.  This is a special time when they have my individual, undivided attention. It is a time I learn about their latest interest, their friends, and what creation they are working on in Minecraft. Your strong relationship with your child can help conquer the challenging times on the road.

Don’t forget that this bilingual journey with your child has an expiration date! The day your child leaves for college and is on his/her own you will move to the sideline and see how s/he carries on the bilingual expedition on his/her own.

Note:
Treasure your multilingual learning opportunities now. Time flies.

8.  Keep it strong

Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
-William Butler Yeats

Congratulations!  You have started the multilingual adventure with your child. Learning a language connects people and cultures around the world. You are lighting the fire of learning not only about a language but about the global community. Have a world map placed on the wall and have a globe handy.

When you work on an art and craft project with your child you can expand language and cultural knowledge at the same time. For example, if you are doing a paper cutting project you can show your child from your location all the way to China, India, or Mexico where they also have papercutting art. Check out different papercutting patterns from each country and compare by using the target language in the level that your child can comprehend. Every little step counts. Every language input adds up.

Note: 
Keep adding fuel to the learning fire and your child’s desire to learn will keep going strong!

Cheers to you on your multilingual journey!  Be playful, smile, and go for one day at a time!

Let’s always keep learning fun!

Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett
a.k.a. “Miss Panda”


Thank you so much, Amanda, for this inspiring post!

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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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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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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