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Rita

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
Oct 052016
 

Bilingual family dilemmas

Living in a bilingual family brings with it a lot of joy – but also some particular dilemmas, some of them funny, but quite challenging nonetheless!

How to address everyone in the family at the same time

You would think asking everyone to come and eat would be straight-forward. In a bilingual family you end up repeating yourself in all the family languages so that everyone feels personally invited!

What language to talk

We may have it all figured out within the family, but what to do when someone else joins the discussion. If the person is monolingual, then we switch accordingly – but which language to talk when the person is also bilingual? If the person is someone you don’t know, you may end up choosing the “wrong” or less preferred language – and find it extremely difficult to swap after you have started talking.

Where to spend your holiday

Should you choose the interesting city break, a sunny beach or the language immersion for your kids – it mostly it ends up being the one that will benefit your children’s minority language.

How to write a card

You are on a rare holiday on your own and want to surprise your family with a nice postcard – but which language do you write in, so that everyone feels it is for them? You end up using different languages or several cards! The same applies for holiday greeting cards that go to bilingual families. I usually end up buying a card in one language, then writing it in another.

Bilingual bookshelfIn which language to buy a book

You find an interesting-looking book and you notice that it is a translation. You usually want to read books in the original language, if possible, but other family members who would also like to read it prefer the translation. Which one do you choose?

Translating on the fly

Your little one wants to hear a specific story, but the book you have is not in your language, so you do your best to translate it on the fly. Problem is that you do not remember exactly how you did it last time and your kid complains that you are reading it wrong, as it is not the same!

Picking the traditions to keep alive

In a family with several languages you usually also have several cultures represented, each with their own traditions. You can try to keep them all alive, but it is often a struggle so you have to compromise. We keep the ones we enjoy… and create new ones.

When to teach your kids to read and write in the home language

Should you start at the same time as your children start learning at school, should you wait or what to do? Take a cue from your kids – if they show interest, go ahead! There is no set time which is right or wrong as long as your child is keen to learn.

Choosing the name for your baby

As if selecting a name for a baby wasn’t difficult enough, add to that an array of cultural references, pronunciation issues and vastly different extended family preferences!

What about your family – which special dilemmas have you encountered?

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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Sep 282016
 

What parents of bilingual children LOVE to hear!

Today’s post you can find over at Multicultural Kid Blogs – check out what parents raising bilingual children love to hear. What about you, what would make your day?

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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Sep 212016
 

5 thoughts to boost the confidence of parents to bilingual children

As parents most of us have an ideal picture of what we want our children to be like when they grow up. Some of us are more specific than others with regards to the personality traits and behaviours we wish for our children, but for most of us ‘happy’, ‘honest’ and ‘confident’ feature high on our wish-list. Next, we think “What can I do to help my children to become such adults? Are my parenting skills good enough?” Parents in multilingual families usually have one more wish – for the children to become bilingual. And we have one more worry “Will I be able to bring up bilingual children?” I believe the answer to that question is “Yes, you will be successful” – let me tell you why.

1. You are reading this post

The mere fact that you have taken some time to read this post (and I am sure many others, too!) means that you are actively thinking about the task at hand. Whether you realise it or not, every time you read about raising a bilingual child, you learn something. Every story you hear about other multilingual families gives you ideas and insights into what you can do in your family. And there are lots of similar families out there!

2. Millions of other parents have succeeded

There are millions and millions of children across the world are growing up bilingual at this very moment. Actually the majority of all kids grow up to become bilingual – it may not feel like it when you look around in your own community, but it is a fact. “But what about all those families that didn’t succeed?”  you may ask. Having talked to parents whose children have grown up to only speak the majority language, I have found that the common denominator is usually that they family never really thought about the language situation. The parents – often bilinguals themselves – thought it would just happen – that their children would become active bilinguals just like they did themselves. You are however thinking about it – you are here!

3. Languages are important to you

The more important something is to us, the harder we work for it. It is in the human nature to put in extra effort when we deal with something that is close to our heart. Clearly you think highly of language skills and appreciate the benefits of being bilingual. I firmly believe that the more people learn more than one language and are able to communicate across cultural and geographical borders, the better we can get along. More language skills mean more understanding.

4. You have a goal

Setting a clear goal hugely increases the chances of success in any scenario, and your goal is clear: to raise a bilingual child. Having a goal focuses your mind and you are intuitively drawn to actions and solutions that put you on the path to success, and remember – you are the one who defines what success looks like. Every family is different. If your goal is for your child to understand a language, that is as valid a goal as wanting your child to be able to attend university in the target language. You know what is best and what works for your family.

5. Reach out and you will find support

Even if you are the only person speaking your language with your children.
Even if your partner or extended family is not supportive.
Even if you yourself didn’t become bilingual although you grew up in a multilingual family.
Even if you don’t think you have the time to commit.
Even if you feel that it is all too hard and you are doubting the outcome.

No matter which “even if” may apply to you, you can still succeed, because there are so many resources, other parents and those who can offer you helpful advice and encouragement when you need it.

We are with you and we have your back!

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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Sep 122016
 

40 ways to motivate bilingual children to speak the minority language

Babies and toddlers

During the early years of your child’s “talking career” you may be holding a monologue for much of the time, but this is when you set the foundation for the language and there is a lot you can do to encourage your little one to start talking.

  1. Make talking your minority language with your child a habit from the very start – actually, why not get used to speaking your language to the bump (whether you are the mum or the dad!)
  2. Sing to your baby, and not only at bedtime. Articulate your words and make eye contact to create engagement.
  3. Repeat what your little one says. Initially it will only be random sounds and babble, but confirming the sounds is important.
  4. Pretend to understand the babbling and lead “discussions” – wait for an “answer” and practice taking turns.
  5. Have a well-stocked book shelf with children’s books in your language. Choose ones that you also like yourself, as you are going to read them several times. Get used to discussing the characters and the plot with your little one. Make it interactive from the start, although you might just get a
  6. When you talk, combine actions with words: wave when you say ‘goodbye’ or ‘hello’, point at things when you talk about them. Acknowledge the action when your child uses it.
  7. Attend play dates and play groups where your language is spoken. Being among other children speaking the language is a great motivation at any age.
  8. When your little one communicates, with or without intelligible words, show that you are pleased and excited.
  9. When your toddler says the first word, confirm it by repeating it and showing that you understand. If the word is not in your language, still confirm that you have understood.
  10. As the vocabulary grows, build on what your child says, e.g. when he or she says “ball” you can say “yes, it’s a yellow ball”.

 

40 ways to motivate bilingual children to speak the minority language

Small children

Keep a language diary about your little one’s new words and phrases, you think you will remember, but trust me, your child’s vocabulary will expand very quickly and soon there are too many precious talking moments not to forget some of them. Create a fun and positive environment for speaking the minority language.

  1. Continue being the positive role model for speaking your language – this does not mean that you should speak all the time, instead encourage two-way communication.
  2. Tell and discuss stories based on photo albums – make print-outs of those holiday pictures with grandparents, relatives and friends and talk about the people and places.
  3. Kids love hand-puppets – use them to introduce new monolingual characters into your play. Give them a “genuine” backstory to support the fact that they only understand and speak the minority language.
  4. Use ‘I spy’ games to expand your child’s vocabulary. You can do this in any situation – at home, when you are out and about or have to sit in a waiting room (use a magazine if you run out of words).
  5. Engage in role play with you little one. Let him or her take the lead and immerse yourself in their imaginary world. Help with new words which are needed to move the story forward. Ask open ended questions.
  6. Find that something which is really motivating for your child. What will make your little daughter or son really want to say something? In our case it was a monolingual pet, Pricken – the Swedish-speaking kitten.
  7. Use free online video call apps to catch up with grandma and grandpa or any other relative or friend who only speaks the minority language.
  8. Introduce the terms ‘mummy says’ and ‘daddy says’ (or whoever speaks the language in question) to help distinguish words from different languages. E.g. if your child uses a different language when pointing out a specific thing, confirm that it is right and give the word in your language.
  9. Engage your kids in discussions in everyday situations, ask for their opinion or advice. Ask why so that they can expand on their answers. And do always answer their “Why?” questions!
  10. Have patience, wait, relax. Don’t rush your little one or offer the word too quickly. Allow him or her to find the word or to come up with a different expression.

School-age children

Starting school in the majority language is one of the most crucial stages in a bilingual child’s language development. The minority language may have been dominant in the home until now, but the balance will inevitably tip in favour of the majority language, so your continuing support is vital.

  1. Stick to speaking your language with your child – don’t make a big deal of situations where he or she uses the majority language. Remember that they have spent the whole day immersed in it. However, always stick to your language in these situations.
  2. Visits to where the minority language is spoken in the community is arguably the most effective way of encouraging your child to speak it. Being fully immersed in the language through people and media can give your child a real language boost.
  3. If the majority language is becoming more dominant in the family, e.g. children use it as the language they speak with each other, try to introduce ‘minority-language-only’ days or situations. Depending on what spurs your kids on, you could have incentives for sticking to the right language.
  4. Treasure hunts are always a popular game. If your child can already read, this will also help with the reading. If you are the one reading the hints, make it a rule that you only answer questions in the minority language.
  5. Play board games with read-out instructions or questions in the minority language. If you can’t find them where you live, suggest them as birthday presents that the grandparents can buy!
  6. Small children are eager to help if we let them. If you have more than one child, ask the older siblings for help with teaching their little sister or brother your language.
  7. Continue singing! Find familiar songs that your child has sung at school and sing them together in the minority language.
  8. If you are the majority language speaker, ask your child to teach you something in the minority language. Kids love being in the “teacher” role with their parents.
  9. Leave the room when your child gets going on a Skype call in the minority language. Kids are sometimes inhibited by parents, especially if they are a bit unsure how to express themselves, and perform better on their own.
  10. Always listen – stop and take the time to listen to what your child has to say. They are small for a very short time.

 

40 ways to motivate bilingual children to speak the minority language

Teenagers and young adults

Becoming a teenager is another phase when the minority language might lose ground. Peer pressure can lead to your child avoiding using the minority language. Maybe it is not the done thing, perhaps your teen just wants to be like everyone else. Your support is essential so your soon-to-be-adult child can maintain the minority language. They will thank you later!

  1. While a small child cannot appreciate all the advantages bilingualism brings with it, with a teenager you can discuss for example the benefits of knowing more than one language when you look for a job.
  2. Money is often a high priority at this age, remind them that if they keep up their language skills this will most likely lead to a higher salary later on.
  3. Being able to speak another language gives your teenager a bigger choice of schools – maybe they would want to study abroad at some point?
  4. Find ways of making a connection between their hobbies and the minority language – could you find a fellow enthusiast they could connect with over Skype?
  5. Look for interesting films in the minority language and watch them together.
  6. Travelling broadens the mind and deepens the language skills – if possible, help your youngster to take a solo trip to somewhere where he will have to use the minority language. I would start with relatives or friends and take it from there.
  7. Are there summer camps your teenager could attend, preferably in a country where your language is the majority one? Speaking the minority language with other teenagers will give the language a real lift.
  8. To support the written form (and so continue increasing the vocabulary) always message in the minority language with your teenager. Even if you get an answer in another language, continue using yours, as it is beneficial for him or her to regularly see the written word.
  9. A language course in the minority language can sometimes be the most effective way of reinforcing it. Check out the teaching style of the course in advance to make sure it will be suitable for your teen.
  10. You are the most important role model for speaking your language. Show pride in the language and the culture it represents. Speak it at every opportunity both inside and outside the home. Be the confident bilingual you want your teen to be.

I hope these tips are helpful to you on your journey to raise a confident bilingual!

This post is part of a virtual birthday celebration – and you have a chance to win a $250 cash prize wherever you are in the world. You can get upto 30 entries by supporting the participating blogs on social media – find all details below (and don’t forget to check out all the other great celebration posts!)
UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed – CONGRATULATIONS to Kelly D from the U.S!

 

Bloggers share their lists of 40 favorite things

To celebrate her 40th birthday, Leanna from All Done Monkey has organized a virtual party, where each blogger shares her list of 40 favorite things, plus we are giving away a big cash prize to a lucky winner! Don’t miss these creative Top 40 lists, and be sure to enter the giveaway, which is open internationally. (Thanks to the Piri-Piri Lexicon for designing this beautiful series button!)

All Done Monkey: 40 Ways to Celebrate Turning 40
The Piri-Piri Lexicon: 40 Tips for Parents of Bilingual Children
Discovering the World Through My Son’s Eyes: 40 Things to Do with Kids in Puerto Rico
Play Dough & Popsicles: 40 Paper Plate Crafts for Kids
Hispanic Mama: Top 40 Children’s Picture Books to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Pura Vida Moms: 40 Best Cupcake Recipes
Globe Trottin’ Kids: 40 Ways to Go Global in the Elementary Classroom
Spanglish Monkey: 40 Dishes from Around the World You Should Try
Peakle Pie: 40 Free Family Fun Things to Make and Do
Witty Hoots: 40 Amazing Books to Read Before You Get Old
MommyMaestra: 40 Ways to Have a Multicultural Homeschool
MarocMama: 40 Things to Do in Morocco You Haven’t Thought Of!
Multilingual Parenting: 40 Ways to Motivate Bilingual Children to Speak the Minority Language
Creative World of Varya: 40 Things I Wish I Knew Before Moving to China
Pack-n-Go Girls: 40 Fabulous Travel Tips

Enter below for your chance to win! [CLOSED]

PayPal cash giveaway is open internationally! Giveaway closes at midnight Pacific Time on September 19, 2016.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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