“Practical ideas on what to do” is the request I often get when I ask my readers what I should write about in my blog – so here are 21 of them to cover the different stages!
Before your baby is born
1. Get used to speaking your language with your child as early as possible. When you are expecting, speak to the bump (goes both for mums and dads)!
2. It does not matter what you speak about – describe what you are doing, speak about the weather, your plans, the shopping list, a film you saw, a person you met … anything will do!
3. If you are the mum, warn others that they may come across you talking to yourself – although you are not really, are you, the little one is intently listening to every word you say! Thinking about it, this is probably the only situation where you can be sure that you definitely have a listener…
Before your baby can talk
4. Keep up with the talking – continue speaking as you go about your daily life. Even though you are not getting an answer yet, your child is learning as you speak.
5. Talk directly to your baby, look him or her in the eyes and make the connection. Notice how your little one reacts to your speech. Social interaction is vital for the language development.
6. Sing songs and read rhymes, and repeat!
When your child utters the first word
7. I am sure you do not need reminding, but do show excitement at this new stage of your child’s life, even if the first word is ‘daddy’ not ‘mummy’ or vice versa!
8. Encourage him or her to use the first word(s) often by saying them yourself and adding a word – mummy – mummy sings, daddy – daddy smiles …
9. Keep in mind that there can be big differences between children, even siblings, when they start to speak. Do not compare with other children, and if you are concerned about anything, speak to a professional who has experience with bilingual children.
When the sentences start to roll
10. Continue engaging your child in communication and building on the words he or she already knows.
11. Speak about a variety of topics with emphasis on your child’s interests.
Before your child goes to preschool
13. Speak about the new experience making sure your little one knows all the new vocabulary and read books about the preschool experience to make it more familiar.
14. Talk to the teachers about your family’s language setup – if your child starts school in a language he or she does not speak yet, give the teachers a list of words in your language which could come in handy.
15. For further ideas check out the advice given at Hanen.org
When your child goes to school
17. Find ways of expanding the group of people that your child speaks the minority language with – could a relative or friend do a weekly video call in your language?
18. Speak to your son or daughter about the importance of the family language.
When your child is a teenager
19. You might think that there is not much you can do with regards to the family languages at the time when you have a teenager in the house, but there is! Respect their wishes with regards to which language your child speaks when, but always be a role model by sticking to yours and being proud of your language.
20. Allow your teenager to travel, preferably alone or with other adults, to a place where your language is spoken – it may or may not be where you have relatives. Being surrounded by and having to cope in a language is an effective booster.
21. Make your son or daughter aware of available education and career opportunities because of their language skills.