7 tips for parents: How to remember to speak the minority language

by | Oct 11, 2017 | Q&A Being the parent in a multilingual family | 4 comments

7 tips for parents:

How to remember to speak the minority language


“I want to speak my language with the kids but keep forgetting. Can you help me?”  This was one of the questions during the first ever Multilingual Parenting Facebook LIVE Q&A session (you can join the Multilingual Parenting Facebook group to listen to it). Many other parents have mentioned this as one of the biggest obstacles to keeping the minority language alive and improving the children’s language skills. Inspired by this question, I am elaborating on it here and adding a few more tips for you to make sure you stay on track och speak your language.

  1. Make your children guardians of the language

If you have a hard time remembering to speak your language, then put your children in charge of it. Children LOVE to keep track of their parents. It will be even more effective if they get a treat of some kind if you slip up. Be careful what you promise, though, you don’t want them to have a sugar rush, watch TV for three hours or go to sleep one hour later on the first day of your challenge!

  1. Place reminders in strategic places

Place notes for yourself in the prominent places which you will inevitably see them. This could be on the door to your child’s room, on the fridge or on your bedside table. Use simple post-it notes or get a blank fridge magnet to personalise the message for yourself. What I have noticed though, is that you have to change these at regular intervals as you very soon don’t see something that is there all the time!

  1. Change your phone and computer operating language

By setting your devices to operate in your language, it will be “in your face” every time you use them. It will be on the top of your mind and easier to pick up when you want to say something to your little one.

7 tips for parents: how to remember to speak the minority language

  1. Start your day by reading a paragraph in the minority language

Read something, whatever, in your language in the morning. Keep a book or a magazine on your bedside table and use one minute for this (come on, surely you have ONE minute!)

  1. Tune your radio to a channel in your language

Radio is a great language reminder – use a clock radio as an alarm in the morning if you can find a station in your language. Alternatively use your computer to locate a station in your language through Radio Garden and leave it to play in the background.

  1. Dedicate a popular toy to the language

Choose a specific toy that your child loves and make it monolingual in your language. If this meets resistance from your kid – buy a new toy that you know your little one will like to play with and introduce it as a speaker of your language. Make this “your” favourite toy to play with.

  1. Make your pets monolingual in the minority language

Make it clear to your children that your gold fish, tortoise or little kitten only understands your language. This might not work well with dogs, horses, parrots and some other animals, but don’t miss the chance with any new pet you introduce to the family.


Some of this tips do require you to have a healthy dose of humour, but your kids will like you even more for it – I hope this keeps you going for a while!

By the way, the introductory question was asked by Leanna who runs the All Done Monkey blog, and I gave her tip #1, to make her kids the guardians of her language use. This is what she said once she had tried it with her children:

“My kids LOVE it! Now – at their request – we’ve expanded it to all day, so I speak to them in Spanish all day, except when we’re doing school time. This is huge – my 4-year-old especially has been very resistant to my speaking to him in Spanish, but it was actually his idea to make it all day. Thank you!”



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.


  1. Sarah

    “The term minority does not adequately capture the changing student count, nor the collective need to shift educational experiences for children of color. It also doesn’t acknowledge the growing family base and collective base we have in communities.

    The word minority denotes a minority or smaller status. As a person of color I’m not smaller nor lesser than another; I may be shorter but my voice has equal status. I have the same rights as others in my community, not more or less but equal. The term minority is pejorative; we do not need to justify our status or make ourselves smaller to fill a label”.-WHY WE NEED TO STOP USING THE WORD MINORITY by Erin Okuno.

    Would you PLEASE consider changing the title of this post??

    • Rita

      Dear Sarah

      Thank you for your comment. If you read also other blog posts and Q&As you will find that I often use the term ‘minority language’. It always indicates the language that a child has less exposure to, whichever language that may be. The term makes no reference to the language’s relative status in the society, its perceived general importance or any other “value” in relation to the language which is spoken by most people in the surrounding community. In many of the Q&As it is actually English which is the minority language. Thus I will continue to use the phrase to make it clear which language I am referring to.

      Kind regards,

  2. High Five Family

    I am relieved to see I am not alone to keep forgetting about teaching English to my kids (our language is French, we live in France). But I found a way to remember: me and my kids, we installed a daily routine, just before bedtime. They are motivated because they don’t want to go to bed so between “Go to Bed” and “Learn English” they always pick English ! If I forget or don’t have time, they are very upset !
    We spend between 20 and 30 minutes each day for now, I hope I am going to increase the time during the day…

  3. Mary

    I read somewhere Reading and books are at the very heart of language development and i totally agree with it. I still remember lots of words i learnt form my kids book when i was a kid.


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