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.
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!
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!
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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!”