“My children only speak the majority language with each other!”

by | Oct 2, 2013 | Challenges, Family life, How to motivate a bilingual / multilingual child to speak a family language, Practical advice, Siblings | 0 comments

"My children only speak the majority language with each other!"

So you have successfully passed on your language to your children and they are happy to talk your language with you. Maybe they have also spoken your language amongst themselves up to now. Then the language pattern changes and they switch to the majority language. What happened there?

Did you do something wrong?

No, you didn’t.

No matter how much you would like to do so, you will not be able to choose the language your children speak with each other. The change usually happens when children spend more time outside the home, for example in nursery or school. They get used to expressing themselves in the majority language all day long, and also learn the vocabulary associated with the activities they take part in during the day.

“Can’t I just tell them that they must speak my language with each other?” you may think. Well, you could, but I am fairly confident that such a demand will not have a positive outcome. Either they will ignore your request or do as you say (when you can hear them), but resent you for it. You don’t want them to harbour negative associations with your language, so neither one of those outcomes is desirable.

Children take the easy way out when they can and therefore they will use which ever language is easiest when they talk to their siblings. It takes effort to speak to your sister about something that happened in class in any other language than the one used at school – you would agree with that, wouldn’t you?

This doesn’t however mean that you should also switch your language when speaking to them. It is actually crucial that you do not change your language use at this point. If you do, there is probably no turning back and the minority language will play an ever diminishing role in their lives. Be prepared to hear more of the majority language at home, but make a special effort to speak about the “new” topics in your children’s lives in your language so they get familiar to the words and phrases.

May the peace and power be with you.


© Rita Rosenback 2013

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