As parents, we often wonder whether we are doing the right thing for our kids. When I read the questions from fathers and mothers of children who grow up with more than one language, it is obvious that the addition of one or more languages to the family’s life contributes to the things to ponder about. What I also notice, is that these very same parents are probably best equipped to be successful in passing on the family languages to the next generation.
Why so? For me, when someone asks a question, it means that they are aware of the specific issue at hand and are looking for the best solution. Knowing what hurdles may lie ahead of you as a parent of a bilingual child will prepare you for the task. Being prepared gives you confidence.
Don’t lose faith when you hit a rough patch
Children go through phases when it comes to their language learning and use. Don’t despair if you feel that your little one is not making progress in a particular language, stick with it and keep on providing the exposure and the speaking will come! The same goes for when your kid is all of a sudden reluctant to use a certain language, don’t give up – many families before you have experienced this and by staying positive and persistent, you can get through this phase as well.
You know your language well enough
Even if you might not feel hundred percent confident about your own language skills, you can still do it. Make sure that your child also spends time with other speakers of the language and you will be surprised how soon you will actually improve your own language skills alongside your child.
Will your child be confused / speak a mixture of languages / get delayed in the language development … ?
No, no and no. All myths. Learn about the several myths surrounding bilingual children and families and languages in general – in my book I have listed dozens of them. Knowing what is true and what is a myth will boost your confidence significantly.
Don’t let others’ doubts affect your decision
Everybody (at least it will feel like it) has an opinion on whether it is a wise move to raise your child to become bilingual. Some may say you shouldn’t do it. If someone tries to discourage you, think about what might be the person’s ulterior motive for saying so. Then politely ignore their advice, smile and move on. Same goes for anyone telling you to drop a language.
Be the positive role model for your child
Your own behaviour will strongly influence your child’s attitude towards your language. If you show your pride in your language and culture, this is how your child will feel as well. Use your language whenever you can – if you are a minority language parent, speak your language whenever possible when you are out and about. Don’t automatically switch to the majority language just because that would be the easier option. Cherish your traditions and have fun together in your language!