There is no one-fits-all formula to bringing up a bilingual child. However, independent of which strategy you choose, how old your daughter is or which languages she is learning, there are some things you should do your very best to avoid at all times. These are things that may seem obvious, but that we sometimes forget about when life takes over. These are also things that often apply to parenting in general, not only with regards to your daughter learning to speak your language. This is the first of a three-part series dealing with those “do-nots” of multilingual parenting.
Never criticise your daughter’s language use. You might at times feel like passing a less positive comment on which word or language she uses in a particular situation, how she pronounces a word or any other aspect of her communication – the advice is the same, don’t criticise. If you feel a strong need to recommend a different way of saying something, repeat what she said in the way you think is correct/better/more appropriate. First though, carefully consider whether your comment is really necessary. If it is, you could also start by saying something like: “Did you really mean to say…?” or “I didn’t quite catch that …” to allow her to come up with a better alternative herself.
Comparing your daughter’s progress in any aspect is not helpful at all. Children are different and develop and learn at a different pace. Don’t ever compare her to her siblings or any other children. You need to help her feel confident about her language use, not knock her down. It makes me really sad when I hear parents commenting on their children’s language skills along the ways of “She hasn’t learnt the language as well as her cousin” or “Neighbour’s kids can speak much more fluently than you do.” If you are truly worried about your daughter’s communication skills (in any language) speak to a specialist, don’t pass your own verdict. If you do consult a specialist, make sure to choose one that has experience in dealing with bilinguals.
May the peace and power be with you.
© Rita Rosenback 2013