Most parents have an ideal picture of what they want their children to become like when they grow up. Some parents are more specific than others with regards to the personality traits and behaviours they wish for their children, but I’m sure words like ‘happy’, ‘honest’, ‘well-behaved’ and ‘confident’ feature high on the wish-list. The follow-up thought might be “What can I do to help my children to become such adults? Are my parenting skills good enough?” Parents in multilingual families usually have one more wish – for their children to become bilingual. And they have one more worry “Will I be able to bring up a bilingual child?”
You won’t be surprised that it is this last mentioned worry I am writing about today. If you have read any of my post in the past (for example here), you will also not be surprised that I am saying: “You definitely can pass on your family languages to your children!” How can I say this – how can I be so sure?
The mere fact that you are reading this post in my blog, and I am sure many other similar blogs, articles and books, means that you are actively thinking about the task at hand. Whether you realise it or not, every time you read more about raising a bilingual child, the better you become at it. Every story you hear about other similar families gives you ideas and thoughts on what you can do in your family. And there are lots of similar families out there – you are not alone. If you have a question – reach out to them and they will be more than happy to share their experiences and what they’ve learnt along the way.
“But what about all those families that didn’t succeed?” you may ask. Having talked to parents whose children have grown up to only speak the majority language, I have found that the common denominator seems to be that they family never really thought about the language situation. The parents, often bilinguals themselves, thought it would just happen – that their children would become active bilinguals just like they did. Clearly this is not the situation for you, you are thinking about it – otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
Another comment I have heard is “Well, I thought that learning the majority language was much more important, so I didn’t insist on the children speaking my language” Of course the majority language is important, but the children will learn it anyway. Is your language important to you? If yes, then you will have the motivation and commitment that it takes to pass on your family languages and thereby giving your child a fantastic gift for the future.
May the peace and power be with you.
© Rita Rosenback 2013