At the end of this post you will find a Freebie that we hope helps you organize your bilingual goals!
If you are reading this blog post is probably because we have the same goal: to work towards teaching our kids a second language. In other words, to become a BILINGUAL FAMILY.
The reason behind this goal, however, is different for each of us but based on several studies realized in the United States, we have have come to the conclusion that some of the most common reasons to raise bilingual children are:
- Better job opportunities
- The United States is becoming increasingly multilingual at a very fast speed
- Children can help past generations learn the language
- Bilingual children offer different points of view than monolingual children
- Bilingual children become more empathetic and sympathetic with others
- To communicate well with relatives
- Language and culture are intertwined. To understand the community you are living in better.
- Preservation of family’s heritage, and connect with older generations
- To understand and become aware of cultural differences to respect them and appreciate them better.
Now, the way we approach our bilingual goals are unique for each family and there are several ways to teach the target language to the next generation. Let’s look at different ways how we can accomplish it.
Language Learning Strategies:
1.Minority Language at home (MLAH):
In this strategy the whole family uses the minority language in interactions with each other and the child is exposed to the majority language in the community. Keep in mind that, while this strategy is called “Minority language at home” is inferring to using the target language within family interactions and not necessarily the place where the language is used.
Both parents are usually fluent in the target language. An example of this approach is a family where both parents are from Brazil but live in the United States. They speak entirely in Portuguese at home and when they are together without other people like when they are out in nature or at a park. Parents may choose to speak the majority language in the neighborhood, at school, with friends, and in other community activities.
Because the majority language is a dominant force in kids’ lives, parents use their native language at home daily to continue working towards their language goals. There is a significant exposure to the target language and learning might happen effortlessly. It also promotes the strengthening of everyone’s language skills.
Tip: It is important to not only focus on speaking but also taking the time to work on reading writing and comprehension. Watching movies, having dinner dates with friends that share the same language goals, library story time are some ways a family can seek out more opportunities to practice the minority language.
Educational Resources: families in this category benefit from translating any book or any material for their children into the minority language if they have a hard time finding material already in the language. They can use printables, unit studies and other material available with the benefit of knowing both languages.
2. One parent One Language (OPOL):
This strategy involves one parent speaking one language to the child and the other parent speaking a second language. This can be a successful method if each parent is a native speaker of a different language. for example, mom is a native Spanish speaker from Perú and dad is a native English speaker from England. This strategy might have one minority language and one majority language; or, two minority languages. The child knows exactly what to expect and knows which parent will speak which language.
Tip: You can get the most out of this strategy by using your language to communicate no matter the place, time, or activity when you are alone with the child. At the same time be sure to have an initial conversation as to which language will be used when the whole family is together so everyone knows what to expect. A workbook, textbooks and other aids can be used to improve grammar, reading and writing skills in the minority language.
Educational Resources: Families in this category benefit from having one parent translate anything into the target language to diversify the material used at home to learn if they lack material in the language. They can use printables, unit studies, and other material available with the benefit of one parent knowing both languages.
3. Time and Place:
This strategy allows families to decide when, where, and how long they use the minority language. Using the target language can either be determined by a planned schedule or a contextual opportunity. This strategy is optimal for families with one monolingual parent and one bilingual parent; it is a method where everyone comes together to plan do they want to use the language depending on their goals, and the family decides it within the boundaries of time, space, and activities. My family uses this strategy, for example. Dad only speaks English, and I am bilingual. We use Spanish mostly when he is not around to practice core language competencies. I use this time to teach the kids vocabulary and grammar; I read to them in Spanish and help them read books to me. Spanish is added to our homeschooling days and I make sure to include into our daily rhythm. During Lunchtime, we try our best to only speak in Spanish. When he is home, we practice some in a more laid-back way, making it fun and inviting for dad to learn some, encourage the kids, and for him to be part of our family’s bilingual goal. We try to make it less academic and more fun and I think bringing that into the picture adds up significant value for the kids to understand this is simply who we are and what we do. It is part of our family life.
Tip: A clear plan is essential for this strategy to work. The plan should be consistent and steady. Also, remember that for a child to learn a language they need constant interaction with the minority language. So, if it’s needed, consider using external material and resources to supplement their learning and for them to have diverse opportunities to practice. You might want to invest in an online program, a tutor or virtual classes. Books, videos, educational apps, and unit studies will be aids that you also want to have always available.
Educational Resources: Families that use this method have the same advantages when talking about resources for home as those using the OPOL strategy. They can use printables, unit studies, and other material available with the benefit of having one parent that knows both languages and can translate material for the children.
4. Outsource Family:
This method is for families who have agreed on investing their time, efforts, and money toward helping their children become bilingual. These families understand the numerous benefits of bilingualism. Once the family has agreed on a target language, they seek external help since neither speaks the target language. In this approach, families rely on outside help and material to provide that bilingual education for their children. For example, a family has their kids in a mandarin after-school class or a Spanish immersion school.
Tip: While this is more of a long-term commitment where a budget must be designated towards it, Immersion programs are the most effective type of world language program currently available in the united States. Consider also a bilingual school where the children learn normal academic subjects like math, science, and social studies in two languages.
This strategy is very successful. However, just as the ones above, the support of the parents is as important; they play an important role at home and must have an intentional approach to support their children in their bilingual journey.
Educational Resources:Families that use this strategy will have to outsource the material used at home but count on the benefit of finding a significant amount of material available for printing at affordable prices.
So, what do you say? Which category does your family fall in?, What method do you think would work best for you?
Final thoughts to consider:
Remember, the strategy used does not matter as much as our nurturing support towards our kids’ language learning. I am including a free questionnaire in this post that will help you jot down your ideas and determine the goal for a second language for your family. Having a clear overview of what methods others use and why provides helpful insight to decide your family’s needs, what goals you have, and the best way to go about it. Keep in mind there is no one-size fits all approach and the success depends on each individual family and their unique goals and language experience. But having the need to use both languages and raising happy kids matters most!
Enjoy the journey, read to your children or find ways others can read to them in both languages, whether it be through unit studies, printable material, a video, storytime at the library or a native speaker friend, playing games, listening to music, and dancing are great ways to connect with the kids and turn language learning into a fun family affair. Seek out support for you as parents, your child, and at home. Last but not least, talk to your child about your bilingual goals, make sure they are on board and up for the challenge!
To download and print your FREE questionnaire click on the button below:
Thank you so much for reading! We hope this post helped you organize your ideas some, and most importantly, it helped you get excited about the future of your family’s language adventure!!
Be sure to let us know if you have any questions, thoughts or suggestions in the comments.
“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmeshttps://www.british-study.com/en/blog/inspirational-quotes-for-language-learners