Raising Multilingual Children
This is a guest post written by Jenni. Jenni, is a virtual assistant and lifestyle blogger. She lives in the Dordogne, France, since moving from the UK in 2019. She lives with her husband and two children, Lucas, 7 years old and Morgana, who is 1 year old.
Although it is very challenging, it is worth every effort to bring children up with more than one language. It is a huge commitment, however.
There is a wealth of research that suggests learning more than one language from birth is of benefit to the child both socially and academically. The benefits seem to be undisputed despite the outdated view that learning multiple languages confuses the child.
Get support if planning to teach children more than one language
There are many challenges parents face when they decide to teach children more than one language from birth. The one language one person method is very effective but becomes problematic when the parents themselves are fluent bilinguals in other languages and the dominant language.
When two languages are equally present in someone’s identity, it can be distressing not to share both of these languages with the children. It is well worth being fully prepared before embarking on teaching only one of your languages for the emotional impact this has. There is a wealth of support available online that is really helpful.
Schools play a role in facilitating multilingualism
There seem to be times when children absolutely resent the parent speaking one or other of their languages. This can be very hurtful, but it is a perfectly common phase. When they realise speaking more than one language is fairly normal, they tend to become more accepting of practicing their languages.
This is where teachers have a very important duty to celebrate the wealth of linguistic diversity within their schools.
When children are proud of their heritage, it becomes very important for them to maintain their languages. Where they are made to feel different, they may refuse to use their languages and become passive bilinguals or multilingual by listening to their parents and family members and responding in the dominant language only.
The language of the month
There is a wonderful primary school in London where children share and teach their home languages to the rest of the school through a video of themselves saying keywords and phrases. By doing this, the school acknowledges the importance of the languages children learn at home and also enriches the learning experience of the rest of the school.
The school, Newbury Park Primary School, has now built up a bank of resources that anyone can access online. If every school implemented such a program, perhaps children would become more interested in learning languages, and those who have the opportunity of learning languages at home would jump at the opportunity.
What to do at home
Unfortunately, many schools do not do enough to raise the profile of other languages. Therefore, it is up to parents to create situations where their children need to and want to communicate in their home languages.
Finding peers to share their home language with is very effective in encouraging talking as well as listening. It is helpful to have books, films, and music in all the languages you are teaching, and it is definitely worthwhile telling stories in those languages.
Although it may seem a struggle at times, the opportunity of learning other languages at home is so special that it is an opportunity not to be missed. Remember, even the simplest of things like playing games in other languages can help and make it fun.
We starting playing Snap in French, for example, before moving to France. You can also watch fun cartoons in the language you are learning and there are an abundance of free apps available as well as YouTube video’s.
Thanks for reading,