Most people see creating a bilingual environment at home as a daunting chore. It needn’t be so and can actually become natural and effortless if you bare in mind a few things. For children to feel comfortable using a minority language they need the right amount of exposure on a daily basis and in ways that they mustn’t feel pressurized.
- Both languages must be spoken at home.
It will never be possible to speak both languages in equal parts but some exposure to the minority language must take part each day. You can get used to speaking the minority language at home if it’s done on a daily basis and children thrive on routine. Maybe bedtime can be done in the language. Bedtime books can be read and routines can be done too.
It’s always a good idea to get children used to watching cartoons and films in the minority language. It’s something you know will definitely get their interest and for once you don’t have to be the one doing the work.
Mobile apps are great fun for learning languages too. They can be educational and teach so much. You can always limit screen time if you’re worried about them watching too much TV.
- Social connections
Make sure you reach out to other parents and children of the same nationality in your area. There are lots of Facebook groups nowadays and most parents are connected via Whatsapp groups. Organie playgroups, weekly meetings or even get togethers once in a while at home or at a park where children can interact and encourage them to speak to each other in the desired language. Your child gets to play with other children reinforcing relationships and strengthens their minority language skills.
- Books, books and more books!
Books really are little worlds between the pages. Books with interesting pictures will help children associate words and situations as you read in the desired language. Books are an important tool in helping learn a new language and they also help children relax, encourage one on one time and are a healthy option and break from iPads and the like.
- Strengthen family ties
If it is possible, a good way of getting children comfortable with speaking a different language is to let them spend time with Grandparents or other relatives who speak the language. This way they enjoy spending time together and help improve language skills.