Getting children to talk more in the heritage language

Getting children to talk more in the heritage language

Whether you speak Irish or Yoruba at home, the presence of the majority language everywhere around us, English in this case, may have an impact on your child’s predisposition to use the parents’ mother tongue.


If you have small children and you’ve made talking in the minority language with your child a habit from the early days, you might find these three tips useful in getting them to talk more in the heritage language:

three tips to get your child to talk more in the heritage language:

  1. Tell and discuss stories based on photo albums.
    Everyone knows that children love stories! Beside books, I have found looking at photo albums together with my daughters a great way of engaging them into talking in Spanish. Especially the photos of our trips to Spain, they are a great way of talking about the side of the family who lives over there and bring them to our lives in a more tangible way, especially now that we cannot see each other in person.
  2.  Have the radio in the minority language on in the background.
    Nowadays we can stream radio stations from all over the world, in every language imaginable. I’ve found this tip useful whenever I encounter a bit of resistance from my eldest daughter to respond to me in Spanish. Having a radio station in your heritage language playing in the background, brings in that language ambiance right into your living room and because your child understands the language, it may be a way of subtly putting them “in the mood” for using it with you.
  3. Find the thing which is really motivating for your child to want to really say something.
    My three-year-old daughter is obsessed with pigs and in our case this
    something is a stuffed monolingual pig my mother gave my daughter in one of her first visits to Spain, who despite having an English name (“La Piggy”) only speaks and understands Spanish!

Positive role model

Remember, one of the most important things is to always be a positive role model speaking your language to your child. This may not necessarily mean to speak it strictly all the time – although the more you do, the better, but to encourage a two-way communication while creating a fun and relaxed environment for your child to use it.


Soraya Sobrevía

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