4 easy tips to plan your language strategy
We are in the middle of one of the most challenging times for our society. Parents of young children, with the rollercoaster of school closures and limitations affecting relationships and community support, have not had an easy time during this pandemic. Right now even the word plan sounds like a joke, and most importantly for many families the current circumstances have meant revisiting their own plans and dreams for bilingual upbringing.
We recently collaborated on a research project on home language use during the pandemic (you will see it featured here in the New York Times) which found that many young children picked up the parents’ languages or “home languages” more during the pandemic, while some found the experience made it harder because they were doing more “homeschooling” and that meant using the majority language more than they used to.
Do children just “pick it up”?
Language can be acquired through interaction with adults, and children learn by hearing and using a language meaningfully. The process is natural and every child is born ready to acquire as many languages as they hear in their natural environment. “Picking up” a language requires regular interaction, so it is important to ask yourself whether your child is getting consistent interaction in each of the languages.
So what do you need to know when planning for the use of languages in your home?
The first step is to acknowledge that you do need to make a plan if you have specific goals you want to achieve, especially if you have limited support in one language.
For example if you expect your child to be able to converse with peers and have a good command of spoken language, how will you ensure that this is feasible within the time and resources available to you? If you are the only person speaking the language, and your child is in full time education in a setting where only the majority language is used, how will you spend the time you have to give your language a boost?
So, stated simply, you don’t need to spend endless hours drafting quarterly reports, but having a plan with some clear and achievable goals will help you and everyone in your family to make decisions on how much time and “space” will be given to each language.
Here are some tips that might work for you:
- Set some clear and manageable goals. Right now life is a little different because schools are closed. How can you use some of this time to give your language more space?
- Educate yourself. Check out this page of resources, full of research based articles with many actionable tips!
- Track your progress with our Language Exposure Wheel to see if over the coming weeks you have managed to achieve your goals.
- Don’t feel guilty if right now you can’t achieve your goals and meet your own expectations. The most important thing is to gently make every language part of your life while keeping your child’s well-being in mind.