To be honest, we didn't really have the conversation about what languages our child should speak before he was born. In fact, it didn't occur to us to - what with all the preparation for the baby, arrival of the baby, countless nappy changes and numerous hours of breastfeeding. We'll get there we thought - And before we knew it, he was a whole year! Soon after, I knew we had missed a crucial year of introducing languages other than English and we rapidly made a plan.
We are a cross cultural family. I was raised in India and speak 2 Indian languages fluently along with English, my husband was raised in South Africa and speaks a few languages other than English as well. For us, it was important for him to learn one heritage language (we chose Hindi), one environment language (we chose Mandarin as we were raising him in Singapore) and of course he was English native. He is also exposed to Kannada (My mother language) but more organically through chats with my folks.
After 6 years, I see the benefits of introducing our chosen home languages in a more structured yet fun manner. By being intentional about it, we have a happy, confident, proud kiddo who wants to learn more.
In case you're not convinced, here are some facts, our early childhood experts at indigrowkids dug up for you:
Fact 1: It is always better to start early
During early childhood, children are particularly adept at acquiring native-like pronunciation and accent in the languages they learn. This ability becomes more challenging as they grow older.
Fact 2: It's about more than the language
Your little one not only learns the words and grammar but also the cultural nuances, social norms, and contextual usage of language.
Fact 3: It helps to learn languages later
Learning Hindi or Mandarin at home today will make it easier for your little one to learn new languages later.. like High school Spanish or French.
More importantly, here are a few top tips to help you in your journey of choosing home languages or environment languages for your kids:
1.What Is Your Family's Linguistic Background? Are there languages that are culturally or personally significant to you?
2. What Are Your Goals? Are you aiming for bilingualism, trilingualism, or more? What are your motivations? Do you want to introduce your little one to their heritage language, enhance their cognitive brain development, or simply provide practical language skills for the future?
3. How Well Do You or Your Partner Speak the Language? You'll be the primary language models for your little one. It is always easier when you are comfortable and capable in these languages.
4. Consider Language Access: Are there language classes, cultural events, or support networks in your community for the language of your choice?
5. Do you have a language support village? Consider whether extended family members, caregivers, or friends will be speaking the languages with your child. Your little one will benefit from hearing the language in their home environment.
6. Balance Between Minority and Majority Languages: If you are raising your little one in a multilingual family with a majority language and one or more minority languages, think about how to balance the exposure to each language. This may involve setting specific language time or rules.
7. Be Realistic About Your Capacity: Raising a child with multiple languages can be challenging and time-consuming, so consider your own dedication and resources.
8. Create a Language Plan: Develop a language plan that outlines when and where each language will be spoken and by whom. Consistency is key, so having a structured plan can help maintain language balance.
9. Understand Language Development Milestones: Some languages may be phonologically or grammatically more complex, so understanding these factors can help you make a language plan to suit your needs.
10. Think About Long-Term Benefits: Some languages may have greater global significance, cultural relevance, or economic value.
11. Adapt to your little one's needs: Pay attention to your little one's language preferences and needs as they grow. Some children may naturally gravitate toward one language or show more interest in a particular language, so be flexible in your approach.
12. Last but not least, Make it fun!: Make language exposure a fun and enjoyable experience for you and your little one through games, stories, songs, and cultural activities.
Hope you find this useful! Enjoy your language journey.