As parents we are busy people, and we don’t always have time to take our children to bilingual schools and activities – we need to expose our children to the home minority language as often as we can. A good way of doing this is to turn daily activities into fun opportunities to promote the home minority language to our child as much as possible, and it doesn’t have to be a chore!
1. Bilingual Vocabulary Bombardment
A tremendous amount of language learning actually happens when the child is involved in their daily routine. Whether your child is a baby and you are feeding her milk, changing her nappy, bathing her or whether your child is a toddler and you are brushing his hair and teeth, telling him to put on some clothes, it all doesn’t matter. These daily activities are extremely important because they are opportunities for the child to encounter repetitive learning that is structured but in a natural and pleasant way.
Use lots of vocabulary specific to the routine, for example:
Bath-time – use your home language to talk to your children, and model the words for them.
- Verbs: wash, scrub, rinse, clean, brush, dry, splash, sink, float.
- Nouns: soap, towel, water, tap, flannel, bath, sink, body parts.
Sing songs in the bath, introduce language repetitively and consistently, and most of all, make bilingual learning fun!
2. Combine Activites With Bilingual Games
There are lots of simple bilingual techniques you can apply to everyday routines for example:
Tidying Up and I Spy With My Little Eye –
- “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ‘T'”
The answer could be:
- tank engine
This is a perfect way to introduce new home minority language vocabulary and also asking your child to pick up the item and putting it away.
Expand your vocabulary to include adjectives e.g. colours to add challenge and variety – e.g. I spy something ‘red’ (beginning with ‘L’) – a red lego brick?
Other ideas include singing a tidying up song, saying goodnight to the toys (Toys Need Sleep Too!) which works well in any language.
3. Break Routines Down Into Bilingual Steps
Slowly but surely over time, your child begins to make sense of the world and how it is organised (for instance, after waking up they have to get dressed before having breakfast) and words people say in relation to the time of day/each routine.
Even within an activity itself your child is learning the sequence of events – for example:
Washing your hands involves a series of complicated steps:
- turning on the tap
- applying soap
- scrubbing your hands
- rinsing hands
- turning the tap off
- drying your hands!
All this is language learning. Break the routine into a series of small, consistent steps to help your child understand how the routine works and say what it is you are doing at each step to help your child familiarise with how it is done.
Remember, these strategies work whatever language you choose to speak to your child and are just a few that you can use. You can use your imagination and turn almost any everyday activity into some sort of fun educational game!