Is your bilingual learner rarely responding to you in the minority language? And you are sure that your child understands what you are saying?
I totally understand that this can be rather difficult. For kids (as is also the case for adults), speaking another language is no easy task. It is incredible important to motivate your bilingual children to speak the minority language. A positive attitude towards their learning achievements and progression is always a good starting point!
There can be many reasons why you don’t get a response. Perhaps your little one is just shy and doesn’t want to try, or is simply unmotivated to speak. Here, positive (and please, not negative) encouragement is key.
Please avoid negativity at all costs. Motivation is essential for learning! If somebody is negative towards you, you don’t feel motivated either. So, here are 5 ways to motivate your bilingual children to speak the minority language
1. Use language that encourages them to speak!
Talk as much as you can. Give them simple phrases and key words to repeat. Open-ended questions or questions that offer a choice (orange juice or lemonade?) will animate bilingual learners to answer.
2. More exposure
Go on a trip to the country in which the minority language is spoken. Visit family members or enrol your bilingual learners in a workshop or class in the minority language. Show them that this language is real and important!
3. Repetition and regular language-based activities are important!
Consistent minority language use is important. Scheduled lessons or interesting, well-organised activities and games are essential to keeping your language learner interested.
4. Focus on what your child enjoys.
5. Praise and encouragement
Recognise your child’s attempts to speak with positivity! Encourage them and praise them to keep them motivated. You could say things like “That’s very good” or “Try again, I’m sure you’ll get it this time!”.
Children can sense their parents true feelings quite quickly. Many kids want to please their parents! What is important is to find some kind of balance. Constant, intense praise can make praise and encouragement meaningless. It is important to use it when it is appropriate—it shouldn’t be a routine!