As explained in the introduction to the Tips & Ideas section, fostering an minority language home is very important to “de-emphasise” the Majority Language (ML) and place the emphasis on the minority language (ml). One very effective way to do so is to create a ml audio background so that your children always bathe in your minority language, whether they pay attention to it or not. This bathing can influence the child’s choice of language to communicate at home, and exposes the child to the language, enabling him/her to pick it up.
Here is a list of ideas to explore, which makes this post unusually long. Obviously, for the greatest efficiency, the more options you rely on the better.
ml TV in the background
Obviously we don’t want to have our kids glued to the TV screen all day long, and anyway television on its own does not foster active bilingualism. But having an audio ml background can be useful. So you may want from time to time to put on some family-friendly programmes so that the kids will hear your minority language in the background, without them staying in front of the TV set for ours. For instance, a wildlife programme, a gardening programme, a cooking programme…. All these things are age appropriate (no violent or strong-language content) and will ensure your house bathes in the minority language. The idea is not that the programme should be of interest to you or the kids but just to act as a tool to create a minority language backdrop. Children are always curious, and though they will not be interested by the whole programme, they might just stop and listen to a specific thing for a couple of minutes. I have certainly caught my daughters doing so on a number of occasions, even commenting about it to me, and then moving on with their playing.
Nowadays, a lot of radio stations have their online player. You can hence play your favourite radio from your minority language country, or even a ml children’s radio. The whole idea is to create a minority language backdrop, and for that it is not necessary to grab the child’s attention (which is very short anyway). More than once have my daughters picked up on a song or an advert on the radio station I play at home (and it is not a children orientated radio station). It goes to show they do pick up a lot just from hearing things! If you don’t know what radio station to listen to, I would recommend to browse the amazing website of Radio Garden that allows you to find many, many radio stations worldwide.
If you are following a podcast of your interest in your minority language, you can play it when the kids are around. This counts as additional minority language background.
ml nursery rhymes
Any normal parent would not be able to endure a whole day of nursery rhymes without going insane, but they are a very efficient way for a child to pick up the minority language. It was actually even recommended to me by a paediatrician to help with my eldest daughter’s pronunciation! So if you can endure 30 minutes of nursery rhymes a day, why not include it in your ml audio background scheme?
Digital audio streaming services
For those unfamiliar with these websites, they offer digital music and podcast streaming services which enable you to play music from a very extensive selection of music types and artists, either for free but you have to put up with the occasional adverts, or for a monthly fee to get rid of the ads and have the download option. Examples of these websites are Amazon Music Unlimited, Apple Music, Deezer, Google Play Music, Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, …
Last September, I decided to give a shot with Spotify. At first, I went for the free version, but having lived a year without any Majority Language at home, the ML ads made me cringe every time they came on (and they actually increase as you play Spotify more often). Since I enjoyed the choice of music, I eventually signed up for the Premium service and I am delighted with it. No more ML adverts, and an incredible variety of audio: music from all over the world and of every sort, nursery rhymes and audio books in our 2 minority languages, podcasts. It enables us to play modern music but also more folklore music for our daughters to be acquainted with their ml culture.
Create ml play lists on your computer
If you are not into digital audio streaming services, you could create your own minority language playlist on your computer.
Music player in kids’ bedroom
This is an excellent solution to avoid having to play in your living room nursery rhymes all day long! When my eldest turned 4 years old, I got her a user-friendly music player for her bedroom. I showed her how it worked, how to handle the CDs and pen-drive (the player reads both) and ever since she has enjoyed playing her minority language nursery rhymes and audiobooks when she is in her bedroom. Even her little sister (2) occasionally asks for music when playing there. :). The only thing to be careful about is the sound level, to ensure the child does not play it too loud.
ml music in the car
You can extend the ml environment a bit further outside of home, by playing minority language music on your family car rides. Whether using CDs, audiobooks, pen-drives or a digital audio streaming service on your smartphone, all these will help create a minority language environment in your car. And every minute the child spends hearing the minority language, it is an extra minute emphasising that language. 😉
Switch all your electronic devices from ML to ml
Now, this might sound like a completely crazy and absurd idea, but creating a minority language home means getting rid (as much as possible) of the Majority Language. You think I’m barking mad, right? 🙂 Well to illustrate how influential the language of these devices are, let me give you 2 examples with my own children. My eldest daughter has picked up some words from our robot hoover (it says a couple of sentences) and since having become an early reader, she is starting to read text on our computer screen. So whether the computer, robot hoover, sat nav or any other electronic device, think about switching it to the minority language.
Keep Majority Language conversations out of earshot
At home, whenever the children are around, as a couple and a family, stick to the minority language. Unfortunately, circumstances do not always allow this. For instance, a ML phone-call. Whenever possible, try to make/take the call outside of your kids’ earshot by changing room. I know it is not always possible (my youngest certainly seems to love tailing me when I change room to be on my own!!), but whenever you can do this it will preserve the minority language atmosphere at home.