Non-native parent rearing in the minority language – 7 tips to strengthen your ml skills

Some of you might be non native speakers of the minority language (ml) supporting your ml spouse in educating your children bilingual. Others might be non-native speakers who have chosen to rear your children in the ml so they may get the opportunity to be bilingual early. Whatever the reason, you might occasionally lack confidence with the ml and wonder how to strengthen your minority language skills. So here is a list of ideas to explore, bearing in mind that a language is like a plant: the more you nurture it, the more it will grow and bloom

1. Read different kind of materials – The first thing that springs to mind is reading books. This is a very good way to nurture your minority language, however it will not always use the day-to-day or baby-related vocabulary your might need. So also consider reading:
a) Magazines – Take up a magazine subscription on something you are very interested in, or read people magazine online.
b) Well-written blogs – blogs with a nice use of your minority language on topics you like.
c) Newspapers/News websites – Another advantage is that it will keep you up-to-date with the country’s events and culture.
d) Children-oriented websites – these will be using the exact vocabulary you might need as a parent. For example BabyCentre; which covers many countries (see the bottom of their homepage for exhaustive list and links).  Also think about signing up for their newsletter so the reading comes to you, and not having to force yourself to go to it! 😉
e) Use captive reading for yourself – If you are not familiar with the captive reading concept, you can read my post on it. A bilingual mum once mentioned using it for herself to learn ml expressions and children nursery rhymes, and she found it very helpful.

2. Listen a lot – not just to minority language music, but also to:
a) Radio – if you do not have a set idea as to which ml radio station to listen to, why not visit this great website: that enables you to listen to a very large selection of radio stations in the country of your choice?
b) Podcasts – Many radio stations now offer to listen to their programmes on podcast, so if you have a favourite ml radio, have a look at their podcasts. Also have a look on digital music streaming websites such as Spotify as they might also have some available.
c) Television – even if you are not actually watching it, just the fact of listening and hearing the ml will help you pick up a lot of the language.
Bonus: They can be listened to at anytime, even when the children are around, as it counts as extra exposure for them!

3. Google everything in the minority language – so as to get your search results in the ml and learn vocabulary from it.

4. Turn your electronic devices, programs (MS Office, e-mails…) and website account language options to the minority language – By being continually exposed to the language, the vocabulary will sink in.

5. Learn an expression a day – Find an online list of minority language expressions and their meaning, and schedule a daily reminder in your Outlook Calendar (or any other you might use) at a set time everyday with a different expression and its meaning in it. By taking 2 minutes everyday to read the reminder, you will pick up a new ml expression. Some people need repetition for new vocabulary to sink in, so if this is your case, you can reschedule the reminder to repeat at a later date. The scheduling of 2 weeks’ worth of expressions can be tedious but the result will be worth it.

6. Write everything in the minority language – from shopping lists to the names of documents you save on your computer, this forces you to make the effort of using the ml.

7. Force yourself to think in the minority language – If you do not do so yet, this is a tough habit to take but that will be well worth it.


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