The summer holidays are just round the corner and many bilingual families take the opportunity to travel back to their minority language (ml) country.
For us, it is always the incredible opportunity to give our children a booster shot of our ml. As excited as we are of going, we sometimes feel at a loss to know how to make the most of this special occasion.
Here are a few ideas for you to look up, depending on your own holiday circumstances:
When staying with your ml relatives
- Send your children out before you – If your circumstances allow, why not send your children out to your family before you, so they may enjoy more time in the ml country and experience it on their own with ml relatives?
- Ask relatives to find out whether their acquaintances have children about the same age as yours – and arrange playdates during your stay
- Ask relatives to enrol your child at activities – e.g: in a local day camp (part-time is ideal so they experience family life and mix with local peers) or cultural centre. Two years ago (just when we had switched from OPOL to ml@h strategy) my mother-in-law enrolled my eldest daughter for some activities at the local Cultural Centre. My eldest daughter was still a passive trilingual back then, and this was a great experience as she was given the opportunity to be with ml peers and forced to use her ml. We hope to renew this experience this summer.
- Arrange to meet up with relatives with children – it encourages ml friendship and could provide an opportunity to set up a penpal relationship once back in the Majority Language (ML) country.
- Spend time with the family to foster family bonding – an emotional bond will help bolster the will to learn the ml in your child.
When staying away from relatives
- Look up for a hotel full of ml tourists – a bilingual mum once mentioned this and I thought it was a fantastic idea. For instance, if your ML is French and your ml is Spanish, when you travel back to Spain, avoid hotels with lots of ML tourists and try to stay in hotels with mostly ml tourists. So look up for such hotels or holiday resorts.
- Take your children to the resort’s pool or to the beach – it is a great place for kids to meet their ml peers and play. And nothing beats play when it comes to picking up the ml!
Regardless of your arrangements
- Take them at least once to see a ml movie screening – let your children feel what ml life is like by going to the cinema and discover the latest movie in their ml.
- Put the ml TV on – let children discover their ml society, and that includes the ml television. Obviously not all day long, but when you are home or back at the hotel, just let them get a flavour of their ml society.
- Let the children watch ml cartoons – it will let them see what their peers watch and identify to them, and it could help children accept ml cartoons once back in the ML country (for parents who are encountering resistance on that point with their kids).
- Listen to the radio – let the children hear the ml but also pick up on the ml news, society, music, culture…
- Live the ml life – for instance in Spain we include the siesta (nap during the warmest afternoon hours) in our schedule, we eat at local times, put the children off to bed late like locals do.
- Visit a local bookshop – if your child is old enough, take him/her with you and let them pick some ml books to bring back home and treasure. Plan ahead some spare room in your suitcase and when visiting the shop let them know how many books they can take home.
- Take them to a local theme park – let them experience great fun that their memory will associate to the ml country.
- Take a little bit of time to do some ml activity book – get your child familiar with what their ml peers learn and do.
- Buying an ml magazine – chances are, if they enjoy it they might then be glad if you subscribe to one for them once back in ML country.
- Support your ml national football team – this summer is the football World Cup, if your family is into it and you are lucky enough to be in your ml country at that time and that your ml national team is competing, try to take your older children and watch the games with your relatives or in a bar/at a public screening so they may share the emotion and atmosphere. Get them to wear their ml colours and feel part of the celebration. 🙂
- Take them to local cultural events – ask relatives or contact the local Tourist Office and find out if there are any cultural events that could entertain your children; e.g: a feria if your ml language is Spanish.
- Local events – Look up the website of the closest local library or cultural centre and see if they happen to organise anything of interest for children whilst you are there; e.g: a story-telling session, fun exhibitions…
When travelling to the ml country, what do you do to boost your child’s ml development? Please share your tips with us by leaving a comment.