When our eldest daughter turned 4 years old, my husband and I decided to take a rather sharp turn in our language strategy, so as to help our daughter to shift from passive to an active trilingual situation.
Our new strategy was the minority language at home (ml@h) with a strict ban on the use of the Majority Language (ML) in our home. The aim was to create in our daughter the need to use her 2 minority languages (ml) so she may become active in these languages.
Our daughter having a very strong leading character, we wanted to make the change of house rule visual so she may always have it at hand to remember it. The idea was inspired by the French Super Nanny programme, which recommends putting up the house rules. At the time, my eldest did not know how to read, so more than ever, the rule had to be made very graphic. I decided to print the flag for each of our languages (French, English and Spanish) and give them to our daughter in a mysterious golden envelope as part of a “mission” which would embed the new rule in her mind. The envelope was part of a “mystery” strategy recommended at Bilingual Monkeys (tip 32 on this amazing post).
None really, just finding the most adequate place in your home to put the flags up so they are visible to everybody. We went for our front door as we felt it was an unavoidable spot for our family, as we go in and out every day.
- Colour printer
- Word-processing software such as MS Word
- A pair of scissors
- Sellotape or sticky-tack
- An attractive envelope
- Browse Internet for the flag clip arts of your minority and majority languages.
- Copy and paste the flags in a Word document.
- If you want them to be discrete, to stick them on your entrance door like we did, adjust their size to about 1.5cm high.
- Space them out on your document.
- Colour print the document.
- Cut our each flag and put them in the envelope.
- Mummy and Daddy have a chat with child to explain that from now on there is a new house rule whereby both little and big people can only use the ml at home. As part of this new rule, give the child the envelope and tell him/her s/he has a “mission”.
- When the child opens the envelope, ask him/her if s/he knows what flags are and where applicable explain they represent each language your family speaks.
- Give your child Sellotape or sticky-tack and direct him/her to stick the flags in the place you chose. If you go for the front door, ask them to stick the ml flag on the outside of the front door to remind everybody to switch to the ml as they walk in. Then to stick the ML flag on the inside of the front door, to remind everyone on their way out that they may now switch to the ML.
- Ensure your child sticks the flags at their eye level so they catch their eye on their way in and out.
- For parents struggling to use the ml, make your child the language police, and/or put a coin in a piggy-bank for every slip so as to reward him/her with a ml gift once the piggy-bank is full or the family successfully switched to the ml@h.