We have just received through the post the paperwork to enrol our 2 year old at our local Majority Language (ML) nursery school for the next academic year starting next September. Though I expected it, it was a bit of shock as I still see my sweet little one as my little baby.
We are very happy for her to bloom and to leave that nasty “ Terrible twos” stage (though experience tells us the threes can also prove terrible!). I also look forward to her discovering the learning world and me being able to teach her things, as I did with her elder sister.
However, the danger of this new emphasis on the ML does worry me. The beginning of ML schooling is a very important milestone in bilingual families. It is often at that point that little bilinguals come under the strong monolingual society’s subliminal pressure to stick to the ML. Children want to fit in and do like their peers.
We have experienced first-hand the terrible influence of the ML with our eldest, who never spoke much of her minority languages before school, but once she began nursery school, that was the end of them! She used them even less and became resistant to our languages.
It was the introduction of a strict language house rule banning the ML from our home (see “ml@home tips: Setting clear language rules“) that saved our trilingual journey. Our youngest daughter was a few months old then, and this clear language house rule helped to condition our little one to only use her minority languages at home. She has very occasionally tried to use the ML but with a few tricks (see “Parent tips: 12 fun and silly ideas of reactions to an answer in the Majority Language by your child“) and persistence she now sticks to our house rule. She is too young to understand the little flags (see “ml@home tips: Setting clear language rules“) on our entrance door, so she follows the rule by copying our example. She even is a tell tale if her sister ever uses a ML word!
Next September, our strategy will have to stand the test of ML schooling. For the moment, we still have the visual of the flags to rely on should my youngest try to import the ML after beginning nursery school. That could enable her to visualise that rule she has so far followed blindly. Beyond that, we do not have anything else thought out. Watch this space to find out the outcome next September…
Have you faced a surge of ML influence on your child starting ML school? If so, have you got any tips you could share in the Comment section?