When you raise your child bilingual in a language that you master but that is not your mother-tongue, we always need to seek to perfect our command so as to offer the highest level of education to our child.
A language is undoubtedly learnt through academics, but also extensively through living it. This is why so many people go and spend a few months of immersion in a country of their target language.
For us non-native bilingual parents, there exist a few tips to bathe ourselves in our minority language, to perfect it without having to travel abroad:
- Follow dictionaries’ websites that tweet 1 word or idiom a day on Twitter; e.g: Merriam Webster if your minority language is English.
- Follow language bodies on Twitter/Facebook, such as BBC Learning English or the British Council for English.
- Follow blogs about your centres of interests (gardening, cooking, yoga,…) in your minority language.
- Set your smartphones, tablets, computers, sat-navs, Apps and Internet accounts (Facebook, Hotmail, etc…) in your minority language.
- Subscribe to a parenting newsletter such as Baby Centre’s (available in a wide range of languages) to learn baby and children-related vocabulary.
- Look up recipes that you need in your minority language.
- Google what you need in the minority language (obviously not searches such as the opening hours of your local Majority Language shopping centre! 😉 ).
- Listen to podcasts in your minority language on topics of your interest or current affairs.
- Read comics in the minority language, as the strips will illustrate words that you might be unfamiliar with. For the anecdote, this was a technique used by my husband to learn French when he first moved here. 😉
- Subscribe to a magazine in your minority language.
- Re-read your favourite books in your minority language.
- Read about/listen to the news in your minority language.
- Read aloud – this is a technique I have been using since I was a teenager and which I wrote about in “The unsuspected benefits of Reading Aloud in the Minority Language Pronunciation”
- Download a dictionary’s App on your smartphone (e.g: WordReference) so as to make it easy for you to look up a word, as otherwise you might not feel bothered to do so. The more it will be within easy-reach, the more likely you will be to look it up.
- When you do not have the time to look it up straight-away, note down the word in a blank email on your smartphone so you remember to look it up later.
- If the name of the object your are looking for is not in the dictionary, look it up on the website of a minority language supermarket/shop. For instance, if you are looking for a shower fluff/lily in English, look it up on the Boots website.
- Join a WhatsApp group for bilingual parents of your minority language so as to learn very specific language and idioms, as well as create a support group on this tough journey.
- Join a forum on one of your centres of interest to get the opportunity to discuss in your minority language topics you enjoy.
- Keep a diary in the minority language to learn to reflect and express your emotions in that language.
- Think/talk to yourself in the minority language – a real challenge for your mind which will prevent your linguistic reflex from getting rusty ! 🙂 And nothing more “native” than to think in the minority language. It does not matter that habits are hard to break, so long as you persevere.
Do you have some tips? Please share them in the Comment section so other parents can benefit from them.
*This post is also available in French on https://bilingue.home.blog/2019/01/23/parents-non-natifs-20-astuces-pour-ameliorer-sa-langue-cible/