Tips for parents: 5 tips to discreetly have your kids switch to the minority language between them

If you have a ml@home house rule or notice that your children mostly play together in the Majority Language (ML), it can sometimes get frustrating and you wonder how to make them switch to the minority language (ml) without antagonizing them.  Here are 5 ideas to discreetly gear the switch of language:

  1. Drop in to say hello or enquire about something– A couple of weeks back, I got home and took over from the girls’ ML after-school baby-sitter; however the girls continued their ML playing undisturbed. So I went over to say hello, give them a kiss and enquire about their day.  It lasted about 3 minutes, as they were too engrossed in their playing to have a real chat.  However, this was enough to get them to unconsciously switch to the ml.  This trick is not limited to popping in to say hello.  Anything could do, from discussing the dinner’s menu, enquiring about something they might need or that you are (allegedly 😉 ) looking for, to bringing their freshly laundered and ironed clothes.  Anything could do as long as you “butt in” long enough to naturally steer the language use.
  2. Play some ml music/audiobook they might like in the background–  Playing something they like might catch their attention and most often than not with bilinguals, hearing another language can incite a language switch.
  3. Join in their play– A wonderful tip given by author Adam Beck of “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids. Nothing is more efficient than taking part in their play to reintroduce the ml. Beck actually mentions that in some instances it might take several participations if the children tend to switch back to the ml.
  4. Separate them–  If you kids persist in playing in the ML, why not ask help from one of them to do a house chore or have a look at something?  Spending a little one-on-one time might help trigger a language switch by the time s/he reverts to his/her sibling.
  5. Make an ml call to an ml relative/friend – Changing topic and putting them in touch with ml family might put the kids in an ml “mood” that will last after the call.

Now, these little tricks are not infallible.  They might work for your family, or as a one off, or not at all.  However, they might be worth a try, to find out through try and error how to get your kids to switch. 😉

If you find any other idea that works for your family, please share it in the Comment section, so other bilingual parents can benefit from it 😉

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