Using WhatsApp’s voice function to get your child to talk in the minority language

Modern technologies, and most particularly screens, have a huge appeal to our kids.  My eldest unlocked my phone for the very first (and last!) time age 13 months, cunningly waiting for me to forget the phone I had carelessly left lying about.  My 3-year old does not yet know her alphabet that she already navigates Netflix and casts it on our telly!

However, technology also has good sides to them.  As many do, I love using WhatsApp.  The inconvenience is the typing on a tiny smartphone keyboard.  It sometimes gets frustrating.  This was until I discovered the voice input option.  You dictate your text to your phone that transcribes it into text.  A marvelous gain of time, though you do have to proof read (especially in French!) as it can misunderstand some sounds and accents.  It is particularly reliable in Spanish as it is a language that has very clear and articulated sounds.  

At first, my girls were intrigued at seeing me dictating to my phone.  But when I told them I was “talking” to their dad or grandparents, they wanted to do the same!  It had never occurred to me before, but now I let them, as it obliges them to settle, think about what they want to say, and say it articulately.  A lovely way to use the minority language (ml) and foster the bond with relatives abroad.

You should have seen my eldest’s expression on her face when she read what she had said as it appeared on the phone’s screen! 🙂 Another way to make her conscious of the relationship between what is said orally and how it transposed in writing.

A function that has been an even greater success with my youngest who cannot yet read, is WhatsApp’s voice message function.  Instead of transcribing into text, it simply records your voice and sends it as a message. Though less convenient -as the person receiving it might not always be in an environment where they can listen to audio sources- it is nevertheless a sweet way to communicate with little ones. And kids never grow tired of listening to their voices in a loop (as you can replay the voice message sent –another excellent way to memorise the ml they spoke!).

If your child is resisting speaking the minority language, I think this could be an interesting “gadget” technique.  Ask them to send a voice message to an ml relative and reassure them by phrasing in the ml what they would like to tell them.  Keep the message to short sentences they can easily parrot.  Break down their message into several voice messages if what they want to say is a bit long and you feel they will get lost (and frustrated) halfway through.

Should you not use WhatsApp but a competitor or just simple text messaging, you might still have this voice messaging or at least voice input.  Take the time to check out on your phone.  And make sure you have the right language set-up for the voice input, as you need to change it every time you switch language (oh, the inconvenience of being bi-/multilingual! 😉 ).

Overall, we are not much of “pro-Apps for kids” parents.  Yet, I must confess this is an app I am quite fond of to get my kids talking in the ml to their relatives. 😉

Any similar trick you know to get your kids talking in the ml?  Please share it in the comment section! 


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