This Christmas was our first time leaving our youngest (3.5 years old) behind at her minority language (ml) grandparents! We have done so in the past, but only up to 4 days at most, the time for a short break a couple of hours’ drive away. This was her first full week there without Mummy and Daddy (though with her big sister). Truth be told, it was harder for Mummy than for her! 😀 She cried the eve of our flight home, but all Skype calls but the last one have shown her as happy as a lark. We parents enjoyed our first week kid-free in over 7 years… absolute bliss! Time to relax and prepare ourselves for our 2 daughters’ return and picking up all our bilingual education tactics where we had left them off!
Have you ever “left behind” your child with some ml relatives in your ml country? It might be tough emotionally, but have you considered the numerous benefits for your child’s bilingual education? If not, here is what you can look for in doing so:
- Total linguistic immersion – this is particularly helpful if you follow an OPOL strategy with a Majority Language (ML) parent. This means a long stay with no ML whatsoever…ZILCH.
- Total cultural immersion – what better way to discover your ml culture than experiencing it first hand? Some cultural aspects are so subtle that they cannot be easily “taught” to our kids when abroad.
- Total social immersion – If you can include such things as day-camps or sporting club activities during your child’s stay, s/he will connect and relate to peers, which will enable him/her to feel part of this ml society and his/her other motherland.
- Fostering of the bond with the ml country – “living” in the ml country creates fond memories of the time spent there. Something sentimental and very personal to your child.
- Bolstering family bonds – As much as the Skype-like technologies rock, they cannot replace human relations. Living things together bring families and friends together.
- Opportunities for ml friendships – which will:
- Make your child value his/her bilingual skills,
- Look forward to visiting the ml country
- Provide an opportunity for your child to have a penfriend and develop biliteracy skills
- Provide your child with exposure to the ml by his/her peers
- Experiencing the ml country on their own – we parents have a huge influence on our kids without even realising it. Hence, it can be a good thing for our kids’ personal development to draw their own experience of their ml country. They will get to appreciate their other country for themselves, and not because us parents say it’s a fab country or because they should since it’s their heritage country.
- It will push ml resistant kids to speak – In the ml country, your kid will have no choice but to use the ml. If it is fear or laziness that blocks your child, this experience will push them out of their comfort zone. If it is sheer dislike of the ml, your child will have no choice but to get what s/he wants, yet through fun experiences of his/her own, this might help him/her override this bias.
- The accent!– Probably the one thing that obsesses most (if not all) bilingual parents! Kids learn through mimicking their peers, so if they stay behind with cousins or attending activities with children, their accent could get a huge boost.
- Special influence – If you have the chance to leave your child behind with close relatives such as grandparents, a special influential bond could develop. It is well-known kids never listen to their parents, but we also know that grandparents can have a special bond with them. A bond which will make your child more attentive and receptive to lessons of life but also language and culture. A bond that can sow ml heritage roots in them. Something to make them feel proud of.
- Self-confidence – Being on their own can be beneficial to the child’s self development. Depending on the child and circumstances, it can for example boost their autonomy and self-confidence. And the latter can precisely be boosted by the use of the ml. Seeing that people understand him/her, the child will grow more confident (and proud!) of using the ml. A winning combo when raising bilingual! To give you an idea, during one or our Skype calls to the girls, we were stunned to discover that our youngest had gone without her elder sister (whom she tails everywhere) to a relative’s house. A sign she is slowly blooming as an individual.
- Your child associating the ml with fun – and that is a winner when it comes to motivating them to learn or bringing down their resistance.
- It can make your child feel good/proud of speaking the ml – The experience will make your child’s relationship to the minority language mature. As they grow and become more conscious, your child might realise that all that great holiday experience they are having would not have been possible without speaking the ml.
Have I forgotten any other advantage? Please feel free to add them using the Comment section!