Majority Language parent – 9 ways to support your minority language partner’s bilingual journey

The bilingual journey is a bumpy one and a minority language (ml) parent can certainly feel isolated when no support is readily available locally from the family or community.

However, you majority language (ML) parent can help, even if you do not speak the minority language. You don’t believe me? Here are simple things you can do! 🙂

  1. Play the minority language radio/music/media in the background when your ml partner is out – this will expose your child to additional ml hours. If you do not know what to play, ask help from your partner to create a playlist, to bookmark ml radio and podcast websites, or YouTube videos.  Now, if you find it tiresome to listen to something you do not understand, remember it does not have to be all day long.
  2. Install an ml cartoonly rule – just by installing this rule you turn a “passive” activity into a more valuable one, as it contributes to your child’s ml acquisition. Any extra minute of exposure counts. 
  3. Play audio-books -even if you do not speak the ml, you can still “read” stories to your kids using audiobooks. Play the book and accompany your kids, turning along the pages as the jingle signals to.
  4. Skype the ml relatives -if your ml partner has long working hours, you might not always get a chance to call his/her relatives as often as you would like. However, you could call them even when your partner is out. Since you do not speak the ml, let the kids lead the call and translate for you. What a wonderful way to make them aware of their ability to help thanks to their bilingual skills!
  5. Support the ml homework routine – if your partner does not have much time to handle ml homework, why not substitute him/her? For sure, you will not be able to correct or answer queries. However, you can be the authority that disciplines your child into an ml homework routine. If your languages share the same alphabet, you will also be able to help looking up words or even Google some queries. And at worse, just jot down the questions and ask your partner on his or her return.
  6. Include basic ml in your routines – Simple things such as counting the steps to your home in the ml can help set this vocabulary in your child’s mind. It is basic minority language vocabulary you might already know or that you can easily pick up to use with your toddler. It is not much, but every little helps.
  7. Make the ml culture part of your home – if you enjoy cooking, ensure you include minority language food in your weekly menu. Include ml cultural items in your home and ml prints in your home decoration. Talk about your other half’s country. This emphasis will create a feeling of the ml being something important and worth attention.
  8. Find them ml playmates – why not seek either ml peers your child could go to stay to play with a couple of hours? Or a playful ml university student/babysitter play with your kid an hour every day after school? An hour a day or a couple of hours every now and then might not seem like a lot, but this exposure from another ml speaker puts emphasis on the minority language adds up and can have a strong impact on your child.
  9. Learn the ml – now, language learning might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if the ml is important to your bilingual family, then show positive example to your child. Lead the way by making efforts and showing your child that you too on board with this very important challenge. This will also give a role to your child: s/he can be your teacher/little helper. Kids love that and acts as a huge incentive for them to learn that ml. 

Save for the latter tip, all these are simple little ways to support your partner on the bumpy bilingual journey. They might not seem like much to you, but to us minority language parents who feel so isolated and sometimes crushed by the weight of the bilingual journey, it means so much.  So please do not overlook their importance both for the moral support to your partner, and the benefit to your child’s ml acquisition.

Did I miss any other tip an ML parent can do to support their ml partner in raising their kid bilingual?  Please add them using the Comment section! 🙂

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