This guest blog was written by Tamania from Urdu Mom.
Many of us living in the west with immigrant roots, struggle to pass on our native language to our children. Your native language might be Arabic, Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Bengali, or something else…but your children always seem to pick up English faster and often refuse to respond in your native language.
I wanted to make passing on your native language easier. And that’s why I’m sharing 7 tips for parents to lovingly pass on their native language to their children. I say lovingly, because as with everything when it comes to kids, they have to WANT it to learn it.
1. Recognize the importance of multilingualism
Multilingualism is a gift that parents can pass on to their children. It equips your children with various cognitive, social and cultural benefits that are backed by research. Once you’ve read up on these benefits and recognize them, you’ll get a renewed sense of enthusiasm towards introducing your child to your native language. You’ll also feel more motivation to pass on your native language to yourchildren.
2. Respect your native language
Don’t let your children hear you speak in your native language only when you’re angry! Respect your native language. Speak it with love. Don’t laugh or make fun of your children’s attempt to speak it. Introduce arts, music and culture in your native language into your house. Children are smart and will pick up on your love for your native language.
3. Make it fun
Always keep learning fun. Don’t scare your children with work sheets and schedules. Introduce learning with songs, stories and games.
4. Concentrate on verbal skills
First build your child’s verbal skills. Let them learn simple words and boost their confidence. This will develop their interest in the language to learn more, such as reading and writing it.
5. The importance of rituals and traditions
Couple your native language with beloved rituals and traditions in your house. Give your children pride in their unique identities. Teach them songs and stories you grew up them and learn new ones with them. Make your own family traditions and include your native language in the memories you build with your children.
6. Family and the strength of social circles
Help your children learn your native language by getting the help of family and friends who speak the same language. Ask family to only speak your native language with the children. Even if they live far away, stay in touch through video calls. Get friends together regularly and arrange story times where everyone brings a song, poem or a story.
A parent who speaks their native language is the best resource for any child. Don’t shove an electronic device in your child’s hand and expect them to speak a language they feel no connection with. Read books together and watch any show in your native language with them. Discuss characters and plot lines. Stay involved with any resource you introduce to maintain your child’s interest and to make learning effective.
I hope these simple tips help you introduce your native language to your child or children.
Tamania blogs about her Pakistani-Canadian family over at UrduMom.com. She shares the journey of raising bilingual children, teaching them Urdu in fun ways and their multicultural life in Canada. You can also find her on instagram here.