Many people who emigrated long before having kids may find themselves faced with an issue they didn’t expect: introducing your children to your culture.
Teaching your children the culture and language you grew up with doesn’t always come easily. If you’ve lived away from your country of origin for many years, you may have even forgotten some of the nuances of your culture. While your traditions and your native language might still play a role in your life, you may not feel confident teaching your kids about your heritage. Although reading cultural books can help you introduce your culture to your kids, teaching them your native language may still be a struggle.
Sharing your native language with your children is about more than them being bilingual or multilingual. It’s about showing your children the beauty of their family history!
There are so many great benefits to sharing your language with your family. However, we know that teaching your child a language you may not speak regularly can be challenging. Here are our top tips to help you teach your native language to your children.
Develop a language plan with your spouse
When you’re teaching your child more than one language from a young age, it helps to have a plan with your parenting partner. Teaching a language can be more difficult if you’re sporadically switching from one language to another.
It may not seem natural, but it’s important to make a concerted effort to speak in your native language as often as possible. If your spouse does not speak your native language, practice telling stories to your child in your language. Making this a regular pattern can make learning a new language feel fun and special.
Determine with your spouse what activities will be done in each language. You can even decide certain hours where you only speak your native language! While your child is acquiring language, you will want to practice both your native language and the language they will be speaking in school equally. However, once your child is attending school, they will benefit from hearing you speak your native language at home as often as possible.
Prepare for teaching your native language with storybooks and our free tracing resources! It’s best to introduce these tools at the same time that you are introducing books in their school’s language. If you’re starting remote learning or homeschooling your children, a language plan can help you expose your child to two languages equally and teach them to be bilingual.
Read together in your native language
Reading storybooks together is a great way to teach your child a new language. When you’re reading together, your child can become familiar with how your language looks and sounds at the same time.
One way to practice your native language together is to expand on the story as you read and describe the pictures. This introduces your child to a more informal speaking like idioms and common expressions. One of the benefits of teaching a child a language while they’re young is that they learn well through conversation and listening. Instead of simply naming nouns, string together short sentences and speak slowly to help your child absorb your native language.
When you’re teaching languages with particular characters like Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, or Arabic, it helps to sound out words and point to the components that make up each word. You can help your child learn specific characters by writing the pronunciation beneath each word so they can learn to associate a certain sound with its written letter or character.
Practice tracing to learn new characters
Many children may learn to speak a language from listening to their family, but writing a language is a completely different story. When a child is getting accustomed to a new alphabet, practicing that alphabet is an important step that parents often forget. Reading and writing are central aspects of becoming fluent in a new language.
One way to expose a child to a language with unfamiliar characters or letters is to hang an alphabet poster in their playroom or nursery. However, that’s only the first step to teaching new characters. Next, read an ABC book together in your language of choice and have your child practice tracing the letters with their finger. Reviewing the letters as a separate practice time from reading together can help your child see how letters relate to each other when they make words.
Some children may enjoy using a letter tracing book to become more comfortable with writing. Other students, however, may not like focusing on workbooks and practicing the same letter multiple times. These early learners may prefer to use a letter tracing app to practice writing.
Children are spending more and more time on tablets and smartphones, so why not help them learn in the process? Whether your child is learning Gujarati, Japanese, or Arabic, a tracing app can help them stay engaged as they trace each letter with their finger.
The most effective learners use both the tracing app and letter tracing sheets to perfect their handwriting. That’s why we offer free tracing resources in multiple languages to help your child learn their letters. Don’t see your native language here? Let us know and request free tracing resources!
Involve many people in your child’s life
One of the benefits of learning your native language is sharing that culture with distant relatives. Practicing a new language is a great reason to call Grandma or speak with a neighbor.
Let the people in your child’s life know that you are teaching him or her your native language. If they speak the same language, ask them to speak in that language with your child as well! The more often your child hears it, the better. Speaking with people who aren’t their parents can help children become more confident and comfortable using the language.
There’s no need to insist that your child speak your native language; simply give them the opportunity to practice by speaking it yourself with neighbors, friends, and family. Even if they are resistant to speaking, they will absorb what you’re teaching. Villanizing another language or insisting that your must child speak your native language can create resentment and resistance, so always celebrate speaking and reading in any language!
Share the parts you love about your culture
Part of the reason you want to share your language with your child is that you value your heritage and traditions. Even if you don’t celebrate the same way in your new home as you did in your birth country, cherishing the holidays is a great time to get your child engaged in your culture.
As you teach your child your native language, you could reinvigorate your love for your culture. There are few things better than sharing the magic of the holidays and traditions with your children for the first time, and making these traditions part of your day-to-day life can remind you why you chose to teach your child this language in the first place.
In time, speaking to your children in your native language will become second nature. But, it’s okay if it still feels like a challenge. Getting started by downloading our tracing resources can make teaching your children a language more approachable.
Most of all, stick with it and keep sharing your heritage with your child; you’ll be glad you did!