Four reasons to teach your kids your home language

To speak or not to speak?  How important is one’s home language or mother tongue? These are questions that immigrant families ponder. While there is no clear answer to the questions, here are four factors to consider.

1. Language and culture are intertwined.
Language is the vehicle in which family culture and values are often transmitted. Learning a language will help children in learning about the culture, and help children gain more appreciation and respect for different cultures.

2. Language can strengthen family ties.
Being able to communicate with grandparents and extended family members in a home language can help bring a family closer together.

3.  There are positive intellectual benefits.
Studies suggest that learning additional languages may help children excel academically, and develop more flexibility in thinking and concept formation.  Children with additional language skills can differentiate and switch back and forth between languages, and identify what language to speak with whom.

4. An additional language is an asset.
Whether at work or in everyday life, being able to communicate with others in multiple languages is an excellent communication skill to have. It can also bring economic benefits, since the more languages that a person can speak, the more opportunities they will have.

How to maintain your native language at home

Children are fast learners and can easily learn multiple languages at one time. To build a strong foundation to learn languages, start them out as early as possible. Find a balance between affirming the home language and mastering English, by encouraging and supporting them (and yourself) in different ways. For example:

•    Speak to your children regularly in your home language, and encourage them to respond in it as well. Singing and reading are also fun and effective ways to learn a language.

•    Be your child’s role model, and be proud of speaking your home language, while also ensuring you are fully capable of communicating in English.

•    Expose children to your home language by bringing them to places with people who speak it. If possible, visit your country of origin to immerse children in language and culture.

•    Check out local heritage schools and heritage organizations that might also offer great language programs for children.

•    Organize playdates with families that speak your home language, and encourage the children to play and communicate in that language when they are alone. But encourage them to speak in English when in larger groups and at school.

•    Expose your children to learning materials in home languages. Many local public libraries and bookstores have great selections of books, CDs and DVDs in different languages.

•    Research and utilize the wealth of information and resources on the internet for great learning tools in learning languages.


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