1. Create the Motivation!
It is fine for one language to be a priority on a bilingual family. But if this is the case, it is important to let the children know that both languages are equally important and useful, even if one is used more frequently than another. Parents in bilingual families need to create reasons for their children to want to learn the minority language and make it relevant to their lives and their first language too! Be sure to find ways to make the new language relevant to their personal interests and try including it in the activities that they most enjoy.
2. Read, Read, Read
Reading or telling stories in the minority language can be an excellent way to spark children’s interest in it. Provide your children with singular or dual language books for them to compare and contrast both languages and connect meanings between the two.
3. Connect the Language to the Family History
Language only really comes alive when it is placed in a clear and meaningful context. So be sure to take the time to create that meaning and context for your child with the minority language in the family. Talk to them about family history, culture and traditions of the country where the language is spoken. Why not bring it alive by recreating those traditions and cooking a favorite family recipe or celebrating the most popular traditions.
4. Divide Parenting Language Roles
Although it may be tempting for both parents to speak the primary and minority language to their children, this can become confusing and even overwhelming for these new learners. Parents should aim to speak their native languages to their children when possible. This allows the bilingual child time to focus on one language at a time from each parent, separating them and connecting them to their parent’s identity, while making connections between the clear differences
5. Make Time for Minority Language
Although a child who is learning a second language within the family may be constantly exposed to it to some degree, it is important to make time to focus on the language specifically. Setting aside specific time for second language time playtime or other activities, allows the parent and the child time to focus and concentrate on the current language goals at hand.
6. Music, Rhythm and Dance
Young children often learn a great deal though music and rhythm, especially if their musical intelligence or sensitivity to music are particularly well developed. And this applies to second language learning as well. Listening to and singing along with songs, chants and finger plays in the minority language, are excellent ways of teaching “chunks” of the new language to the child, as well as making it fun and memorable for them.
7. Provide Extra Resources
Modern children enjoy versatile ways of learning and thrive on new opportunities and materials for doing so. Provide you child with a wide variety of resources for practicing and experimenting with the minority language. Whether this involves watching TV or movies in the target language, downloading iPad or Computer applications relevant to the language or looking for games, arts and crafts and other activities that demonstrate the language to them, these resources will all surely draw in their interest.
8. Get outside help!
Sometimes getting a child to focus on learning the minority language can be hard, particularly if they know all family members already speak their first language. Even though one or more parent may be native speakers in the target language, it is sometimes more beneficial to seek outside support in the shape of language classes or activities in the target language. Children may feel more comfortable expressing themselves with someone outside of the family unit, while they are still learning.