10 Steps to Actually Teach Your Child Your Native Language
A by-product of our diverse world, is that parents have to actively teach their child to be bilingual. People live far away from family, and language is the only connection to home.
Sadly so many people start the process, feeling like they have already failed. Teaching a new language can be overwhelming. Especially when your kids use another language to play and learn with everyday.
Teaching Hindi to your child, is hard. It can feel like a constant, uphill battle.
There are multiple hurdles slowing parents down, confusing them and delaying results. Sometimes it’s fear of not being perfect enough, other’s criticism, lack of support and many more things.
Below are 10 solid tactics to help you breathe, take some pressure off yourself and focus on getting results for the long term.
You don’t have to be great at Hindi — just good enough
So many parents I have worked with say, “I would speak Hindi at home, but I am so bad at it,” or, “I would…but I always confuse my grammar.”
If you can speak the Hindi at all (even if it is broken and grammatically incorrect) — then I say go ahead and start using it with your kid.
Why not? Your child can learn the broken language now and then polish it later. It is better than nothing.
The Key: You can give your kids a solid foundation of the Hindi now. Once they learn the basics, they can build upon it as they get older. This is much better than starting from scratch later in life.
Stop listening to your non-supportive, critical relatives
Sometimes usually supportive family members can be overly critical when they think your child is “losing their roots.” I’ve heard lots of parents being shamed — “How can they speak to us when they come visit?” or “What! They only speak English?”
This can make you feel guilty and demotivated. Letting them affect you will slow down your progress.
Ignore them and do what is best for you. If that means exposing your child to your language, then focus your energy there.
Zero-in on the positive. Find some family who is excited to be a part of your child’s learning process without being judgmental. Maybe they can Skype chat with your child once a month?
Be your own benchmark. Don’t compare your progress to other people’s.
Focus on where you have started and how far you have come. It could be simple. For example, if your child knows 10 more words at the end of the month, that’s a win.
Other people have a multitude of factors that lead to their success. You can’t recreate their exact situation, but maybe you can get some tips and use it to help you.
The Key: Just do you. Be good to yourself and focus in on your own journey with your kid.
Do what you think is best
A cousin of mine, who had a full time job, decided to teach her daughter Hindi by showing her Indian movies her entire childhood.
While it didn’t teach her how to speak very well (she can speak in broken sentences), it did help her daughter understand the language perfectly.
The Key: My cousin ignored the experts who said that she had to speak to her child ONLY in Hindi for it to work. She ignored all those parents who said the subliminal messages in Hindi films were problematic.
She did her own thing. And it gave her real results.
Don’t judge too soon
If you just started introducing the language to your child — and feel like you haven’t gotten the right response from your kid. Maybe you can step back and try something new. If your child isn’t getting it, they will.
It is possible, and you will eventually get results.
The Key: Don’t lose hope. Judging too soon might make you give up entirely — and miss out on huge successes that are just around the corner. Give it a real shot.
Enjoy the journey
It doesn’t have to be a boring task to reinforce the language at home. Make it enjoyable for both you and your child. If you don’t know some words — take the opportunity to learn it together.
Don’t get hyper focused on goals like “my son should be able to talk to my grandparents in a 2 months.”
The Key: Go with the flow and have fun with it. The learning will come.
Find other people in your community to help
Take some pressure off of yourself and have your child talk to someone else in the community once a week in the new language. Maybe get a babysitter who speaks the language.
The Key: You don’t have to do everything yourself.
Make it less of a big deal
Chill out. Don’t over analyze when, how, what you will focus on to incorporate the language. Just include it in any way you can.
Maybe in your daily tasks. Play a game in the language. Watch more songs/movies/TV in the target language.
The Key: Don’t make the language a chore for either you or your child.
Break it down: exposing to a language & speaking
Make it easier on yourself and focus on either 1. Exposing to the language or 2. Having your child speak the language.
Don’t think you have to do it all. Do one or the other. Let someone else pick up the rest of the slack.
The Key: Break down the daunting task of learning a whole language. Pick the parts you want to teach and get help for the other parts.
Try not to feel guilty.
Parents I work with often feel an overwhelming sense of guilt during the language learning process. They feel like it is their fault, if their child isn’t “perfect” or they aren’t seeing tangible results.
- Something is better than nothing. If you focus on the positive progress and reward yourself and your child whenever you can — teaching your language can be fun.
So, start messily, teach messily and ask others for help.
Either way, your child doesn’t know the difference and the benefit of starting NOW rather than later, will be huge.
Good luck! You got this.