Monday, 6 August 2012

RAISING BILINGUAL CHILDREN: 5 ways to get your kids talking (a minority language)

On the Dover-Calais ferry, another memory to chat about...
1. Games

We play this one:
Say we are driving home, I might announce (in French), 'OK, let's see if we can make it all the way home without slipping into English once. Anyone who does gets beeped!' Sooner or later someone slips up, everyone shouts 'BEEEEP!' at the top of their voice and we all have a good laugh. Lots of French and lots of fun.

Sometimes we play French 'I Spy', either completely in French, or just the word is French and we talk about it in English.

We also have some French word games. 'Taboo' exists in French, which really gets kids talking. We have a French board game called 'Vocabulon', which is from about age 8, where you have to guess the word on a card from a multiple choice list of definitions. Schmoo is actually better at this than I am..!

2. Sentence stories

This is great fun and can take you in surprising directions! The idea is to tell a story as a group, each person gets one sentence. So you could start, 'Once there was a little mouse who loved lollipops.' Your child carries on, 'But she didn't have any lollipops, so she went out to look for some.' Your other child takes a turn: 'Instead she met a big bad wolf who wanted to eat her!' and so on...

3. Contradiction

Say something totally silly and they cannot wait to jump in and set you straight. Eg, 'Of course, all elephants have black & orange stripes...' or 'Japan is the capital of London, but I just can't remember which language they talk there... I think it's Portuguese...' Watch them laugh and enjoy telling you how wrong you are!

4. Talking prompts

Sometimes it's easier to have something concrete to talk about. Picture postcards are great for this, you can take it in turns to tell the story of the picture. Sentimental objects can get you started on memories too, such as an old plastic bucket that reminds you of a wonderful day beside the sea.

5. Something brilliant, something horrid & something funny

This is a good one for the dinner table and can help with getting kids to open up about their day. Everyone takes a turn, adults too, to say the best thing, the worst thing & the funniest thing that happened to them that day.

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  1. Great tips! Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks, they've all been very useful to us :-)

  2. I like the idea of games. I do think that sometimes my husband and I communicate our slight tenseness on the topic of bilingualism to my son.

    Plus, it would be good for me too (I'm the one who really needs to practice our other language).

    1. Yes, it's great to just have fun with our languages sometimes, especially if it's not your mother tongue!


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