Is it okay to speak my home language to my child?
One of the most common questions I hear as a public health nurse who works with families of young children is if it’s ok to speak another language to your child. Parents often worry that if their child speaks their home language they may become language-confused and disadvantaged when starting school.
My response to parents is always a reassuring “Yes! It’s a great idea to speak your home language to your child.” In doing so you are actually providing several advantages to your child.
Cultural: You are your child’s best teacher. Speaking in your home language helps to build family bonds and loving relationships. Parenting in your home language is often easier as you can communicate naturally with your child, be responsive to their questions and also be more spontaneous. By speaking your home language you create opportunities to teach your child about their heritage and culture while exposing them to a rich and diverse vocabulary. What a wonderful experience for your child!
Brain development: Studies show that bilingualism makes the brain stronger! Learning more than one language can actually boost a child’s brain in the areas of language, memory and attention. Also, children who develop strong language skills in their first language can learn a second language more easily, and often do better at school.
Learning a second language can happen at any age, however, it is much easier to do so from birth. Amazingly, hearing a variety of languages during pregnancy prepares an unborn baby’s brain to learn more than one language right from the start!
For children learning two languages from birth (simultaneous learning), and also for children learning a second language after learning a first language (sequential learning), here are a few proven tips to teach your child multiple languages:
- Children need to hear and practise speaking each language often
- Read, tell stories, play and sing to your child in your home language
- Children learn language best from people who are fluent and speak that language well
- Children need to use the languages in day-to-day activities while having fun with people who care about them
- Organize or join playgroups with families who share the same home language
- Join a group where your child can hear and practice a second language at your local library, EarlyON Child and Family Centre, YMCA, or community group
- Be patient. Learning more than one language takes time and many occasions to practice
It may reassure you to know that learning more than one language at a young age does not cause or contribute to language delays. In fact, acquiring strong speech and language skills in any language positively impacts a child’s success in school and in later life.
There are just so many benefits to teaching your child your home language or any other languages, so go for it! The benefits will last a lifetime and when your child grows up they will say…….
If you have concerns about your child’s speech and language development, or any other area of development, please give us a call, we are here to help.
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For parenting information, or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.