Archive for Siblings

Siblings

Question:
 
I have two kids (almost 5 and almost 3), growing up with majority language English and minority language German. We’re going with OPOL as much as possible and practical – but when it comes down to it, I’m their main source of German and I work full-time, so you can imagine….
We are doing quite well as far as bilingualism goes, but my question is how do I try to get the two to speak German to each other (and not just to me and other German-speakers we know), at least when we’re at home or when it’s just the three of us (my husband doesn’t really speak German, though he understands a bit)? And should I even do this, given that they go to daycare together where English is the main language?

Any insights you might have are much appreciated!

 
This is a tough one. I’ve tried many times to redirect my girls to switch to French when they speak to one another but it never lasts for very long. The research shows that siblings will most often choose to speak to one another in the community language. It simply shows the power of the dominant language and how quickly children understand its central role in their lives. But the good news is that it does not indicate that children are losing their heritage language skills. Research shows that even though children choose to speak the community language with one another, it does not mean that they are not developing fluency in their heritage language as well.
 
That said, I have met parents whose children speak the heritage language with one another. But in all cases, the parents spoke the same minority language at home, and the children simply built their own relationship with one another in that language from the start, before any – or very little – exposure to the community language.
 
What you can try to do is have an honest and sincere conversation with them about what it means to you to hear them speak your native language, especially when it’s just the three of you. As they get older, it might become something special that you can share together.
 
In the meantime, you can focus on what you can control and that is to provide fun and creative activities for them to do in your native language to build up their vocabulary. In the last two chapters of Bilingual By Choice, I include 100 activities to do at home and in the community that can get you started!
 
Thanks for the great question! I saw on your blog that you’re from Ontario – I used to live in Elora – & my husband’s originally from Hamilton – Good luck with French Immersion in September, I’m so envious!!
 
 

 

 

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