Right from the start, we knew we had a very unique opportunity in raising bilingual kids.
And while it was all very exciting (especially for Mr Surfer) at first, the reality is that having only one parent speak the second language does add extra responsibility and pressure for said parent.
For the purpose of this post, let me clarify that the term ‘bilingual’ can be wide and varied. Just as ‘fluent’ can be perceived in different ways. However, for me and my family and for now, it simply means to be able to converse and comprehend in another language.
The twinions are picking up Indonesian at an alarmingly fast pace. Their vocabulary is around 100 words, they know how to count to 10, they know about a dozen songs by heart and now they’re stringing sentences together. It’s kinda scary.
They’re becoming so confident, they correct their linguistically impaired father with his pronounciation:
“No Papa. Not ‘Sepe-DA’ (Bike). It’s ‘SE-peda”
During a drive (where I was absent), K-Bear asked his father what ‘house’ was in Indonesian. Catching his father by complete surprise, K-Bear was not satisfied with the “I’m sorry, I don’t know” answer.”
Throughout the entire 20 minute trip, he screamed from his back seat, demanding his father tell him. Right. NOW!!!
Below are some tips for raising bilingual kids when only one parent speaks the second language. It’s all based on experiences, trial, error and the occasional tantrum. (And they’re just the ones from me).
1. Talk to them in the language as much as you can from early on.
From Day 1 in NICU, I would hold the twins and sing to them all the Indonesian nursery rhymes my mother sang to me. Then, when it was just us 3 at home and they were tiny tots, speaking to them in Indonesian felt somewhat strange. Was it soaking it? Was it making any difference? Was I better off talking to a wall?
2. Use resources that work for you.
We have scoured high and low for books in Bahasa Indonesia and bought a couple from Amazon.com and Asia Bookroom. However, it’s now just easier (and cheaper) to ask my relatives to send some over. It’s generally a hit and miss as some books are too wordy or just too old for them. But we’ll just keep building that library. Just in case.
We came across a fantastic language DVD resource on a website called Dinolingo.com.
We searched “Bahasa Indonesia for kids” on YouTube and these crazy, random clips of dancing dinosaurs and hippos in balloons appeared…speaking in Indonesian. The boys loved it! So, we went to the website and bought their educational pack, which consists of 5 CD’s and loads of flashcards, posters and other visual aids.
A little pricey (around $150 US) but we’ve definitely seen the value.
The packages are in other languages that aren’t too common like Swahili, Albanian, Tagalog (Filipino) and even Urdu.
When my mum made a trip to Indonesia 2 years ago I asked her to bring back DVD’s of Indonesian children’s songs. The great thing about the DVD’s are that not only are they extremely visual, the lyrics appear at the bottom – karaoke style. There are plenty of songs (it’s a 4 DVD set!) I don’t know but because the lyrics are there, I get to learn along with the boys.
Another great educational website is Mama Lisa which has a collection of MP3’s and YouTube videos of children’s songs from all around the world.
3. Have grandparents involved
I’ve specifically asked my parents to only speak Indonesian to the twinion. In fact, over the weekend, mum decided to throw a bit of her own dialect (Batak). The boys took to it like parrots.
I happened to be in the other room when l I could hear my mum counting to 10 in Batak and the boys repeating her. My own childhood memories (especially of getting into trouble) started flowing back when I heard her tell them to “Hatop!” (Hurry up!) and “Unang!” (Don’t do that!)
When their carers at daycare ask the twinions if they’re going to visit their ‘grandparents’, they’ll promptly correct them. No, they say. They’re going to see their ‘Opung’ (Grandma) and ‘Tata’ (Grandpa).
4. Make it part of your daily schedule
When the twinions come home absolutely baked from a full on day at pre-school, we switch on DinoLingo for them to wind down while I cook dinner. So, if we haven’t spoken Bahasa all day, we make sure that there’s at least 30 minutes of it at the end of the day.
5. Fine line between encouraging and “forcing”
My twinions will tell me when they feel like talking in Bahasa and when they don’t.
We can have half an hour straight driving in the car, when the boys will enthusiastically tell me when they see a ‘pohon’ (tree), ‘rumput’ (grass), ‘awan’ (cloud) or the ‘matahari’ (sun).
But then there are moments when it’s a bilingual boycott. Don’t wanna talk. Don’t wanna converse. And that’s cool. Best to just leave it.
The twinions may, or may not keep an interest in learning Bahasa as they get older. What’s most important in exposing them to another language is that, subconsciously, they’re also assimilating into another culture. And if there’s anything they take away from all of this, I hope it’s that; an understanding of their heritage and background.
There are arguments that introducing another language causes confusion and delayed speech. I have my own thoughts about all of that. Best though, to leave it for another post.
Do you speak another language at home? What are your tips? What challenges do you face? Are there any languages you’d like to teach your child/ren?
Joining Essentially Jess for IBOT