By Rita Rosenback from www.multilingualparenting.com
I am sure we all agree that traveling broadens the mind and teaches us about different cultures and languages. Being away from your everyday environment forces you to re-evaluate your own surroundings and often also makes you appreciate what you have – this is true both for adults and children.
If you have moved away from the country where most of your relatives live, visits “back home” is an excellent way of giving your children’s minority language a real boost. Their bond with their relatives will strengthen and their understanding of the family’s heritage will improve significantly during these visits. Once your children are a bit older, consider letting them also do these visits on their own – initially perhaps in the company of other adults until they reach their destination. Not only will traveling on their own boost their confidence and provide them with valuable life skills, but they will most likely also learn more of the language if you are not there to translate for them. My eldest daughter was nine when she first stayed on her own with her grandparents in India, and it made a great positive impact on her Punjabi skills.
If you can, ask if your children can attend the local school for a few days, as this will be a truly eye-opening experience for them.
Another option to improve your children’s language skills is to arrange for them to attend a children’s holiday camp in the target language. Being immersed in the language and interacting with other children is highly motivating for kids and is undoubtedly an effective option for language learning. A more structured language learning experience for your children is to enrol them in a language course abroad – however, the costs for these two options can quickly add up.
Holiday camps or language courses abroad as well as traveling the world together as a family definitely broadens the mind but also tends to shrink the family’s bank balance! So what to do if you are the kind of parent who dreads the thought of hours on planes, trains or coaches with your kids, or if you simply can’t afford frequent visits back home?
Thankfully, with modern technology you can still introduce your kids to other cultures, countries and languages by virtually traveling the world and introducing aspects of the culture to your home. It takes a bit of preparation from the parents, but will be really rewarding for the whole family.
Some suggestions for your virtual trip:
– choose a country you want to visit, find a map of it and print it out and read about the main regions, cities and the countryside
– print some miniature flags to use as decorations
– look up typical plants for the area – you might even have some of them as house plants!
– find out what the typical pieces of clothing are in the country – maybe you can adjust some of yours to resemble them and wear them on the day
– study local recipes and prepare the food together (this obviously requires some planning as you will need to be sure to have all the necessary ingredients) and learn the names of the dishes
– look up some simple phrases in the local language and use them through-out the day – start with “Hello!”, “Thank you!” and “Goodbye!”
– learn a simple children’s rhymes in the language
– search the internet for typical local games and play these together as a family
– if your children have hobbies or special interests, search for information on how children take part in similar activities in your virtual host country
– watch videos with local artist, preferably with subtitles so you can follow what’s happening
– visit your local library to find out if there are any books relating to your virtual holiday destination – some libraries can order in books for you if you ask them in time
– if there is a community nearby with people from the country you have chosen, check if there are any activities you could take part in.
Rita & the girls
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