For most bilingual children who attend school in the majority language, long school days, homework, and extra-curricular activities, unfortunately mean there is often little time for minority language activities before bedtime. As parents aiming to bring up bilingual or multilingual children, once school starts it can feel as if the majority language has a monopoly on our kids’ time. The school summer holidays offer an ideal time for your family to refocus on the minority language. Away from the pressures of school and the rush of schedules, you can take a break from constant immersion in the majority language. Here are my top 10 ideas for your family to boost your minority language/s this summer.
Boost Your Minority Language This Summer: 10 Ideas
1. Games (in the minority language)
Enjoy some quiet time at home and get out your board games. The kids will appreciate both your time and attention, and most games can be adapted and played in any language. Don’t forget you can also make your own little games too. Pictionary is popular with kids of all ages and benefits both reading and communication skills. As well as boosting your minority language, playing games also is a great way to reconnect with your kids after a busy term at school.
2. Minority language movie night
Enjoy the freedom from early mornings and the school run and relax your bedtime routine! Gather around for a family film in the minority language and stay up late together. Even kids who are reluctant to engage in minority language activities will be sure to take part. You can opt for a dubbed version of their favorite blockbusters, of course, but why not try to introduce them to something with additional multicultural value? Exposing your children to original literature and cinema will add a rich cultural dimension. Here are some movie suggestions for those with Spanish as a minority language.
3. Reading in the minority language
Without the worry of school homework to complete, the summer holidays provide an excellent time to inspire your kids with minority language books and magazines. Why not sign up for a minority language magazine subscription or order some new chapter books ready for the beginning of the holidays? Try out different genres from non-fiction books to poems and comics, activity books, and quizzes too!
Don’t forget to find time to keep reading to your kids in the minority language once they’ve learned to read themselves. Children still benefit enormously from being read to as they get older, and it’s an important time to reconnect with them after a busy working day.
In the UK, children are challenged to read at least six books over the summer holidays. The Summer Reading Challenge is run through local libraries and aims to encourage independent reading in children aged 4 to 11. Why not add an extra challenge and see if your child can read six minority language books?
4. Visit your minority language family/home country
The summer is a perfect time to visit friends and family in your minority language country. Time to relax and play with monolingual cousins and peers is an easy way to boost your minority language. This post from Our ml Home has some great ideas for making the most out of your trip.
5. Take a holiday in a country that speaks your minority language
If your minority-language-speaking family live too far away for annual visits, or if you are raising your kids in a non-native language, take family trips to a minority-language country to expose your child to the language/s in a natural way. Again see Our ml Home for tips if you are staying away from relatives. Try to find accommodation with shared facilities so your children will have the opportunity to play with monolingual children.
Remember, stay away from popular tourist resorts or you are likely to be surrounded by speakers of the majority language instead! To reduce the cost of accommodation over the peak season, you can look at exchanging your home through a website like HomeExchange.
6. Holiday clubs / summer camps / summer schools
If both parents are working full-time over the summer, look into language-themed summer holiday schemes closer to home. Language immersion holiday camps are more common in the US, but there are a few in the UK. If you are able to travel to a minority language country, sign your children up for a day camp aimed at local children with working parents. If you have older children you can look into residential summer camps abroad. And if you aim for local programs rather than those for language learners, your child will have the advantage of total immersion and will be surrounded by monolingual peers.
Another popular option for older kids and teenagers is summer school language classes abroad. These can be an excellent option when more formal instruction is required, for example, for exam preparation. Check the number of students per group and try to avoid a language school with high numbers of students from your majority language country.
7. Summer au pair
If you can’t get away this summer, you could bring the minority language into your home with an au pair over the school holidays. This is a great solution for parents who will be working over the summer, and could work out more economically than full-time holiday clubs. There are agencies in each country that can help you find a suitable young person, or ask around in your local minority language-speaking community to see if anyone has contacts.
8. Cooking together
A fun way to boost your minority language is by making some special food to share together! You could perhaps make something that reminds you of your home country or childhood. Creating a cultural connection to a language is an important motivator for bilingual language development. In this photo, my son is making blue corn tortillas!
Also look out for Cooking with Languages, fun bilingual (currently available in Spanish/English) recipe books that teach languages through cookery! This is particularly helpful for non-native parents who may not be familiar with the cuisine of the minority language country(ies).
9. Hire a tutor
Is your child struggling with reading and writing in the minority language? If you don’t have time to fit in language lessons during term time, how about scheduling some time with a tutor during the summer holidays? For a cheaper option consider finding a student looking to make extra cash over the university summer holidays.
10. Invite your family or minority language friends to visit you
If you are unable to take time off for a trip abroad, you can boost your minority language by inviting your friends and family to your home over the summer. This is a great solution for grandparents that are retired or siblings who still studying, as they are often able to stay for extended periods. It’s a wonderful way for children to get to know their extended family, and they will be excited to share their home life and city with their family members from abroad.
Whatever your situation, I hope these 10 tips have inspired you to boost your minority language/s during the school summer holidays. I’d love to hear about your experiences!
Photo credit: All photos are my own.
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- 10 Ways to Boost Your Minority Language This Summer - July 23, 2023