I have a five year old daughter who was completely fluent in my husband’s and my native language which is not English until one year ago when we moved to a place that has mostly English-speaking residents and all her friends speak English. Even though I home school and speak in our language, she now prefers English and tells me she doesn’t like our language. Do I just give up on our language or attempt to make more friends with people who speak our language? Or should I start watching videos in our language when we don’t normally watch any television? She really loves the videos but I feel conflicted because I am worried that she might become addicted to watching videos. I know that our relationship is more important than learning our language, but without knowing the language, she will not be able to communicate with our parents whom she sees from time to time, though not on a regular basis.
There is no one right answer and either way is fine. I spoke a second language to each one of my children until they asked to speak only English. When they did, I respected their wish and that was the end of the second language. Yet, even speaking a second language only till age four or five is valuable. It sharpens the brain and helps the child to realize that words are not reality but only a way to communicate about our experiences.
But, our children’s relatives all speak English and I didn’t think the issue was very important. If you feel it is important for your child to know the language of your family, you can keep speaking to her in your language. She will respond in English, but it will keep the language alive for her. You can also read her books, tell stories and sometimes see films (rather than regular videos.) Spending time with friends who speak the language is helpful too.
Keep in mind that this is not a life or death decision. Life will be wonderful for all of you either way.
Warmly, Naomi Aldort, www.AuthenticParent.com