I moved to the UK from Slovakia 8 years ago.
Our boys were born three years later.
Although I knew that English would always be their first language, I wanted them to speak Slovak too. It was unimaginable not having my children speak my first language.
While they were small and spent most of the time with me, it was not a problem. At one point, they even spoke more Slovak than English.
However, once they started to go to nursery, it became more difficult for them… and when they started school, it was almost a mission to get them speak Slovak. (If I don’t count one-word sentences, of course. ;) )
I put a lot of effort into getting them to speak more Slovak, but I saw that it just wasn’t happening naturally to them. As a parent, you don’t want to push your children, so I tried to work out the line between pushing and motivating. (Not easy at all btw! :)
However, over the years, I discovered a few powerful ways that helped the boys speak Slovak again! In fact, they now LOVE to speak Slovak to me.
If you too are a non-native parent raising a child in an English-speaking country, here are my top tips that will help your child be more confident in speaking both languages with joy and ease.
1. Make it playful!
Children love being playful, so make speaking in your first language fun! If your kids are competitive (aren’t they all? :)), you can make daily or weekly competitions. For instance, write down 20 words and say: “Who translates more words, wins!” Or, if you are a singleton mum, you can set a timer to 2 minutes and say that if they translate correctly 20 words within the time limit, they win!
2. You guessed it… read bilingual books together!
are a great way to boost your child’s confidence in speaking both languages. Make sure to read them regularly though. With our Mini book creator
, your children can also create and publish their own talking minibooks! Now, how fun is that! :)
3. Join communities that speak your first language
Your children need to hear that it is not only their mummy/daddy speaking in a different language. The more people they hear speaking your language, the faster and more natural it will be for them to pick up on it.
4. Visit your home country as often as you can
This is not currently possible for many of us, but as soon as we can travel abroad again, make sure to travel back home at least once or twice a year. When it comes to learning a language, nothing works as well as spending time in the country (immersed in the language and culture) where everyone
speaks that language.
5. Watch TV in your language
Your children need to be exposed to your language as much as possible. Watching TV works extremely well, even if you only leave it running in the background.
6. Play CD’s in your language in the car
I always have around 3 Slovak CDs with children’s songs in the car and the boys love them! I noticed that the more they listen to them, the more they speak Slovak. It is not only songs you can play though. Spoken word works just as well, if not better!
7. Create your games
Being playful is the key. Don’t be afraid to be creative and create bilingual games that will help your child speak! You can create your own cards, books, stories, arts & crafts… sky is the limit! Embrace the opportunities and remember to have fun! :)