Here at LinguaMites, we are partnering with several families in their journey towards raising multilingual children. Together, we all believe in the benefits, although none of us are in denial about the deliberate path we’ve set for ourselves and our families. We realise that there is a long road to walk to get where we want our children to be. On the multilingualliving.com website, a comparison is made between the journey we are on as parents of multilingual children, to that of going on a camping trip. I thought this was a brilliant analogy for understanding the terrain ahead and how to plan, so below is my (slightly) edited version of what can be found on their site:
5 steps to get us started on our multilingual adventure and to keep us on track as our journey progresses:
These 5 steps are the big-ticket items that can make or break our family’s multilingual adventure. Whether we bring our red or blue toothbrush for the journey doesn’t really matter. We can’t get caught up in the little details right now.
We need to focus on whether we have enough food and water, whether our shoes will hold up for the whole trip, and what we’ll do if we get caught in an unexpected snowstorm.
Are you ready?
Then let’s make sure we have the 5 steps organized in our lives so that the real Multilingual Living journey can begin:
The first step along the way is to figure out where we are headed. North, south, east or west?
We need to define some important elements such as:
What language(s) are we taking along with us on this journey?
Do I or my spouse speak the language as a native speaker?
Will we be learning a language together with our family members?
Do we feel comfortable speaking the language?
Are we focused on second language learning, bilingualism or multilingualism?
Step two asks the question of how we are going to get to where we are headed. The modes of transport are endless and there are many different ways to get to the same place!
Who will be speaking each language during our language journey? If it’s not the parents, what outside organization or individual is going to get us there?
How will we help ourselves and our children get (and stay) interested in the language?
Will we provide opportunities for this language to be used?
Step three focuses on the terrain. We need to understand the lay of the land along our route. What obstacles are we bound to face and how might we confront and resolve them?
What kind of language support do we have in our community?
Are our friends and family (especially spouse) on board with our language adventure plans?
Have we thought about what our needs are going to be to continue with this language adventure?
What are our options when our child is going to formal schooling?
How much priority are we prepared to give this long term?
It is important that we make sure that we have all of the equipment and food that we’ll need along the way. We need to have the right gear to make the journey comfortable, fun and motivating!
What kinds of materials do we have available to help enhance the language? Books? DVDs? Games?
Are there opportunities for us and our children to be around other adults and kids who speak the target language?
Will we travel to countries where the language is spoken? If so, how often?
How often will we and our child hear and have the chance to use the target language?
The last preliminary step is to decide the duration of our language journey. Are we going to travel for a year or a lifetime? The length of our adventure will determine how far we can go.
Would we like our family to be able to speak the language enough to travel?
Perhaps we want our family to be able to converse comfortably with people on the streets?
What are our thoughts on learning to read and write in more than one language?
Maybe we have even considered our children doing formal schooling differently in order to support their language learning?
We’ll have to start considering these questions now but we can adjust them along the trail. You should regularly speak to others, or consult with LinguaMites to help you figure out how far you feel comfortable traveling.