What if the language you were born with differs from the one your kids use daily at school, or if you and your partner each have different native languages?
Today almost one in five children in UK primary schools now has a mother tongue other than English. According to Professor Antonella Sorace, director of theBilingualism Matters centre at Edinburgh University, the demand for information and advice on how to navigate the challenges of bilingual parenting is now “enormous”.
Top tips the centre often gives includes encouraging parents not to wait for children to have a good start on a first language before introducing the second – that approach pretty much guarantees kids will see the second language as less important.
Many experts recommend the “one parent, one language” method for a bilingual home, with each parent speaking their own language, but this method doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes children hear one language far more than the other, especially if both parents understand the dominant language. Another challenge familiar to many bilingual parents is children simply resisting speaking a language other than English, particularly once they go to school. However, as the families we spoke to below show, the rewards of persevering are huge: bilingualism can add great richness to a family’s life and identity.
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