The last year and a half has taken a toll on all of us. Life came to a slow crawl and so did my efforts on BhashaKids. It's been a full year since I updated the blog, and I thank you for your patience. Vaccination rates are going up, kids are going back to school and despite the enormous challenges, I'm optimistic about our future.
No one expects you to have accomplished everything you set out to do in 2020. The sheer fact that we survived is enough. We are enough. It may seem like with everything we have to do in daily life - work, kids, laundry, running a household, taking care of ourselves and elders - how can there be any expectation to actually teach our kids our mother tongues too?!
BhashaKids is here to be your cheerleader. Lower your expectations ...and then lower them some more. I have some simple, short term goals for my kids when it comes to our languages - right now, verbal fluency and literacy is NOT on the list. Here are some low hanging fruit you can aim for with the kids:
1. Make it casual. Intersperse phrases from your target language in daily life. Give common instructions like "Drink your water" or "Brush your teeth" in your target language. It's easy to do this since its a repetitive statement. I mean... I have to say this EVERYDAY in my house. Its casual but also purposeful in that you are strategically exposing and immersing them in your target language.
2. Normalize multilingualism
- VIP: Don't use your language only for punishment, but also for praise. The word ADI (spanking in Malayalam) is burned into my memory. As @tamilforkids aptly said recently, "in order to learn it, they should first like it."
- it's actually quite common across the world to speak more than one language. You aren't different!
3. Accents are OK!
- Estimates show 43% of the world's population is bilingual. (1) In fact, 15% of urban Indians are multilingual - meaning millions of Indians are polyglots. (2) Compare that to America, where only 20% of the population is bilingual. (3)
They are a sign of courage (badly paraphrased from Amy Chua).
4. Have fun with it: Watch Movies with English subtitles, listen to music, watch cricket where the commentators are speaking your language (thanks Hotstar!), read books, watch cartoons, and play games with our flashcards.
- Everyone has an accent of some kind - American, Desi, British, etc. It's OK if parents have an accent while speaking English AND it's OK if kids have an accent while speaking your target language.
5. Connect with a relative: Teach simple phrases and try it out, such as "How are you?" and "I miss you". Call family on a video app and encourage them to have a 5 minute conversation with your child in your target language.
(1) "Multilingual People." ilovelanguages.org, 2018.
(2) "52% of India’s urban youth are now bilingual", Rema Nagarajan, Times of India, November 7, 2018.
(3) "Half of the World is Bilingual. What's our problem?" Jay Mathews, Education Reporter, Washington Post, April 25, 2019.