Hello! In this Vlog I offer some tips on how to respond to your child when they answer you in what one parent called, the “wrong” language. If you’re struggling to get your child to respond in the home language but all they wanna do is talk in the majority language, then this video is for you.

Here’s what we talk about in this video:

There’s no need to correct your child. Instead, acknowledge what your child has said. You can do this by saying the word in the non-target language and then again in your home language OR just acknowledging what your child has said by repeating it in your home language and then discuss what they’ve just commented on.

Some parents ask if they should tell their child, “This word means X in our home language.” Rather than constantly using that same phrase again and again, just teach the word in context.  What do I mean by that?

So, if your target language is Spanish, and your child says, “ball” in English, then touching the ball, say the word in Spanish, “pelota.” And then talk about how the BALL (pelota) is round, how the BALL bounces, the colors of the BALL- in Spanish. This gives your child context with the new word and helps to build their vocabulary. 

Now if your child is over four-years-old then your child has what we call metalinguistic awareness. They can name the languages they speak, they can tell you when a word is in which language. Between two-to-four years of age, your child understands that different people speak different languages and they’ll usually speak the language being spoken around them so long as they have the vocabulary in that language to do just that. But, they don’t really have the awareness of how to “assign” certain words to certain languages. They aren’t really aware of what makes the languages different. For example, if you say, tell me the word “shoes” in Spanish to a two-year-old, they might not quite get what you mean by saying it Spanish. They might be able to do it because they know the word zapatos but that doesn’t mean they quite know how to categorize words by language. This skill of language awareness, or metalinguistic awareness, comes in later.

Whether this last paragraph made sense or not, the takeaway is that you don’t need to correct your child or tell them it’s wrong to speak the majority language. Rather, you can model what your child has said. Give your child language around the words that they’re commenting on so that they not only learn that one word but many other words that are related to that word. The bird is blue. The bird is flying. The bird is in the tree! Wowza, so many words!

I hope you found this helpful and even though I am quite embarrassed by my very obviously novice skills from how I present on video to how I edit, I hope that you’ll share this anyway and leave a comment below!

You’re doing an amazing job, Parent!