We know that immigrant parents, and parents who are raising their child bilingually in Calgary have many questions. At the centre of their concern, is the desire to do the best for their child. Here are some ideas for ways you can help your child.
- Keep speaking your first language/mother tongue. This language is a strong resource for learning English! This language also serves to teach your child about your home culture, to develop a strong sense of identity, and to communicate with his first language community – including extended family members who may not speak English.
Challenge your child in your home language! Make a point to introduce more difficult vocabulary and provide explanations, examples, definitions and synonyms in your ‘parent talk’.
- Talk a lot! Children who hear a lot of language simply know more words earlier in life. They tend to be more talkative, and these children develop the tools early on for interacting and controlling their unfolding world. Invite your child into the conversation and enjoy this special time in their childhood … it doesn’t last very long, and soon they’re off to school!
Tell stories about your family and your culture. Do you have ‘Family Treasures’? -Photos, recipes, jewelry, traditional clothing, pottery, or anything that holds special memories and a good story.
- Read, read and read to your child in your language. Many libraries are making an effort to secure dual language books, or, building a collection of children’s literature in Calgary’s diverse languages. Read the same stories over and over … children enjoy this activity and learn through repetition and patterning.
- If you are confident in your English language skills, read to your child in English as well as in your first language.
- Make regular trips to the library and instill a love of books and reading in your child. In the long run, your child will develop almost all of his vocabulary through independent reading.
- Model the reading habit for your child. Have newspapers, magazines, novels and other reading materials around your home, and talk to your child about what you are learning yourself from reading these materials.
- Encourage your child to interact and make friends with native English speaking (NS) children. Whether informally on the playground, or through organized activities such as sports and clubs, NS children provide informal language and social role models.
- Enroll your child in a sports activity or a club. Many communities have soccer teams, for example, for children of all ages. This will provide contact with other adults, teach your child skills for team play and informal social interaction, as well as support cultural integration. Everyone benefits.
- Supervise homework. Even if you can’t speak a word of English, you can provide a structured setting for doing school related work, beginning at a young age. Recognize that your child will have to work overtime to do the ‘catch up’ work in English. Be patient, supportive and encouraging in this effort.
- Keep a list of questions you have about how your child is learning, and bring these to the school at parent-teacher meetings. It is very common for parents to feel left out and confused.