Problems experienced by parents and carers in raising children bilingually

At our third LATL-lab Parent and carer workshop on raising children bilingually on 3rd November 2016,  we asked participants to share problems they have experienced on post-its and pass them to the front.

3rd LATL-lab workshop, November 2016

Here they are! We will be addressing some of these problems parents and carers have experienced raising children bilingually in these pages, and we will link to answers as we compose them. Meanwhile, take a look at our sister site on Growing up with Two Languages.

  1. Not enough people to practice the language with.
  2. I am not a native Japanese speaker, so my husband feels it is unnatural speaking Japanese as a family at home- this makes it hard for him to choose Japanese. As I speak Japanese as 2nd language I often struggle with confidence.
  3. I am a grandmother. My son’s wife is Dutch, and they are speaking Dutch to their child. I don’t speak Dutch, so how can I support a child growing up in New Zealand with a Dutch-speaking mother?
  4. If you speak with broken English people assume you to be less smart.
  5. How do I make sure my son can explain himself in day care? When he needs something he mostly uses Persian words! When other kids talk with him in English, he can’t communicate well in English which I am not sure if that affect his self-esteem. He just turned two.
  6. Afraid that child will not be able to speak English and not able to communicate with people outside.
  7. Kids do not like to learn home language. We don’t have or it is difficult to find materials. Poor teaching skills.
  8. In-laws being “afraid” or against the minority language.
  9. Only one parent speaks the language and it is the father. No other families speak the language. It is easier to speak English than French.
  10. Partner doesn’t speak my language, so I tend to speak in English most of my time.
  11. As children get older, avoiding talking to the parent because it’s too hard and they know they’re allowed to speak English to other parent.
  12. How to let a child get used to a second language as quicker as possible?
  13. Create a Chinese speaking environment for children.
  14. Those who don’t understand don’t like hearing me speaking the language.
  15. 168 languages spoken in NZ. Intergenerational transmission has been interrupted.
  16. Teachers not knowing or using the minority language.
  17. Only fluent parent passed away. Immigrant families put into preschools with no English comprehension.
  18. Husband not understanding the second language. Not able to communicate effectively with others who don’t speak my language.
  19. Expectation you can speak more of the majority language only when say “hello” or thank you in their language. Parent, teachers and my children only want to speak English.
  20. Explaining forms to families that don’t speak English.
  21. English speaking parent desperately wanting to speak minority languages but , minority language speakers switch constantly to English, or excluded from minority speaking, events as they don’t want English influence.
  22. From teacher to parent on phone is often quite hard as you cannot use non-verbal cues etc. that you use face to face.
  23. Embarrassment and confusion between English and home language.  No English speaking parent.
  24. Daughter is at primary school and friends and everything is in English. I feel like can’t speak our language in front of others. Fear of my kids feeling ashamed to speak their home language.
  25. Parents do not speak the native language. Fear of child hearing me as a parent speaking English to other children, afraid he will start speaking English with me instead of the minority language.
  26. How to teach our children Chinese structurally?  Send them to Chinese school because we only speak and talk Chinese at home, but what to do with reading and writing.
  27. Proficiency in speaking the minority language as a second language learner. Using Te reo Maori confidently in public in a way that makes the learners comfortable.
  28. I want my husband to understand when I speak to our kids from a mother speaking a minority language not spoken by my husband.
  29. Not a lot of options available. E.g. my child goes to Japanese school every Saturday; it is that only Japanese school. If he doesn’t fit in that school, I won’t have any other option to get support from. It also costs a lot.
  30. Parents don’t speak each other’s native language, like husband is Korean and wife is Chinese.
  31. One parent feels left out because he doesn’t understand minority language. As bilingual speakers being afraid of native speakers making mistakes. My daughter replied in English. Do I insist on her replying in minority?
  32. We are reluctant to speak our home language in front of others. It needs education of society to become more normal.
  33. Access to other families of the same stage to help support children family language. Language is potentially going to be only an isolated thing.
  34. Child understands minority language but replies in English. Child prefers songs in English.
  35. Not enough exposure e.g. books, shows, friends that speak my language. So I forget and I am not motivated.
  36. Even though mom speaks the minority language to her daughter, the child doesn’t speak it and always answers in the majority language.

Do you recognise these problems? I certainly do! Feel free to offer some suggestions yourself in the comments to this post. Write the number of the problem(s) you are responding to. Check our past events page to find out about other workshops the LATL-lab has arranged.