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Which Language Should We Speak at Home with Our Children as an Immigrant?

Immigration is not very challenging for single people and they can overcome challenges easily as they are more flexible. Still, those who intend to immigrate with their families, especially with young children, are more vulnerable than adults. Apart from economic problems and family management, the issue of language education will be a major challenge for such families in a new country.

Families need to prepare before immigration if they have children, and choosing a language to speak at home after immigration is one of the issues covered in this article.


an Asian girl talking confidently at a school yard with a background of a modern city like Toronto, showing the communication skills of a child from an immigrant family

Heritage Language

Some parents prefer talking in their heritage language because for most immigrant parents, raising bilingual children is not a choice or a decision, but a way of life. Regardless of what their heritage language is, parents want their children to be able to communicate in the language into which they were born and teach them to love their heritage language. One main driving factor for this decision could be the need and responsibility the parents feel towards keeping their children connected to their heritage and family roots. Children need to know where they come from, and language is a big part of that knowledge.


Advantages of Using and Teaching Heritage Language at Home


1. Bilingualism

Bilingualism strengthens cognitive abilities - bilingual people tend to be more creative and flexible. They can be more open-minded, and they also find it easier to focus on a variety of tasks simultaneously; being able to speak two languages helps in other ways, such as adoption to new environments and flexibility.

When we have the chance to raise a bilingual child, why take that chance away from them by speaking only one language? A child learns a second language at school and outside the home, so to keep them bilingual, it is better to speak their mother tongue at home.


2. Linguistic Basis

When learning a new language, children have problems, especially in grammar and recognizing the tense of verbs, by teaching the mother tongue and grammar, parents can help their children understand the grammar of the new language more, and therefore the child will no longer have a problem learning the basics of their language.

Children who build a strong foundation in their mother tongue will learn to speak, read, and write English (or the language of the community) even better.


3. Communication with Family and Native Culture

Our native language resides deep within us. Language is about more than just words, it is the repository of personal experience, that’s why to communicate with our children fully, we need to be able to use words that have a depth of meaning for us.

It is important to show our children that our heritage is important. We should do all we can to help our children stay connected to it. Our children may even travel to our native homeland when they are older to learn more about their roots.


Disadvantages of Using Heritage Language at Home


1. Confusion

Considering that the child speaks a second language in school and in society, he may get confused by speaking the first language at home and may use words and grammar incorrectly, this should not scare you. This is completely temporary and over time, he will have mastered both languages and become a bilingual child.


a confused boy lost inside hundreds of word swarming around his head. Some children from immigrant families that choose their native language to speak with their children experience confusion

2. Getting Used to the Mother Tongue

The important and significant thing for parents is to know that it is easier for the child to speak in the mother tongue because they have been familiar with this language since they were babies and even fetuses, and like any new skill, they will initially resist learning a second language and may If parents constantly speak their own language at home, the challenge of learning a second language becomes more difficult for the child and he becomes dependent on their mother tongue, missing a lot of socializing opportunities even in their online life.


3. Not Communicating with the New Language and Environment

As it was said, if the child gets used to the mother tongue, it will be more difficult for the child to communicate with the second language, and the only way for the child to communicate with the new society, find new friends, communicate and express their wishes and words will be the language of the society, which if he does not learn, he will suffer from problems such as isolation, depression and even academic failure


Host Language


Some parents, on the other hand, prefer using the language spoken in the society they live in because they believe that if they speak the host language at home, the child's language skills will get better and their child will get used to the new environment more easily.


Advantages of Using and Teaching the Host Language

1. Helping to Learn the New Language Faster

If you have determined that your child is fluent in the mother tongue (according to factors such as the child's age and intelligence, etc.) and you have realized that to have better communication with the environment and express themselves, only school and class for learning a second language is not enough for your child, it is better to spend some hours of the day talking with the child in the second language, which is a kind of exercise for them.


A child like a superhero flying over a modern city. this shows the confidence of immigrant children if they understand the host culture and language.

2. Correcting Verbal Mistakes

Some children of particular ages can be very annoying, especially if your child is new to the school, he may be teased by these students. To avoid this issue, let your child speak a second language at home and notice and correct thier mistakes at home. In this way, he is less harassed by their classmates.


Disadvantages of Using and Teaching the Host Language


1. False Knowledge

Many parents are not fully mastering the foreign language and may confuse their child when speaking with the wrong accent or grammatical mistakes, children learn a foreign language much faster than their parents by being in an environment where the second language is used.


2. Feeling of Homelessness Even at Home

Studies have shown that if we don’t speak our mother language for a long time, it causes confusion and anger. Migration and living in a new environment have many challenges for a child, and not speaking the mother language at home, puts a lot of pressure on them.


Final Thoughts on Choosing Language to Speak with Children After Immigration

As we have fully reviewed above, speaking in each of the two languages ​​has advantages and disadvantages, and many factors determine the choice of the language spoken at home. But in general, you should acknowledge that a child's mastery of their mother tongue can become a strong foundation for them in learning a second language and give them peace of mind. Do not speak to your child in another language until they have mastered their mother tongue unless you know they need more practice in the second language.


FAQs


Should immigrants speak their native language at home?

While immigrant parents should certainly do everything they can to learn English (or the host language of their target community), they should also be encouraged to continue speaking their native language at home with their children.

In addition to the advantages of a child being bilingual, not separating them from their native language and culture is an important issue in the child's personality.


Should I speak to my child in English if I am not a native speaker?

No, a baby will naturally accept whatever language its parents speak. Children will also not be confused by the use of different languages in the family so bilingualism does not cause confusion.


How can we effectively teach the language and culture of the hometown to our children?

The best solution is to speak in the mother tongue with children. In addition to this, you can use books, cartoons, and games in the mother tongue during the child's free time.


When at home, should families speak in their native language or English, and why?

Many factors are effective in this choice, but in general, until you are sure that your child is fluent in their mother tongue, talk to them in their mother tongue. To practice the second language more, spend a few hours in raps in the second language.


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