Welcome! I'm a mom of two, raising biracial children under the age of 5, A (4 years old) and J (2 years old), in four languages.
Why learn a heritage language?
In our family, we speak four languages regularly: our community language, English, along with three of our heritage languages: Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin) from myself and Russian from my husband. Before our children were born, my husband and I decided that it would be important for us to share our mother tongues with our children. Later on in their lives, our children may still want to study a foreign language of their choice, but their heritage language learning is about exactly that: heritage.
While neither of us have a background in linguistics or education, we can still be our children’s most effective teachers, leveraging the trust and relationship we have with them to integrate a language we know into their lives. Sharing our heritage languages with them gives us another layer of expressing ourselves to our children so we never feel we have to translate or be at a loss for words. We teach our children our languages to build connections–with us as parents, with our relatives, and with our culture.
But isn’t teaching/learning a language really hard?
Deciding to teach your child a language is a long-term commitment and requires dedication and perseverance. It is very much a marathon–one in which you need to adjust your pace and direction as your child takes the lead. You already know the language, so the work is in how you add it to your life. Our approach to this has been to introduce the heritage language gently to our children, building it into our home naturally from the day they are born.
We are almost 5 years into our language learning journey as a multilingual family, with both kids speaking and reading at the same proficiency levels as their native peers. There are ups and downs, and we've learned a lot along the way with varying experiences between two children. This is where I hope to document the things I want to remember: for my future self, my friends, and like-minded strangers who might just need the inspiration and motivation to pursue their family's language goals too.