It may be there are no other options to create bilingualism (ie local immersion school, native-speaking spouse, finances to pay for native-speaking nanny, etc), or that you wish to create total immersion of the language in the home, or simply that you wish to have more opportunity to speak this language. Speaking a non-native language with your child is often the only way for your child to reap all of the advantages of bilingualism.
A major factor is likely to be your own level of language ability - if it's basic or intermediate, you're going to have to work overtime to keep up with your child.
The 'pro' arguments are fairly clear and compelling, and pretty much the same arguments as for speaking a native minority language to your child:
- Access to another culture and, therefore, a heightened tolerance of difference.
- Increased self-confidence (I still remember the first time someone being impressed that I spoke Welsh!).
- Vocationally advantageous.
- Easier to learn another second language.
- A special bond with your child via your special language.
However, parents have also spoken of the particular 'cons' of speaking a non-native language with their child:
- Concerns about poor grammer/vocabulary/accent.
This is not neccessarily a great problem - after all, surely it is better to speak another language poorly, with an unusual accent, than not at all.
- Unable to express linguistic subtleties, including strong emotion, humour and precision of phrase, particulary for safety messages.
This is one of the cases where I think it's okay to cheat! If you need to repeat what you are saying in the majority language from time to time to be sure the message is understood, it shouldn't inhibit the minority language acquisition.
- A missing emotional link - do the words 'I love you' carry the same emotional weight in a second language?
Again, okay to cheat here! I often say 'I love you' in both languages, which is doubly meaningful :-)
- It is an enormous and ongoing effort - even more so than for native speakers of the language - not only do you have all the usual challenges of raising a bilingual child, but also the ongoing learning of the language yourself.
- When your child makes linguistic errors, you are never sure whether this is typical for a bilingual child of the same age range, or peculiar to your non-native situation.
This is one reason it's so great to hook up with other parents raising multilingual children :-)
- Initial strangeness of speaking a non-native language with your child.
This seems to be a temporary phenomenon, so perseverence is key.
- Negative reactions from family/friends/strangers.
Just explain how important this is for your child - that's a hard argument to counter!
My own feelings are that it does take something away, but it gives something incredible back - and there is nothing quite like hearing your child chatting away like a native in a language that you struggled for years to learn!Pin It now!