I believe that language is related to emotions… Speaking the Korean language doesn’t simply mean to be able to speak the language, it means that the 3 factors [language, emotions and culture] are related to each other like chains. I thought if they [her children] were not able to speak the Korean language there would be big gaps between us.
Korean mother living in Christchurch
Many parents report feeling that they can properly bond with their children only when they are speaking their own first language with them. For parents in this situation, one advantage of raising children speaking a minority language at home is that the minority language may take on a special significance as it becomes associated with affection, comfort, love, and the intimacy or familiarity of home. Also, communicating with their children in a language in which they are highly proficient helps parents stay better involved in their children’s lives and interests outside the home as they grow older.
Speaking a minority language often also has positive implications for bonding with extended family, such as by ensuring that children can communicate with their cousins, aunts, uncles, or grandparents, for example. Parents who do not feel that New Zealand is ‘home’, and who are able to travel back to visit their ‘home’ country with their children, also expose them to the rich culture, heritage, customs, and rituals associated with the minority language. This is one important way for children to learn about, and be proud of, their heritage.
Another way for children to learn about their heritage is through literature, by either reading for themselves or being read to, in the minority language. Classic texts can influence beliefs and customs in culturally significant ways, which may be more deeply understood in the original language rather than via translation.
Links about bonding in your own language:
- Family-wide benefits of speaking a minority language at home
- When grandparents have no common language with grandchildren
- 3 ways to boost language ability and loving bond with grandparents
- Losing language: the subtle epidemic
- Choosing the ‘right’ language for your child
- Mother tongue: The language of heart and mind
Other resources for further reading:
Baker, C. (2007). A parents’ and teachers’ guide to bilingualism. (3rd ed.). Clevedon, Buffalo, and Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
– Section A: Family questions (pp. 1-27)
Cunningham, U. (2011). Growing up with two languages. (3rd ed.). London and New York: Routledge.
– Chapter 5: The child with two languages (pp. 65-77)
Barron-Hauwaert, S. (2004). Language strategies for bilingual families: The one-parent – one-language approach. Clevedon, Buffalo, and Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
– OPOL in the 21st Century (pp. 195-197)
Li Wei. (2000). The bilingualism reader. Londond and New York: Routledge.
– Communicative, cultural, and cognitive advantages of bilingualism (pp. 22-25)
Steiner, N., & Hayes, S. (2009). 7 steps to raising a bilingual child. New York: AMACOM.
– The bilingual advantage (pp. 19-24)
Zurer Pearson, B. (2008). A step-by-step guide for parents: Raising a bilingual child. United States: Living Language.
– Chapter 1: The benefits of childhood bilingualism (pp. 3-40).