As the school year progresses, slowly the target or minority languages starts lagging behind. It’s not uncommon for children who are very enthusiastic and speaking or answering to the target language in September to gradually replace that with the majority language.
That was certainly the case for us last year. After Easter, we descended into a spiral of gradually less Portuguese being spoken. Even our Portuguese school which the girls loved, suffered and became very ad hoc. We were all becoming tired.
We deserve a medal
Being the sole provider of Portuguese exposure, I too was too tired to organise and coordinate activities in which I had to take part when I had so much more to do. I was preoccupied with the girls’ behaviour, health issues, and work. There was just too much on my mind.
It’s hard to stay consistent when life gets on the way. Especially if you are the sole provider of the target language exposure.
So, if you’re in that position, I want you to know that you’re awesome. Whether you’re a mum or dad, stay at home, part time or full time employed or self-employed, I say, medals all round to us.
A normal pattern
I heard experts refer to this pattern of the target language subsiding as normal. That’s why we need to fight that natural force and try extra hard.
I noticed in the last few days that I spoke much less Portuguese and engaged in fewer activities with my children. They entertain themselves and play well together. However, they speak English to each other. So if I don’t proactively organise Portuguese school for them or engage in games they enjoy in Portuguese, we start letting go of good practice.
Life gets on the way, we’re busy and tired, and the children are busy and tired as well.
So what to do?
Don’t let life get on the way of your bilingual journey
We are in October now. This is a reminder to myself and to others in a similar position.
Take stock of where you’re at in your bilingual journey. Don’t go with the flow – take control of the things you can control.
This weekend, try to spend more time playing and speaking in the target language with your children, and think about what you can do during the week to starts or re-establish good habits that fell by the wayside.
Perhaps read a story when you get home? Commit to a playdate with a friend who speaks the language? Speak to family abroad. Have a cinema night and watch a movie in the target language, with popcorn, drinks with straws and all the frills as if you were at the cinema, and them chat about it? Maybe even dress up or sing along…. but all in the target language!
What are you doing to keep on track? Let us know in the comments.
Featured image by aron @ unsplash