Problem of Minority Language at Home (MLAH) Approach
September 8, 2019
Well before Emilia was born, we know that we will be practicing Minority Language at Home to help her become bilingual. The reason was rather simple, some of our family members speak very little English, and it just make everyone’s life easier if we stick to Chinese at home.
Minority language at home is also an approach that can introduce and keep a second language in a child sooner than One parent one language, which often allow the child to avoid one language or the other as they grow older.
We know that there is great benefit to delaying English and keeping Emilia well immersed in Chinese for as long as we can, and she doesn’t go to day care so it’s not hard to execute, but I can’t help but to notice some issues as she is now almost two years old.
For one as she is now older, we go out quite a bit, to help her fulfil her social needs, to get groceries together, to go to the doctor’s or the dentist, and to go to crafts and other activities. Almost all of those places are English dominant environment. For a shy girl like Emilia, not knowing what’s going on make her even more nervous every time we are at some place new, no matter how friendly the people seem. She can’t understand basic sentences in English and her vocabulary in English is rather limited – well except the lyrics to Baby Shark of course. Sometimes she even seem a little isolated, out of place, especially in play groups where everyone speaks English. I look forward to when she has more words, so she can also tell me how she feels about them.
I also become incredibly busy when we are out as I am conversing with other people in English, and sometimes have to translate what I’m saying to Emilia to get her to respond in some way. Sure gesturing will eventually click, but we can’t just sit there forever waiting for it to click when all I need her to do is to wave her hand or to sit down.
This make me wonder while MLAH is a great approach, does it work better with certain personalities over others?
Having said all that, we are certainly seeing the benefit of it and Emilia is doing great with picking up Chinese, and even a bit of the dialects the grandparents speak. I’m extremely grateful for that and will not be changing our approach. However, I may start to slip in a little bit of English screen time here and there, just to see what happens.
If I get to choose all over again, say for another child, would I use this approach? I don’t actually know, but more than likely yes. The time Emilia sees me vs the time she sees other people in the household is so unbalanced that a one parent one language approach simply doesn’t work. However perhaps for other families that does have the option, my experience is something to consider.