“Help! My child doesn’t speak my language back to me!” This is one of the most frequently heard concerns from parents raising their children bilingually. You really try your best, consistently speaking your language to your child, and yet she or he mostly speaks to you in the majority language, usually the language spoken at school (so Dutch here in the Netherlands, English in Ireland, German in Germany, and so on). Some parents don’t really mind when their children do this, but for others it can be a source of great frustration. In this episode of Kletsheads we ask whether it matters if a bilingual child only actively uses one of the two languages she or he hears? It turns out that is does. At least if you want your child to be able to actively use both languages in the long run. Our guest is researcher Erika Hoff (who also appeared in Episode 2, where we answered the question How much language does a child need to hear to become bilingual?). In this episode, we learn that speaking a language is different from just listening to one. And we also provide lots of tips for parents on how to encourage a bilingual child to continue using their minority or heritage language. These are not only useful for parents themselves, but also for speech language  therapists and teachers who want to provide advice to bilingual parents.  

Sharon and Thorwen chatting online

In Let’s Klets we speak to Ellen-Rose Kambel about Language Friendly Schools, an initiative designed to encourage schools around the world to welcome and value all the languages spoken by their students and their parents. And our Kletshead of the week is the 19-year-old Thorwen, originally from the Netherlands but who spent most of his childhood in Hong Kong. He tells us about his positive experiences of going to a local (rather than international) school and about attending Dutch language education. To find out more about this, take a look at the Stichting NOB website.

Erika Hoff is Professor of Developmental Psychology at Florida Atlantic University in the USA. She is world-renowned for her research into the language development of bilingual and monolingual children and currently leads a research project following a large group of Spanish-English bilingual children from 2½ years of age up to and including their tenth birthday. In her research, she focuses on the factors in the young child’s environment which predict later language development. Our conversation took place in June 2019 when Erika was a guest researcher at Radboud University.

Ellen-Rose Kambel is Director of the Rutu Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to mother-tongue education. With a PhD in social sciences, she has written several books and articles on education and multilingualism. Together with Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman (University of Toronto), she founded The Language Friendly School. Go to their website to find a roadmap indicating what a school should and should not do in order to become language-friendly. 

Ellen-Rose Kambel is Director of the Rutu Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to mother-tongue education. With a PhD in social sciences, she has written several books and articles on education and multilingualism. Together with Emmanuelle Le Pichon-Vorstman (University of Toronto), she founded The Language Friendly School. Go to their website to find a roadmap indicating what a school should and should not do in order to become language-friendly. 

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