There’s no black and white answer to these questions. Like other aspects of parenting, you must do what’s best for your children and what works for your family.
A great article on this topic is Biliteracy: When should kids start to read and write in their second language? on Bilingual Kidspot. The author differentiates the scenarios of learning to read in similar alphabets versus different ones, as well as different writing systems.
“Children can learn to read and write simultaneously in two languages if given the time and resources to do so.” (Chontelle Bonfiglio)
Despite initial confusion and transference between languages, there’s no proof that learning to read and write in more than one language simultaneously is harmful. Children all over the world grow up - and thrive - in multilingual contexts.
So, it’s never too early or too late to reflect on your family’s choice to pass on a minority language. Here are some questions to guide you:
★ What are your expectations?
What level of speaking, reading and writing would you like your children to obtain?
★ What is their motivation?
Is there a clear purpose for learning?
How do they use the minority language in real life?
★ What are the family’s long-term plans?
Are you likely to move countries? Will the children attend school in another language?
Where are they likely to go to University?
★ How supportive is your environment?
How involved can friends and extended family be in your children’s education?
Can you count on their school?
Can you find minority language resources?
Who can you go to for specific help?
★ Can you teach them yourself?
What will you teach them? When? How often?
Will you hire a tutor or enroll them in weekend lessons?
Another fantastic resource to help you understand multiliteracy and support your children’s development is ‘Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family’, by Xiao-lei Wang. Her book is research and experience based, with lots of practical tips for each age group, planning advice and reflection.
No one will ever regret having taught their children their heritage language. The opposite is not always true.
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