What to do when a child refuses to speak a second or third language?

The rejection of the second language is often related to level of acceptance of this language in the society. Mastery of a second language such as English evokes amazement and this invariably leads to greater motivation for the child. Languages with less appeal have the opposite effect eliciting rejection in the society since the language is not well understood.

Parents should counteract the possible societal pressures by honoring the language at home. If the parents give into such pressures, by refusing to speak the language, they subsequently negate the child the important connection to their world and culture.

If a parent communicates with a child in the host language because of societal pressures, they are inadvertently sending  a clear message that the native language is inferior and not worthy of pride. An avoidance of this practice should be the goal; the aim of fostering positive associations with the second language should take precedence.

A child looses interest in a language when he has the feeling that not enough is being done for him to master the language or that such a skill is not seen as an advantage, that the language is not important or rather that the language leads to certain disadvantages.

The following are strategies can be effective in counteracting these attitudes:

  • Speak to your child about the use of language. The advantages must be made clear even to a young child, and he needs to be convinced in order to use it. For example, on vacation when he is visiting the country where he can order an ice-cream cone or communicate to his grandmother.
  • When the child begins school, speak to the teacher to include him or her in encouraging the child to maintain his native language even if the teacher does not speak it. The attitude of  the teacher in relation to the “Foreign language” is an important factor and should not be  overlooked. It can lead to success or stress.
  • Accept deviation from the norm where
  • Take interest when your child communicates his wishes and desires
  • Take time to observe what is being done and take time to listen
  • Make possible activities of interest to your child and do not forget to converse and reiterate  what is being done so that the child understands and learns the language
  • Praise your child when he speaks your language and tell him how proud you are that he is  taking interest in your culture
  • Gifts in the language can foster a greater awareness of the language while stimulating  greater interest.
  • Travel to the country to stimulate your child’s comprehension of the language.
  • Visit relatives so that your child has the opportunity to see/hear the language at work.
  • Seek out other children or parents also who are multilingual.

Further in Typical Problems: Reading and Writing

Back to Typical Problems: Passive Attitudes