Committing to a Dual Language program is a big deal! It's a serious commitment to raise a bilingual child and cater to their unique needs throughout their educational career. This can be especially difficult if the rest of the family doesn't know the target language.
One of the most valuable things a Dual Language Family can do to set their "hopeful bilingual" on the road to success is create language goals. Goals are universally known to help you accomplish more, and more quickly, and language learning is no exception.
Here are a few guidelines to help you develop language goals for your own family.
Define your objective as a family
While one child may be the primary Dual Language Learner, the decision to enroll in this program was certainly a family decision - or at least required you to take the entire family into consideration. And so, it is important that you also set language goals as a family.
What is the ultimate goal here? Bilingualism for one child? Multiple children? The whole family? Is this about an education opportunity? Family tradition? Career opportunities? Global and cultural awareness? Or something else?
While you should define the top priority goal (so decision-making can always default to your priority), don't limit yourself to one. Help the entire family see how being bilingual will benefit them all. Perhaps the idea that your daughter can order dinner for the whole family during your next Mexico vacation could spark interest in your other children. Or talk of studying abroad in Chile during High School might help your DLL start to see some of the benefits of bilingualism.
Do this over dinner and allow everyone to brainstorm and consider the possibilities. If you've all spent the time to do it together, everyone will be that much more invested in the end.
Engage your children in the decision-making
You are raising a leader in your Dual Language learner. The fact that s/he is going to be in an elite club (at least in USA) of bilinguals will provide them opportunities to be a leader among their peers now and in the future. Show them that this leadership begins now.
Allow them to participate in the decision making process about their own learning. Given them room to personally work towards the goals you've established. In the beginning, this may be as small as deciding where in the house he will complete his homework or what resources can be used to help with homework (Google translator, nextdoor neighbor, or Aunt Maria). But as he starts to build a relationship with the language, encourage him to make decisions about how to further enrich his learning. Should you watch a favorite Disney movie with Spanish audio? Should he set a play date with a Spanish native speaker from school?
Giving them ownership in the decisions can go a long way to encouraging ownership over his language education - as well as pride.
Get everyone involved, even those not learning the language
Your DLL is in a very unique learning experience. But she doesn't have to live thru it alone. The entire family can participate in the learning and benefits of your child's bilingual education. Adults in the household can take this opportunity to learn - even just some key phrases - and expand their own view of the world.
If you have other children that are not in a Dual Language program, especially if they are already school age and have no chance to enroll in the future, you'll want to pay close attention to their reactions and emotions. They may start to either feel excluded or resentful towards the DLL, as a language immersion education can be very consuming of the child and family.
Give all the other members of the family an equal opportunity to set and work towards goals. Encourage your DLL in partnership with other members of the family to think about when and how their language learning will extend outside of school hours. Encourage siblings not in the Dual Language program to find particular phrases they want to learn or conversation that they would want to have in the new language. These may seem like simple questions, but any decision making you can grant a child goes a long way to helping them feel engaged and respected in what might otherwise seem as punishment.
Set checkpoints for measuring progress
Goals are useless if they are not measured for progress. It is a good idea to have regular checkpoints to check progress on your family's language goals. This could be monthly, bi-monthly or weekly if that works for your family. If you're not sure what will work for you, start with a monthly review of goals. These checkpoints can include a quick run-down of new words we've learned, a review of grades over the last month, or perhaps a fun "test" where you head to a local Latin American restaurant for impromptu conversation. You'll want to go back to the goals established and "check" that everyone is still on board. It will help to remind your child what they're working towards.
In the end, while it isn’t always going to be easy, the journey is going to create many wonderful memories for your family. Make sure you have language goals that can provide you goal-posts to measure the incredible success your child - and your entire family - is sure to have on the journey to bilingualism.
P.S. Have you learned about our 2019 Spanish Immersion Vacation? We're headed to Mexico for a summer camp for kids and a relaxing vacation for parents. Learn more here: www.SpanishImmersionVacation.com