Preparing Multilingual Teens for Home Country Visits

 

Are you visiting your heritage country with your teenagers?
When our teenagers grow up abroad and we are the only ones or one of the few they get to speak our language with, meeting family, friends and peers who are immersed into that language is not easy.

When my children were preteens, I observed a shift in their confidence to use our language with extended family, friends and peers when we visited for holidays. They were much more conscious about the words, the formal and informal language used and expected from them.
In order to feel more confident, I tried to lower the threshold by sharing about the people they would meet, the situation, the expectations (when it was a not so familiar place or situation), but also how we approach people we don’t know and want information or help from.

 

I share some practical tips and prompts here below, and in a video on our youtube channel Activities for Multilingual Families

Especially if the time we spend immersed in a language is limited, we may want to make the most out of the experience.

I always found it helpful to get prepared for all kinds of situations, especially the awkward ones...

As teenagers we all don't want to stand out. We want to blend in. This mainly means to look like the others and sound like them, talk like them.

We can prepare our teenagers to have conversations in their home language when visiting their country of heritage. With a bit of preparation, they can feel confident and ready to engage with locals. Here are three practical prompts to help them get started.

Role-Playing Real-Life Scenarios

One of the most effective ways to help teens become comfortable with their home language is through role-playing real-life scenarios. This method is both fun and practical, allowing teens to practice specific vocabulary and cultural nuances.

 

Scenario: Visiting a Local Market

Let's encourage our teen to imagine they are at a local market. Practice asking vendors about prices, quality, and origins of products. For example:

  • "How much does this cost?"
  • "Is this fresh?"
  • "Where is this from?"

Role-playing these scenarios helps teens learn the necessary phrases and vocabulary, while also giving them a feel for the cultural interactions typical in such settings. According to research, role-playing can significantly improve language proficiency and confidence (Dörnyei, 2014).

 

Preparing for Family and Social Gatherings

Family and social gatherings are excellent opportunities for teens to practice speaking their home language in a supportive environment. Preparing for these events can help reduce anxiety and increase confidence.

Practice Introductions and Conversations

Have your teen practice introducing themselves and sharing details about their life. They might say:

  • "Hi, I'm [Name]. I live in [Country], and I love [Hobby]."
  • "What’s new in your life?"
  • "Can you tell me more about our family history?"

By rehearsing these introductions and questions, teens can enter family gatherings ready to engage in meaningful conversations. This preparation is crucial for building conversational skills and comfort in social settings (Pavlenko & Blackledge, 2004).

 

Engaging in Social Activities

Engaging in social activities with local peers can be a fun and effective way for our teens to practice their home language. These interactions often revolve around shared interests, making the practice feel more natural and enjoyable.

Find Common Interests

Let's encourage our teens to think about common interests and prepare open-ended questions such as:

  • "What do you like to do for fun?"
  • "Have you seen any good movies lately?"
  • "What are your favorite local spots?"

Talking about shared interests helps keep conversations flowing naturally and builds confidence in using the home language in a relaxed setting. This approach aligns with the communicative language teaching (CLT) method, which emphasizes interaction as both the means and the ultimate goal of learning a language (Richards, 2006).

 

Conclusion

There you have it – three practical prompts to help multilingual teens prepare for conversations in their home language when visiting their country.

Role-playing real-life scenarios, preparing for family gatherings, and engaging in social activities can make all the difference!

 

References

  • Dörnyei, Z. (2014). Motivational Strategies in the Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press.
  • Pavlenko, A., & Blackledge, A. (2004). Negotiation of Identities in Multilingual Contexts. Multilingual Matters.
  • Richards, J. C. (2006). Communicative Language Teaching Today. Cambridge University Press.

 

By integrating these strategies into your preparation, you can help your teens navigate their home country visits with greater ease and confidence.

 

Happy travels!

 

 

Posted in Blog, Communication, Expats/Internationals, Family Language Planning, Heritage Language Maintenance, Intercultural Communication, International Life, Language Change, Language Development, Language learning, Maintaining Multiple Languages, Multilingual, Multilingual Families, Raising Multilinguals, Third Culture Kid and tagged , , , .

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