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Minority Language At Home Method, – MLAH or ML@H
There are a few different methods you can use to raise a bilingual child, depending on your family situation. One of the most popular is OPOL, which I have written about in a previous post. Another is Minority Language at Home or MLAH. This approach is exactly how it sounds. Using the main language (or majority language) in the community, and the minority language at home”.
Families who use the Minority Language at Home approach are usually migrants or expats. Families who have moved abroad to a country where the community language is different to their native language. Other parents however, also decide to use the Minority Language at home in order to improve the minority language. Of course, it can only work if both parents can speak the minority language, and this is not always the case.
Does the Minority Language At Home Approach really work?
Professor Francois Grosjean, one of the most famous specialists in bilingualism, suggests that using the minority language at home is the best method for helping children become bilingual. Based on his research: “the strategy has a clear advantage, in that the weaker language (the home language) will receive much more input than if only one parent uses it as in the OPOL – One Parent One Language strategy”
Not all families are in a situation where it can work though. As mentioned, both parents need to be able to speak the minority language and be comfortable using it consistently.
What are the problems with MLAH, and what can you do to make it work for you?
Though using the minority language at home seems to be the most effective method, there are parents who have expressed some concern with speaking only the minority language at home.
The main one being that when children start school. Initially if children are brought up speaking the minority language at home, they may lag behind their peers. This is because of the lack of knowledge of the local language. Many believe that this is a great disadvantage. However, many studies prove that children are able to pick up languages quite quickly if given a good amount of exposure. Most children who start school without much knowledge of the local language, are usually able to become proficient within a short period. In most cases, the community language takes over. It becomes the stronger one.
If parents using the minority language at home are really concerned about this point, simply immersing the child in a play group or social group before they enter school, is a way of introducing the community language beforehand. This way there isn’t too much of a shock when they start school.
Another issue is when parents speak the minority language at home, but then speak the community language to their children in public. Children may feel that their “home language” is not good enough to be spoken in the community. They may start to feel different to the other children, or even sometimes ashamed. Parents passing on your native language to your child are not just passing on their language, but also a part of your culture, a part of who you are. Children need to see that you are proud of who you are, so they can be proud of who they are too.
If MLAH is not working?
If you think that using the minority language at home method isn’t working for your family, there are other options, depending on the languages parents speak. Where parents have a different native language, there is the OPOL approach where each parent speaks one language to their child. There is also the Time and Place method, where each language is used in a different context. You can read more about each approach here.