Summer holidays can be a boon or a bane for bilingual families. For some, it means an opportunity to go on vacation in a country where one of their languages is spoken. For families who can manage regular travel to their “home country”, this can be a valuable tool for helping children to develop in the minority language. Although it can be restrictive to always go to the same place for holidays, the benefits for the children to have an “immersion” vacation are immense. As children get older (and their school friends become more important than their parents…) it can be difficult to encourage them to continue in meaningful communication in the home language. The opportunity to “live’ in the culture, even just for a couple of weeks, reinforces the usefulness of the minority language. The more varied the activity plan, the better, as it is good to allow kids to interact with family members, to use the minority language in public places, to play with other children who only speak the minority language. These invaluable interactions help bolster the language skills of children who are at risk of becoming passive users of one of their languages. So, if you have a minority language, and it is at all possible to go “home” for the summer, or somewhere where the “home” language is spoken, take the chance – you won’t be disappointed in the results.
On the flip side, there are families (like ours) in which the minority language is also the school language. So for us, maintaining the usage of the school language over the holidays is important, especially as it competes with English (an unfair competition!). It takes a concerted effort for me, as the minority-language speaking parent, to change my input over the summer to favour French over English, to replace some of the time they would be doing French at school. On the other hand, I could just start planning a holiday in France!
Bon Voyage everyone!