Minority Language at Home – When To Introduce Both Languages!


In discussing the Minority Language at Home strategy, some controversy came up. We at Bébé Voyage are mindful of the importance of language. The use of the word minority in this article is in no way a reflection of race or community, it is simply the name given to a strategy used by parents when raising multilingual children. It refers to the circumstance in which the language spoken at home is not the same as the one in the surrounding society or culture.  As I believe language should adapt and change to be inclusive and not promote privilege, I will be using the word target language interchangeably throughout the article. 


Raising multilingual children can seem difficult but once you have a system in place things become much easier. At the end of the day, language is like any other skills, all it takes is exposure and repetition. Finding the right method that works for you might take a little time and you might have to try a few things before finding the perfect one for you, we hope this series can help you do just that. This latest instalment is all about the Minority Language At Home strategy.


What is the Minority Language At Home approach?

As the name suggests the MLAH strategy consists in only speaking the minority or target language when at home with each other. The main factor with this approach is that both parents must be fluent in the native/target language. When it comes to the outside world it varies between families, some are consistent and will carry on speaking the native/target language even outside of the home, others will decide to speak the community language once outside.

As always, there is no right or wrong with this, it is simply a personal choice.


Is the MLAH strategy right for you?

This method is probably one of the easiest to stick to as it can come quite natural to most families but here are some of the main benefits when choosing this method.

  • One of the main advantages of this approach is that the kids develop strong skills in the target language.
  • If both parents are native speakers, it also makes it easier to stick to the minority language at home, with both being able to share feelings and emotions more naturally than in a second language.
  • Often, when a family relocates to a different country, the MLAH strategy becomes the more natural choice as moving comes with a lot of change and sticking to a language the kids are familiar with, at least at home, can give that sense of security we associate with home.


What are the main challenges of the MLAH approach?

Like any strategies there are always some challenges.

  • How easy would it be for kids to switch between languages? The most obvious challenge is that, at least to begin with, kids will become sequential bilingual (learning first one language and then another). With other strategies like the one parent one language, kids tend to become simultaneous bilinguals which means they can comfortably switch between the two.
  • You know what I am about to say….exposure! When we talk about language we always circle back here. A lack of exposure to the community language prior to the school’s years might cause some setbacks as the kids might not be as fluent in the community language as their peers. Children do learn fast, but it would be a good idea to have some consistent exposure to the community language prior to the kids starting school.

What if it doesn’t work for me?

Growing up bilingual is not an exact science, if this method does not work for you, simply switch it up. Try adding books, games, music to give children more exposure to all languages. Try some of the other methods like ‘one parent, one language’ or ‘time and place strategy’. You can even mix it up and work with different methods depending on your needs. There is no one rule that fits all for learning new languages so try and find what works for you. Just be consistent and make sure there is plenty of exposure to all the spoken languages.

You may also like these articles from Bébé Voyage:

Raising Multilingual Children: The One Parent One Language Approach

Raising Multilingual Children: Is The Time And Place Strategy Right For You?

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