4 tips for keeping in touch with your native language 

By: Anson Wong

Published on: April 12 2023 

Photo: Tim Mossholder (Pexels)  

Retaining your native language can be tough while living in a new country. As we adapt to new surroundings, opportunities to explore our previous cultures can become rare. One example is with language, our proficiency can become lost over time. Language is one of the most important aspects of culture. It connects us with our community and allows us to listen and read from that culture’s language. 

Children in particular are susceptible to language loss due to both the lack of required use and the dominance of the English language. Without the necessity of practice, children can grow to forget their native language and subsequently aspects of their parent’s culture. Because of this, newcomers may be interested in developing and maintaining their language for both themselves and their children. 

For children, learning two languages can be daunting. As the child understands the world through English, their parent’s language grows foreign to them. The difficulty can vary from language to language. Some languages can be harder to learn than others depending on how different the languages are. For example, a big difference between English and Chinese is intonation, which can change the wording based on what is stressed. In English, changing the intonation is usually associated with emotion. Combined with the vast vocabulary in English, newcomers can have a hard time learning it. 

Whether you are looking to relearn your native language or help your children keep both, here are some important tips to consider. 

Immerse yourself in the culture 

One of the best ways to learn a language is to be in a community that speaks it. A wider range of people and cultures provides more opportunities to make use of the language. Various texts are translated, and this is done mainly to help those in the community who are more comfortable with their native language rather than English. You can find examples of this in businesses, like grocery stores, and restaurants.  

Photo: Jonathan Borba (Unsplash)  

Attend language classes 

Language classes are available for both adults and children, especially if they are just starting to learn. There are options for both English and other languages that may be of interest at various points in life. Children who are growing up in Canada will have a better understanding of English and as such, parents may want to assign a language class based on their native tongue.  

Self-study with books and other media 

Consuming media in your language is a fun way to maintain your language. Consider local newspapers, books, social media, and shows as examples of self-study. Like the earlier point of speaking with others, media provides an opportunity to see how language is used in casual conversation. Social media also opens the chance to speak with friends and family in your native language. One advantage to this is that it allows you to engage in your native language regardless of location.   

Practicing the language 

Practicing your language is not simply speaking it. Think in your language and practice how you would say and write a thought or conversation. The process is gradual, but the important goal is habitually engaging with thought processes you may otherwise forget. For children, this step can be achieved by communicating with their parents and relatives in a native language. Doing so helps them develop both languages between cultures. 

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