In your journey to raise bilingual kids, you want your child to learn more than just the language. Obviously, speaking and writing in Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish or whatever language your child is taking is key.
You started this whole thing so that your child would in fact (or at least someday) be bilingual. That said, bringing the culture into your home is a key part of the learning process.
Food is an important part of any culture. Think about what you eat and how it’s a part of your own family’s culture. Now explore and experiment with the cuisine of your child’s second language (well, the country of its origin). Pick a few recipes and cook them together.
While you’re at work in the kitchen, ask your child to tell you how the food fits into the culture, why people eat it and when. Is it an everyday food, such as something that kids would eat for a school lunch or a dinner at home with their parents? Or, is it part of a special celebration?
Compare the foods to what your child eats at home. Let’s say you’re cooking what is traditionally a holiday meal in Italy.
Remind your child that your family also eats “special” holiday meals. You have turkey on Thanksgiving, ham on Easter, and a mega feast on Christmas.
What if you aren’t exactly a chef? There are probably a few simple recipes that you and your child can try out—minimal expertise required. But if you want an easier option, go with a ready-made meal. Pick-up take-out at the local Chinese restaurant, order Italian in or get a selection of sashimi at the nearby Japanese sushi bar.
Similarities and Differences
You’ve pointed out the ways in which both everyday food and special/holiday meals from the other country are like yours. Maybe your child has even made their own comparisons without your prompting. But you can’t leave it there. Don’t forget about the differences!
The differences (even the small ones) are the heart of the culture. They’re what make it special. They’re the traditions that your child is about to embrace. So celebrate the differences, showing your child how they make the country what it is and the people who they are.
Go On a Field Trip
If you had your way, you’d be on a plane taking your child to China…or Italy…or Germany.
Even though total immersion is your preference, flying off to another country isn’t exactly easy on your wallet. Though visiting your bilingual child’s second language home might not be in the budget, you still have plenty of options for cultural immersion!
Take a look around your hometown. There may very well be places you two can visit that’ll give your child an immersion experience, without having to leave the area.
Does your city have a Chinatown? Maybe a Little Italy? If you don’t have a neighborhood nearby, a visit to an international market or cultural center can also help your child.
And bonus, a trip to the international market offers you the chance to do some shopping for that meal you’re planning on preparing. Or, for the non-cooks, it gives you the chance to get some ready-made take-out that’s the real deal!
How do you bring your child’s second language (or culture) into your home? Share your story with us in the comments section below.