Hi all, I have a bilingual question that has presented itself in the past few months. I live in the US so the community language is English and our minority language is Russian. I have a 5-year-old son. Where we live in the US (North Carolina), there is not a huge Russian population to start with, and out of that, there’s only a handful of other kids I know my son’s age that speak Russian (on a decent level). Now that he’s 5 and loves playing with kids, I go out of my way to set up play dates for my son and I try to include some play dates with his Russian-speaking friends. Here is the problem: usually we head to a park as they are young boys with tons of energy to burn off. When we first get there the boys start off speaking minority language but usually other kids that are at the park try to also play with them and then the whole play date is switched to English, so that everyone can understand. I love that my son has a good time but for the purposes of a minority language play date, that really eliminates the use of the minority language. And I can’t really ask the boys to speak Russian when other kids around are trying to play with them in English. Lately this is happening everywhere we go: parks, kids museums, library. I guess my question is how can I deal with this to have the boys speaking only Russian on play dates? I thought about having them play at home but they clearly prefer being out on playgrounds, etc. Am I fighting a lost battle? Any ideas? Thank you!
Have you thought of maybe starting the playdate at your place around a snack, why not a few games/boardgames, and after maybe an hour, maybe move on to the park? If you have them home to keep them playing in ml, you will need to find entertaining ideas that will not make them long for the park...that's a tough one. Otherwise, compromise and split the playdate half at home half in the park.
Do any of the parents have a place with a yard they could play in from time to time without mixing with ML speakers like it happens in the park?
Hope this can give you ideas.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Other ideas: maybe look for an outside place that's not so crowded, like a forest where they can play by themselves. Or go on a hike, where since you're moving as a group it's less likely they will start playing with other children. Or make a playdate with more than one ml child so that they have enough children for their games and are less likely to look for additional children to play with. Or getting the parents involved in the game and play, for example, soccer with parents against kids.
I would start the play date at home and get them to play games that require them to speak. After an hour or two if they start getting bored or in need of something outdoors, take them out. There must be some places you could take them where it isn't so crowded. We live in London, but can still find some places the kids can play without other kids to distract from the language. For example, in our area that would be a sports area (where kids play basketball or tennis). There are many opportunities when it's empty or being used by only a few others (adults or kids that are too young)--basically, an ideal place for kids to run around and play without being distracted by other kids. Yes, occasionally other kids show up... We also have some parks that are empty. Do you live near a place the kids could play and explore? You could have a picnic and tell them to keep close enough for you to see them after the picnic, but they could play etc while you sit and watch.
Hi Olga! To avoid just what you described, when I've met with other ml-speaking children, we either get together at home or prepare ourselves -the parents- an activity for all of them to enjoy (the latter usually with more families, not just one).
I like Marta's idea of taking them to the country; this never occurred to me, and, even though it requires more planning, I bet they'd love it.
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