Bilingualism in Singapore is believed to be an important skill. Many parents fret over this and we know the struggles of using our Mother Tongue with our child. A mum shares her top tips on raising a trilingual child, which includes engaging the help of those more proficient in the language – like grandparents!
We hear from Juliana on her journey encouraging her child to learn Malay and Tamil, apart from English.
Raising a Trilingual Child
Tell us about yourself and how you are raising your trilingual (!) child.
I’m Juliana, I’m a researcher mum of a 3 year old.
We come from a very mixed family! My husband’s side speak Tamil and mine speak Malay. Frankly though, on my end, I grew up in a mostly English-speaking home so it’s a challenge to me to teach my daughter Malay.
That’s where grandparents and books come in!
How do you ensure inputs in the three languages: English, Malay and Tamil?
The primary language we speak at home is English but my daughter spends a lot of time at her grandparents’ homes where our parents speak to her in Tamil and Malay too.
Also, bilingual books and listening to songs on our car rides and at home have been helpful.
What are some resources in Malay and Tamil that you recommend for parents? Where can they purchase them?
Happyintheeast: This is an account of a mum with 3 kids who is also a teacher. She has written a book and has many ideas on how to improve and encourage reading and writing of Malay based on what works with her kids.
And of course… the library! I love spending time with Amalia there and finding new books.
Tamilforkids – This is a lovely account where the founder shares resources, ideas to promote learning Tamil and also has some great resources for preschoolers to early primary.
Vaaranambooks – The founder writes and produces lovely books, many which are Singapore themed that can resonate well with our local kids.
Noolmonsters – Another great resource, especially for little ones. She does sing-a-longs and has been working on creating well illustrated stories and products for young children to learn Tamil.
My in-laws import and publish Tamil books that were sold to the library. However, when COVID hit, we thought it would be great to reach out to a larger audience and that’s how Tamilbookshop was started in Feb 2021. Its a side project mainly for my husband and I where we share and sell our Tamil resources from books imported, produced. We also carry titles and products from other Singaporean Tamil entrepreneurs.
Top 3 tips in acquiring language skills in Mother Tongue?
Reading, songs and surrounding your children with proficient speakers (for us it’s grandparents) are helpful!
On reading, I do like picking up bilingual books from our wonderful libraries.
Also, for Tamil, our little one has the benefit of accessing so many books since my husband and I are involved in the online store TheTamilBookshop.com so that’s very convenient.
Frankly, I’m not sure if what I’m doing is sufficient but at 3, I would like her to be comfortable in hearing the beautiful languages of Tamil and Malay.
I remember only learning Malay mostly in Kindergarten and though I somehow got through exams pretty well, the same can’t be said about speaking. I had a lot of anxiety. I hope to better prepare my child.
Start the Language Learning Early
A big thank you to Juliana for sharing all her resources with fellow parents!
It is never too early to start. It seems like early immersion in a rich language environment really helps in terms of language acquisition. We hope all parents can persist in their bilingualism or even trilingualism journey to learn various forms of communication that stems from our identity and heritage.