Nurturing bilingual children is no mean feat as parents would agree it takes much intention, time and effort in using our Mother Tongue. An Instagram mum – Hazliana @happyintheeast shares her journey with her three girls on how to encourage them to love the Malay language.
Read on to be inspired!
Little Day Out’s Interview with Hazliana, @happyintheeast
Tell us about yourself and how you are raising your bilingual child.
Hi! I am Hazliana and I am a mom to three feisty girls. I spend most of my waking hours busying myself around my kids, assisting the girls as they build a fort out of blankets or reading aloud to them in a cosy corner of our home. To unwind, I cook!
I’ve been teaching for 15 years. As a language teacher, I strongly believe that Mother Tongue develops a child’s personal, social and cultural identity. It is this belief that motivates me to raise my girls to be effectively bilingual. Some may think that I may have it easier, since I am a teacher by profession. But honestly, my struggles to raise bilingual children are no different from any other Singaporean family.
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To me, the home is the child’s first school and parents are the child’s first teachers. I strive to maintain a literacy-rich home environment and I am consciously looking for opportunities for my girls to learn and hopefully love the Malay language.
My love for children’s literature started way before I entered the realm of motherhood. My eldest sister had a splendid collection of children’s picture books at home, and I spent a lot of time with her children, flipping through those books or reading aloud to them when they were younger. I even went as far as buying children’s’ picture books that appealed to me.
I reckon those years played an integral role in shaping and influencing my style as an author today. It was then that I began to develop a preference for certain authors, I learnt how to appreciate different illustration styles and I crave to know more.
Then motherhood came and my collection of children’s picture books began to grow to enormous proportions. I started sourcing and purchasing children’s picture books not just for my kids, but for my personal indulgence as well.
This love for children’s literature has led me to share on the books we love as a family and recommending good reads to other parents on Instagram. It was then that my friends and some of my followers began asking me “Why don’t you start writing your own book?” That got me thinking, why not? So, I started learning from other authors. I searched high and low for an illustrator who was willing to work with a newbie like me, and then the rest was history.
I am thankful for the support given by friends, families and my followers on @happyintheeast! We are now in the middle of finishing the final touches of my second book and this one is real visual treat!
What are your children’s favourite books in Malay?
My girls love children picture books illustrated by Emila Yusof, a Malaysian-based illustrator. They’re my biggest fan too! So my first book, Air Tangan Nenek, tops the list as well.
Top 3 tips in acquiring language skills in Malay, especially for parents with primary school children?
- Find opportunities to use the language with your children. It’s ok if English is your first language but find opportunities to use it when you can, eg. when talking about food!
- Expose your children to Malay language programmes. Our local TV channel has really decent Malay language programmes suitable for primary schoolers. Momhack: you can access it all online on MeWatch!
- Read aloud to your children in Malay language as well!
What are your favourite home-based activities for reinforcing language skills?
Singing! We sing alot! This is the simplest yet the most effective way to reinforce language skills. Through singing, children learn to focus, listen carefully and repeat what they’ve heard. Singing to young children can help them develop early language and literacy skills, such as phonological awareness, auditory discrimination, and vocabulary development.
Where are some places you visit to reinforce cultural and heritage learning?
My husband and I enjoy bringing our girls over to Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, the last kampung mosque in Singapore, which has outlived the coastal villages it once served. We love how the area still retains its original charm! Its the only place in Singapore we can go that show my children a glimpse of rural Singapore and kampung life many years ago; from its architecture, the surrounding landscape and even the artifacts in the mosque!
The girls get excited at the sight of kampung chickens roaming free at the vicinity and they call themselves ‘The Chicken Chasers!’ A few months ago, the girls got lucky and we saw some freshly laid chicken eggs!
I like to take the opportunity to talk about the plants and the fruit trees surrounding the mosque. The girls love their grandmother’s cooking so I’ll show the girls some of the plants in the garden and how their nenek would use them in her Malay dishes. Like the banana tree for their favourite banana fritters or the pineapple tree for the girls’ favourite pineapple tarts! In this picture, I was showing the girls some starfruits hanging from the tree.
Which festival is your family’s favourite? How do you celebrate it and what does your child enjoy most?
We look forward to celebrating Ramadhan as a family. What’s beautiful about Ramadhan is that its a month long and we get to see how resilient the girls are as they try to fast for the day. During Ramadhan, my husband and I also take the opportunity to impart lessons on gratitude to our girls. Of course, the girls look forward to the delicious spread of food!
What do you do on a Little Day Out?
We love basking in nature and spending time with family and close friends!
Thank You for Sharing!
Amazing, Hazliana! We are grateful for the generous sharing of tips and tricks!
To find out more about Hazliana’s books especially her second book which is soon available, follow her bilingualism journey on Instagram @happyintheeast!