Selecting a Language Plan Pt. 3: Time and Place
This blog post is written in collaboration with Berenice Moreno, a bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) and mother of three. She has a M.S. in Communicative Disorders, a B.A. in Child Development, and a minor in Special Education. She has been an SLP for 10 years now and has worked in a variety of settings including Early Intervention, clinic, and schools. Her passion is working with bilingual families and students and helping them honor their languages and cultures. Stay tuned for other posts from this series!
We last discussed the Minority Language at Home and One Parent One Language strategies in our blog which are popular among many bilingual families that can fluently speak the target language! That said, every family is different, and a language plan like Time and Place offers a more flexible and versatile approach that is applicable to a wide variety of family structures, making it another popular strategy. This is the third language plan we’ll be discussing, so keep on reading to see if it feels right for you!
Time and Place
The Time and Place language plan consists of choosing specific contexts in which to speak the target language. This language approach is implemented by creating a strategy that determines when, where and during which activities to use each specific language. For example, a family might choose to use the target language when they are spending time with grandparents, during specific family activities like eating meals together, riding in the car, afternoon walks, or any other activity. They may even speak the majority language during the week and the minority language on weekends. Even activities like daily reading can be assigned as designated activities for speaking the target language. Other families may choose to send their children to immersion programs, bilingual schools or language tutoring where they practice the target language and use that as the child’s main exposure.
The Time and Place strategy is often practiced by:
- Families that are non-native speakers of the target language, but would like to practice it daily.
- Families where one parent is bilingual and the other is not. This less intensive approach prevents the monolingual parent from feeling excluded.
- Families whose children are enrolled in immersion or language programs where one half of the day might be conducted in one language and the other half in another language
- Families that are looking to teach their kids more than two languages. Time and Place offers a manageable way to practice a third language
Regardless of the moments parents choose to designate as “target language time”, families should select times in which it’s realistic, doable and comfortable for them to speak the target language with their children. This approach serves a good purpose in reminding families to speak and transition to the target language. For example, if you have selected dinner time to be the time in which the family speaks the target language, everyone can share the highlight of their day in that language.
For this strategy to be as effective as it can be, parents should determine a clear and consistent plan for the use of each language that they will firmly stick to. In order for children to learn a second language, they need a lot of exposure and interaction in this language. Since the nature of this approach consists of a more limited exposure to the target language than in the previous language plans, with limited new vocabulary that is relevant to the specific contexts of the activity, it is crucial that parents find more opportunities for exposure if they want their children to truly pick up the language. Using bilingual language resources at home, like Binibi’s bilingual children’s sound books, or resources outside the home, like bilingual schools or extracurriculars, to provide additional exposure will be highly beneficial in practicing the target language and facilitating the transition between languages.
Corrie Wiik, founder of Llamitas Spanish® Spanish curricula, uses the Time and Place language plan with her family. Here’s what she has to say:
“It works perfectly for our family profile: my husband speaks very minimal Spanish (mostly Spanglish he's picked up from growing up in California~ but he sure knows how to order the best tacos!). I am a non native speaker too, but fluent in Spanish as I worked in Spain and have a Masters in Spanish. The Time & Place strategy allows my family to connect naturally in our majority language (English) but still raise bilingual kids successfully through intentional and daily Spanish input.”
You’ll be able to read more about her approach and experience with the Time and Place strategy in an upcoming blog. Stay tuned!
FAQs about the Time and Place language plan, answered by Berenice Moreno (bilingual SLP):
How many moments in the day should I allocate to the target language?
Quantity and quality of language exposure will impact how proficient a child becomes. If you only select one activity in which to practice the target language, keep in mind your child will likely learn limited vocabulary and be less proficient, but, it’s important to consider what your family can do and what your goals are. If your goal is for your child to learn both languages fluently, then it would be best to have as many exposure opportunities as possible for both languages, especially the one that they’re exposed to the least outside the home. Reading bilingual books for kids, especially sound books or musical books that engage children and provide quality language input, is a great way to increase exposure at home!
2. My partner and I are not fluent in the target language, can we still use this strategy?
Yes! While the child will likely not become proficient from limited exposure, they can still practice it with you at home during specific activities. For example, if they’re learning it outside the home, like at school, parents can support this learning and reinforce words at home in the target language.
One of the great things about this approach is that it allows parents to remember to use the target language and prepare before a specific activity if they don’t feel proficient. They can learn target vocabulary that relates to the specific activities. For example, if you will be cooking with your child, you can look up words relating to cooking in advance before actually doing the activity.
Berenice’s main tip for families implementing the Time and Place language plan is to increase exposure to the target language by increasing the amount of activities or times that you dedicate to each language.
As we continue to emphasize the importance of finding a language plan that suits your family’s needs, stay tuned to learn about the last strategy we’ll be discussing: the Mixed Language approach.