From day one of being parents we have spoken to the kids in our own home languages (I grew up in an English home and my hubbie grew up in an Afrikaans home). We have stuck to it and now both kids happily chat in both languages. But I am the stay at home parent, the one doing the day-to day home education activities (please don’t get me wrong my hubbie does a LOT with the kids and is very involved but he does go to work 5 days a week), so naturally the kids are stronger in English. My oldest appears to be more language minded and reads Afrikaans and even writes a bit but her younger brother does not really try to read Afrikaans, that was until the past holidays.
One of his Christmas pressies was a book all about South African snakes – Kinders se Slange van Suider- Africa – he loves learning about reptiles – only this book was in Afrikaans (The Afrikaans word for snakes is Slange). To begin with he just paged through the book and then he sat with his dad and his dad starting reading it to him. I am not sure I have ever seen him concentrate so hard. Normally when his dad reads Afrikaans books he listens but does not try to follow, this time he was really studying the words. And after just a few pages he was picking up some of the more common words and recognising them. His dad was thrilled and I must admit I was blown away.
But then I sat and went through our other Afrikaans books and none of them were on the topics that he is really fascinated with (I mean REALLY fasinated with). They are story books, nice story books but nothing fact based about the animals or dinosaurs he loves to study. And that is exactly how he picked up reading English so quickly – we used books on topics that he was desperate to learn about, but somehow I seemed to have forgotten that when it came to Afrikaans.
I have been amazed to watch him over the past 2 weeks – he keeps going back to his Afrikaans Snake book and he gets his dad to read him page after page and he follows, really follows, he stops his dad if he gets lost. He is finding words, phrases that he can now read and he is thrilled. One book, one well written book on a topic that he is fascinated by and I can see the progress and I can see how much he is enjoying it. It is not learning because he has to learn, he is learning because he wants to. He wants to be able to read his Afrikaans snake book from cover to cover and he wants to be able to chat to his dad and uncle about the snakes that he is reading using all the correct Afrikaans terms.
And just to reinforce what her brother was showing us (Give a kid a topic they are fascinated by and they will fly), my daughter started baking from Afrikaans recipes – she loves baking but we normally stick to English recipes that I know. So yes I am going to listen to these two and we are going to make sure we do more 2nd language activities based on their favourite topics.