Lessons from speech therapy after speaking our mother tongue exclusively at home

Mother Tongue

As with most parents, developing my son’s mother tongue was one of my top priorities. I made a conscious decision from the time that he was born that I would speak our home language (isiZulu) with him, exclusively, until he went to school. In my mind, it was the only way to ensure that he would be fluent and comfortable with the language before he went on to speak English for the rest of his schooling life.

He was introduced to English at the age of 4 (he went to a Zulu and Sotho speaking crèche for 2 years). As a result he missed the opportunity to learn some of the key English vocabulary and sentence structure by the time he was to join grade 1.

Long story short, he is currently attending speech therapy and “improve” his language skills and pronunciation.

If you are in a similar position, here are some of the tips you can use to help your child and save some bucks:

  • The most important step is to read to your child as often as possible (make it part of your evening routine). This helps them to pick up new words and concepts.
  • Allow them to interrupt you for questions and ask them to tell the story back to you when you’re done. Make it fun and let them pick out the books they like in a shop or library.
  • Encourage your child to tell you stories and ask as many opened ended questions as possible to inspire dialogue. Ask them to tell you what the best and worst part of their day was, instead of “how are you” to which they’ll only respond “I’m fine”. After they’ve watched a dvd or listened to a story, ask them to tell you what it was about.
  • When your child structures a sentence incorrectly, use incidental correcting e.g. if they say, “I buyed a ice cream at school” you can respond with “Oh, so you bought yourself an icecream at school, that’s really nice”. In this way, you are using the correct sentence structure or word more than you are repeating the incorrect one. This is called incidental correcting.
  • Some words are very similar but use a different technique to sound out e.g. fish and dish. Show your child how you move your tongue and lips when you pronounce the different words; in that way, they can understand how to sound the word better.

Remember that it is a process; that means that your child needs your time and PATIENCE to improve.

I am not a qualified speech therapist, these are some of the tools that my son benefited from, with and outside of speech therapy. It has been an expensive but worthwhile exercise for us and I can definitely see the benefits. His therapist worked really hard to earn his trust and help us.

I will be sure to share to share more tips as we go along.  Please do leave me a comment with your experience, I would love to hear it.


Modern Zulu Mom

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *