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"We have moved and our child has started to forget the Russian language. What should we do?". Chitania experts answer


A new home, a new language, a new world - emigration seems to cut your life in half, before and after. The past is full of memories and familiar surroundings, the future is hazy, and the present is full of fears, worries and hope.

There are many discussions about who it is easier for to leave: a small child with innate high adaptability, but who does not understand why he or she is being taken away from the familiar environment, or an adult with a conservative way of thinking, but who is clearly aware of the reasons for what is happening and the purpose of his or her actions.

One thing is certain - it is much easier for an adult to preserve his or her native language in the new place. If you have been speaking the same language for more than 20 years, it will be quite difficult to forget it. For children, especially young children and those of primary school age, the opposite is true: new experiences overshadow the old ones, and foreign language sounds everywhere will very quickly become the baby's native speech.

"The adaptive possibilities for children are almost limitless. They soak up the new language like a sponge - and after six months their speech is indistinguishable from that of local children. This flexibility, however, has the opposite effect: a language that is not used is also forgotten very quickly. Constant repetition is a very important element in acquiring speech and reading skills. That's why our reading app has various extra features and mini-games so that the child is constantly repeating letters and syllables, making them automatic."

Natalia Sosnina, Chitania.

We asked our readers why it is so important for them to keep the Russian language in the family.
  1.     Communication with friends and relatives. Grandparents, old school or kindergarten buddies are all an important part of a child's life. Moving does not mean a loss of contact, but a lack of a common language may well spoil communication, despite the many dictionaries and translators that exist.
  2.     There is a huge cultural layer. Pushkin, Gogol, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Akhmatova, Tsvetaeva, Averchenko, Solzhenitsyn. Yes, you can live without them or read in translation, but the original is always better. What about ‘Prostokvashino?’ Or ‘Kuzka the Little Houseboy?’ ‘Uncle Aw?’ ‘The Babies?’ All these untranslatable word games, and only a native speaker can fully understand and appreciate their meaning.
  3.     Intellectual development. Bi and multilingualism is not only about reading a book in different languages. It is great exercise for the brain, training a child's intellectual abilities. Bilinguals often learn better at school and are more inclined to think analytically.
  4.     A basis for a future profession. The ability to speak several languages is in demand in all fields. Although times are difficult in Russia, it is still a vast country with great resources. Maybe there will be more cooperation between Russia and Europe in the future - and people with Russian language skills will be very much in demand. Equally, we should not forget about the former CIS countries.
  5.     National identity. A child will retain his or her bearings, he or she will not have the feeling that he or she has come from nowhere to a new country. By building on their past, they will be able to build their future with more confidence.

"Being bilingual is great because a child's development involves both halves of the brain. The constant shifting of attention from one half to the other leads to stronger and more resilient neural connections. Such children often find it easier to learn, simply because they think more quickly", explains Karina Zubova-van Dijk, social therapist and hypnotherapist.

It is believed that to preserve language in a bilingual family, it is enough for one parent to always speak to the child in his or her own language. This does prevent the child from losing the spoken language completely, but it does not give full knowledge.

5 signs that a child has started to forget Russian
  1.     The child replaces individual words in his speech with words from another language.
  2.     The Russian language becomes poorer, loses imagery and variety.
  3.     It becomes noticeable that it is difficult for a child to express his thought or make a sentence in Russian.
  4.     An accent can be seen.
  5.     Your child will gradually lose the ability to hear Russian.

If you notice these signs, do not let it go unnoticed.  Children in Europe have enough of a language load as it is, so if you want to keep your child's Russian, it's best not to get them into a situation where they have to start from scratch.

Try to get your child interested to begin with: read interesting fairy tales, show interesting cartoons, so that the language is emotionally fulfilling for them. You can periodically play a treasure hunt, giving instructions in Russian only.

If the child already speaks and understands Russian well, it is time to start learning to read and write in the mother tongue. This is best done in a playful way, too.

One of the best apps for teaching a child to read in Russian is Chitania.

In this app, a child travels through a magical land, battles an evil wizard - and, without even noticing it, learns letters and puts words together. "Reading turns learning into a fun process and allows you to teach your child to read without pressure or stress.

"The first positive experiences were with American families. So you could say that it was the bilingual children who became our first users, early adopters.  We realised from the feedback that Chitania is used by parents not only as a tool for teaching reading, but also as a way of transmitting Russian-speaking culture to their children.

After all, Chitania is more than just teaching material. We have tried to put some moral values, some cultural aspects into our app.

For example, the app occasionally includes proverbs. Or children defeat an evil wizard and feel sorry for him, saying it's sad that some people choose to be bad when they can be good.

We wanted the children not just to learn the letters, but to learn some life lessons, just like in a real fairy tale."

Mikhail Sosnin, Chitania.

How else can you help your child master Russian or not forget it?
  •     Develop their vocabulary. Play the "name and show" game. A child points at an object and names it out loud.
  •     Do not mumble. Mispronouncing words is not good for your child.
  •     Sing - alone or with your child. Rhymes are always good to remember.
  •     Compose - write letters to grandparents or short stories together.
  •     Make family friends. If you find your child a couple of Russian-speaking friends, you can already create a separate environment in which he/she can communicate in Russian.
How to help older children?

In principle, the advice is the same. You can also watch Russian films, TV series or humorous programmes with teenagers. Discussing their content and meaning will not only help learning the Russian language, but will also develop a child's tendency to analyze the situation and better understand the motives behind people's behavior. And, of course, good jokes will just cheer you all up!

Photos are from the Internet


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