For various reasons some parents do not decide to make Gaelic the language of the home until one of the children is of an age to attend nursery or even to start school. Often parents will enrol the child in Gaelic medium education and on seeing how effortlessly the child is acquiring Gaelic may be encouraged to consider making Gaelic the language of the home.
If the language bond between parent and child is established in English it can be difficult to change but although you cannot suddenly stop speaking English you can increase the amount of Gaelic you use which will benefit your child enormously. The family could decide that they’ll try to speak Gaelic at certain times, for example, at mealtimes or bedtime. Thereafter this could increase by degrees as parents become more confident.
Whatever decision is made it is important that both parents support it. It is advisable also to discuss the matter with the children if they are old enough to understand. After that the family must regard it as a process which will be implemented by degrees and come to an arrangement about the targets which they think they could attain.
My child refuses to use her Gaelic. When she is spoken to in Gaelic she responds in English. How should we deal with this?
Even in Gaelic speaking homes, sometimes one child persists in speaking English. This may not last long and the parents may manage to persuade her back to speaking Gaelic, but there are instances where the refusal may last a long time. This issue has to be treated with sensitivity. There is no point in attempting to compel such children to speak Gaelic: that will only strengthen the resistance but gentle persuasion and asking them to repeat themselves in Gaelic is advisable. There will be a reason for the insistence on speaking English; the child herself may not understand why. Possible causes are: asserting her independence as a result of being overshadowed by an older brother or sister; rebellion because of too frequent correction of errors in her Gaelic; association of Gaelic with criticism and English with fun; embarrassment about being spoken to in Gaelic in the presence of her English speaking friends.
It is easy for parents to be worn down by this resistance and resort to English but you should try not to let it happen. You should continue speaking in Gaelic and even if your child replies in English his / her understanding of Gaelic is improving all the time.
My child speaks a mixture of Gaelic and English. What should I do about it?
Children who are exposed to two or more languages may take some time before they learn to distinguish between them and during this transition period it is not unusual for them to have a mixture of languages in one sentence. There is little to be gained by criticising or correcting children at this stage and overcorrecting may even impede their language development and result in a reluctance to engage in conversation. Note the English words and phrases they tend to use and incorporate the Gaelic equivalent into your own speech and make sure that you avoid using a mixture of Gaelic and English.