8 Ways to keep the Home Language Going

It seemed so easy to start with.

Knowing the many benefits of raising a bilingual child (improved brain flexibility, greater employability, connection with family and heritage) you decide to embrace the opportunity and make your home a non-English zone. You tell your family, agree on a plan (who speaks what, where and when) and await the day your lives are joyfully turned upside down and baby arrives.

It starts well; ‘mama’ and ‘milk’ are easy to remember in your home language, and you celebrate as baby says their first words. Then they start nursery; after an initial quiet period, they start to chatter away in English with their friends, then come home and talk to you in the home language.

But after a while, you start to slip. When you’re tired, and you’ve had a long day, you find yourself increasingly using English at home. What will this mean for your child’s bilingualism?

Firstly, there is no need to feel guilty. Switching between languages is a normal feature of being bilingual, and if it feels natural then carry on. Your child will be able to separate the languages out after a while. But, as we know, having a bilingual child confers so many benefits that it is worth persevering.

We racked our brains and came up with these ideas to help keep the home language going. Can you think of any more?

  • Start small: choose just 15 minutes a day (e.g. bath time) where you speak NO English, then once you do this consistently, add another time of day (e.g. dinner), then another…
  • Have a penalty jar- every time you forget to use your home language, put 10p in (or a slip of paper). Then once you’ve got enough, use it to buy a book in the home language (this site has lots: http://www.alien-languages.com/).
  • Find a radio station in your home language to listen to in the mornings as a reminder.
  • Label things in your house in your home language, then when you point to it, you’ll remember to not use English.
  • Change your phone’s settings to your home language, so you’re reminded when you look at it.
  • Try the books/websites here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bi-multilingualism/resources
  • Find children’s books, tv shows and songs in the home language.
  • Finally, enjoy speaking it! If it looks like a chore to you, your child will pick up on this; have fun with it, and your child will see it as something to be celebrated.

Good luck!

Written by Anna Sowerbutts, Speech and Language Therapist

International Stammering Awareness Day

The 22nd October is International Stammering Awareness Day. In Hackney we are marking this with our new stammering poster, designed to raise awareness and referrals to support children and young people who stammer. Click here to see our new poster which has details about how to refer to our service.

Stammering, stuttering, dysfluency? They all mean the same thing, and are used to describe:

  • repeated speech sounds e.g. “b-b-b-b-because”
  • repeated whole words e.g. “the-the-the-ball is red”
  • prolonged or lengthened sounds e.g. “yyyyyyyesterday I went shopping”
  • blocked sounds, where no sound comes out of the mouth when a person is trying to speak

A person who has a stammer may also experience muscle tensions in their face and body, disrupted breathing and reduced eye contact as a result of their stammer.


We know that stammering occurs across the world, cultures and socio-economic groups. The statistics tell us that around 5% of children will have difficulty with their fluency. This reduces to 1% of the adult population, which means that most children become fluent with or without help.


In younger children, nearly the same amount of girls and boys stammer. This changes as children get older, where we see around 4 boys to every girl who stammers. This means it is more likely that boys will need continued support with their fluency compared to girls as they get older.


There is always a lot of research being carried out, into the causes of stammering. Currently it is thought that 4 factors are linked to the possible causes:

  1. Physical e.g. genetics, family history, brain structure, development
  2. Speech and language skills
  3. Personality of the child/young person
  4. Environment e.g. school pressures

We know many famous people who stammer; people who have dysfluent speech and experience exciting achievements, such as Ed Sheeran, Samuel L-Jackson, Bruce Willis, Ed Balls and Tiger Woods.

It is widely recognised that experiencing a stammer is more than the disruption to the spoken language that can be heard. People who stammer can live in fear of speaking, which can affect how much they join in with learning and socialising.

A Speech and Language Therapist can carry out an in depth assessment of language and communication skills. They can then work with the young person, their family and school to identify strategies and make sure that all elements of their speech and communication are supported.

For more information, visit http://gethackneytalking.co.uk/, http://www.stammeringcentre.org, https://www.stammering.org


Written By Gemma Creek, Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist


A Day in the Life of…A Speech and Language Therapist

Tell us about your role?

My name is Laura Martin and I work as a Speech and Language Therapist in Hackney supporting children under the age of 5 to develop their early communication skills. I see children and families in Children’s Centres, nurseries, schools, at home or in health centres. And I work with parents, nursery staff and other professionals, including Psychologists, Social Workers, Family Support Workers, Occupational Therapists, Health Visitors… – the list is endless!

No day is ever the same as every child presents with a different profile of strengths and needs. I see children with difficulties understanding and using language, difficulties with speech sounds or stammering, difficulties with social communication skills and those children who have a diagnosis of Autism. I also see children who have difficulties with their voice and children with eating and drinking difficulties.

What did I do today?

This morning I saw a little boy who had a speech sound difficulty and his Mum, in a play room at a Children’s Centre. We played games to practice the sounds ‘f’ and ‘s’ and I gave his Mum some activities to try at home too.

After that I went to visit a nursery to have a meeting with parents and other professionals about what support we can put in place for a little girl with a hearing impairment. We set some targets together and all agreed on a plan on how to help her.

In the afternoon I ran a Talking Walk-In assessment session at a community centre. The Talking Walk-Ins are regular drop in sessions where parents can bring their children for a brief assessment and they can discuss any concerns they have. We make a decision about whether their child needs to have therapy with us and we provide advice and activities to try at home.

To finish the day off I wrote up reports from the Talking Walk In, liaised with some health visitors and got ready for my next day of therapy!

My favourite thing about my job?

Hackney is such as diverse community and I love working closely with children and families and really getting to know them. It’s nice to see the children improve.

The best advice for speech and language development?

It sounds so simple but talk and play with your children. Follow their interests and tell them all about the world around them using simple language.

If you’re worried, why not pop into a Talking Walk-In? Click here to find the Talking Walk-in nearest you.

Supermarket Surprises

I took my son to shop
I had some things to collect
Bread rolls, some cheese and a new mop
And get home before he started to object

The girl at the check was slow
We queued for ever and ever
Eddie got grumpy and wanted to go
But then his eyes began to glimmer

He started to shout and point to his right
He really got quite excited
So I knelt beside him and looked from his height
To see what made him so delighted

Just past the check-out girls’ hair
The escalator rose in the air
People were rising on magical stairs
So we both spent a minute looking there

Eddie looked at me and smiled
I said ‘wow an escalator over there’
The world is exciting if you’re a child
Take time to stop and share