I am a bit dubious of our chances of successfully raising Antoine to speak/understand Arabic. It was his father's first and only language (he didn't understand a word of English, despite being born in the US) until age 5; and the language his entire extended family is most comfortable in. Antoine hears it daily, over Skype, and when the grandparents are visiting, he's spoken to in it exclusively.
However, most bicultural children end up with aural comprehension of the second language and speak exclusively in the dominant one. It's a natural process-- both parents speak and comprehend English; school, television, conversations on the street, ordering in a restaurant, etc is all in English, but not so for Arabic. There are always Saturday language schools which teach reading & writing as well (especially important if the second language has an entirely separate script or writing system), but most immigrant kids I know grew up loathing and despising them.
I speak French fluently but other than a few nursery rhymes it feels very contived to talk to the baby in it.
Ok so I read your post again. One thing that confused me was I was unsure if you yourself are bilingual. I got the feeling you were not, but I could be wrong.
I currently am single and childless (also young). I have no current desire to raise my children bilingual; however, if I marry someone who speaks or whose family speaks a different language (than English) I will try to learn. The only or best shot my kids have of being bilingual is if I marry someone who is. If I wanted to have bilingual children, I would start looking for a mate, who is bilingual so he can pass on his culture. (This sounds silly, but my cousin wanted to marry an Italian and now she is married to someone whose grandparents speak Italian and has cousins in Italy.)
Anyway, I think a lot would depend on the culture you are trying to be bilingual with. It also would help to live in different places. A friend of my sister's grew up somewhat bilingual since they lived in both France and America. (Her friend learned to speak French, then forgot some of it, but took French in high school and was much better than anyone else in the class and picked up it very fast again.) If I wanted my kids to be bilingual, the other thing I would try is to live in an area where a language such as Spanish was spoken as well English in the community.
I only speak one language (English) fluently and while I used to be conversational in French, I've unfortunately lost most of it. Being able to speak a second language has actually become more important to me now that I'm having a child, I'd really like them to know the importance of languages.
His/her dad speaks English most of the time, but is also fluent in Spanish. I'm actually considering when the time comes, to put my child in a primarily spanish-speaking day care.
I've also seen families teach two languages to their young children by repeating everything they say twice, once in each language.
The situation is hard to explain. No, I was not raised bilingually, and I am not exactly bilingual.
Originally Posted by emilyva
Let's say the language is German. My family has a strong tradition of learning German, although there are no German origins. There is a gift for words and languages in my family. When I was young, my parents spoke to each other frequently in German so that I would not know what they were saying. I have the family gift of language, so I learned a lot of German this way. When I chose a language in school, I chose German, and missed a year but was able to be top of the class the year after before skipping two language levels. I am mostly fluent, but not bilingual and I use it frequently. I stay in practice by talking to my friends in both languages and I habitually translate work or write daily lists or notes in the other language, so I am not really bilingual, just fluent. Did I explain that well?
The only way of raising a truly bilingual child (that is, a child with 2 mother tongues, as opposed to a child who speaks a foreign language fluently) if neither of the parents is a native speaker of the other language is to enrol the kid in an international school (like the Lycée Français) from a very young age. Unless the child is exposed to the language in its original form daily (or at least consistently), he or she will never aquire it as a "natural" language and probably won't sound like a native.
I used to live in a part of Canada that had a large French population. They way their children learned English was through tv and through interacting with others ie) at stores etc. They spoke exclusively French at home to each other and the children but all of the children's tv programs were in English so they were learning English at the same time but without the parents having to try and teach them.
I'd highly suggest finding an immersion program or tutor/teacher then. To raise a truly bilingual child you would need to have German be a native language. Sure you can be fluent, but you'll still have an "American Accent" as my Chinese family would say. This is why I don't consider myself fluent.
Originally Posted by merrybells
Now it would be different if you fully immersed yourself in that country and became bilingual, but that takes years! My mom has lived in the US for 30 years now and because of that, her family claims she has an American accent to her Chinese. She hardly speaks Chinese here and so she's gotten rusty. It's odd since her English still isn't very good, my husband sometimes can't understand her. I'm used to it because I grew up with her. However, she sticks to English, even at Chinese restaurants, she tends to muddle the two. Often she'll say the food names in Chinese, but she'll say it like this "can we get ______ and two of ____" despite the fact she could say it all in Chinese. Even on our trip to Taiwan, I had to remind her a lot to speak Chinese. My grandparents can't speak English and my mom would often forget.
Anyway, this is why I'm enrolling my child into Chinese immersion. I don't think I could teach her/him myself and if I did, it probably wouldn't be very good Chinese. The nice thing is I could totally help her/him with homework and even practice with her/him just like my mom did when I was learning Chinese in college.
I'm a native English speaker and am majoring in French at university. I would definitely love to raise any future children bilingually. My boyfriend is fluent in French, English and Dutch, so the most likely scenario would be that we both speak French and English to the children and he speaks some Dutch with them as well.
Although I don't know from personal experience, I've heard that the key to raising a bilingual child is constant immersion in the non-dominant language. I also second the suggestion of www.mulitilingualliving.com, it's a great resource.
We are native English speakers living in Sweden, so as a family we speak English, but in the company of our friends I speak Swedish with our children (but my husband still speaks mostly English with them since they speak more Swedish than he does whereas I am fluent-ish in Swedish.). They will be 2 in July and they speak and understand both languages, but probably default more to Swedish since they get it all day at preschool and we play with friends so often. When their grandmother came from the US I was actually worried about them communicating with her but they figured out pretty quickly that they had to speak English with her. It was amazing.
I have always dreamed of having bilingual kids and for us the easiest thing was to raise them at least partly overseas in an environment where they are exposed to the other language daily.
My family has a German background on my mum's side. But my grandmother never really used it with my mum as a child. We learnt nursery rhymes and songs in German; but conversation was always quite minimal (especially because my grandmother was the only fluent one left.) But then when I was in middle school I learn German and took a trip with my nanna back to Germany. That experience made it easier for me to feel confident about my language abilities. When I came back I spoke German all the time, I didn't have any friends that could speak German; but I knew my nanna and my dad understood me (my dad is way more passionate about languages than my mum - weird, I know!) And then I went back a second time and it just all made sense, it was as though it was completely normal to me. I just intend to raise my kids with a comprehension of German, they'll learn the songs and the history, and probably a few phrases. I am also hoping that they'll be able to attend a school that teaches German as well, because its a dying language in my family. My suggestion would be to throw it in with everyday life, say good morning in your native tongue, teach them from the beginning. Often kids fall in love and become more fascinated with second language than they are the first.