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Thread: Bilingual household
June 15th, 2013 10:12 AM #21
My family is Danish, but we moved to Germany when I was two. Since my parents didn't really know German either, I just learned it by going to kindergarten. The other kids there didn't speak Danish so I just had to adjust. My parents tried to speak German to me at home a few times, when they had learned a bit more, but I refused to talk to them in anything other than Danish. I think that if the child knows that there is no other way to communicate with a person than to speak their language, they'll learn it eventually, so just be consistent. I'm afraid that the child will be confused if one person speaks two different languages to them, at least when they're very young (I was! I might be the only one though). That being said, learning two languages from a young age is great! Learning English and Spanish as I got older almost came naturally to me.Cleo
June 15th, 2013 10:29 AM #23
German as a teen and adult and have a close-to-native accent. (When I'm in Germany, people are aware I don't speak exactly like them, but are usually unable to guess where I'm from, sometimes thinking I'm from another part of the country.) Even if your children don't pick up a perfect native-speaker accent, they will still learn the language and be able to use it if they travel or converse with other speakers of the language. Personally, I don't think having an accent means you're not fluent. Otherwise, half the English speakers I know in Toronto wouldn't qualify as fluent, even though most of them function completely in an English-speaking environment!
I generally think of it as giving your children the gift of language exposure. If you're diligent, they may achieve true bilingualism, but even if they don't, they will hopefully still have the building blocks of their second language which will help them if they later choose to pick it up or to travel to that location. And, as others have mentioned, they may be able to pick up another language more easily.Estella ~ Helena ~ Miriam ~ Beatrice ~ Anastasia ~ Ivy ~ MarillaPaul ~ Wesley ~ Walter ~ Martin ~ Edmund ~ Fraser ~ Alexander
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June 15th, 2013 11:05 AM #25
June 15th, 2013 01:19 PM #27Junior Member
- Join Date
- Feb 2013
Kids are pragmatic; by default they are going to speak in the language that comes most easily to them. Unlike adults who have an active interest in improving their skills in their weaker language and seek out opportunities to use that language, kids don't care if their German (or French or whatever) isn't as strong as their English and aren't going to go out of their way to practice it - their interest is in being understood. You can do the one parent, one language thing, but sooner or later your child is going to figure out that one or both of you are not unilingual (because he or she will observe you having conversations with each other and other people), and at that point the likelihood that he or she will start responding in his or her stronger language (typically English or whatever the dominant language is where you live) will go up. Having people in the child's life, either grandparents, a caregiver, or peers who are genuinely unilingual in the less dominant language, is one of the best ways to foster bilingualism, although of course the child needs to have regular contact with such people.
The one parent, one language thing doesn't work for us - it is not really a natural way to live for many people, though I've nothing against it if it works well for some. We speak both English and French with our son, but he responds in English only. The fact that he knows we are bilingual does not confuse him at all - he knows that with one grandma we use French, when we go out to shops and to his day care we speak French, but at home we mainly use English. He is much stronger in English than in French at the moment, but his French comprehension is very good and his pronunciation of both languages is very good. I think it's important to be realistic in terms of what level of fluency you want your children to achieve - there are many different definitions of what it means to be bilingual, but for me the general goal is to give my children the ability to communicate with a wider variety of people. They will decide later in life whether they want to invest the time and effort in gaining and maintaining a high level of fluency in their weaker language; all I can do now is do my best to give them opportunities to practice their second language that are natural (i.e., that don't require me to 'force' them to use the weaker language through constant reminders and reproaches).
June 15th, 2013 02:03 PM #29Senior Member
- Join Date
- Nov 2010
- British Columbia
My linguistics prof is teaching her daughter to speak English, German and Zulu. The mother speaks to the daughter in German and the father speaks to the daughter in Zulu. Her only English comes from school. I would suggest creating a schedule where one language is spoken in the morning/early afternoon, and then the second language is spoken in the late afternoon/evening. Once the child starts school, cut out the language spoken at school at all in the home. (The child will be getting 8+ hours of the primary language every day so it wouldn't be beneficial to speak it at home.) Bilingualism is very difficult to teach, especially if it is not your native tongue. It would be good to hire a tutor/nanny who can speak in that language with the child. And remember that the first 6 months are integral in instilling bilingualism, as sounds not native to the child will not be able to be distinguished/easily pronounced after that time (for example: before 6 months, Japanese babies can distinguish "l" and "r" sounds from each other, but after 6 months, they cannot. However, if the Japanese baby is spoken to in English during the first 6 months, they will be able to distinguish the sounds afterwards.) My linguistics prof uses a similar schedule and her daughter is fluent in all three languages. My prof spent much time researching the best way to teach a child multilingualism and determined this as the most efficient. Good luck!Favourite girls: Amadea, Antonia, Cecily, Clara, Eleanor, Georgia, Margaret, Matilda, Pandora, Susannah
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