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Thread: Bilingual household
June 20th, 2013 01:28 AM #36Senior Member
- Join Date
- May 2013
We have not yet figured this out for ourselves. We are expats who are only truly fluent in English, but are getting to be fairly proficient in the language of the country where we are living (and intend to continue living for several more years). Find it sad when kids who have grown up here don't speak the local language at all, so we are hoping for our children to become at least proficient in understanding/communicating. But, as many have mentioned, it can be hard to do unless the parents are truly bilingual. Two experiences I'm familiar with:
Friends who lived in both a Spanish-speaking country and the USA. Both parents were fluent in English and Spanish, though the father's first langauge is Spanish and his accent in English is pretty strong, and vice versa for the mother. They both spoke to their kids in both languages, depending on the context, though tried for the "home" language to be whichever country they were NOT currently in. So that they were getting at least some exposure at home to the language that they weren't getting as much exposure to out in other contexts. The kids both seemed to handle it okay while we were with them. At first, the 4 yr old was reluctant to speak English (having recently arrived from the Spanish-speaking country), but understood it fine and, after a few months began speaking a lot more. The 7 year old seemed to have no trouble, switching happily back and forth. It perhaps helped that some Spanish-speaking relatives lived nearby and they spent time with them frequently. The parents said they children seemed to have an uncanny knack for knowing who to speak Spanish or English to, even when first meeting new people.
My uncle and aunt live in Switzerland, and are both fluent in English and German. They have primarily followed the pattern of the father speaking English only and the mother speaking German only when speaking to the kids. Because of being in the Swiss context, and perhaps because they hear their father speaking German all the time to other people, for a long time they would only speak German in response. We found it amusing when we visited a couple years ago: if neither parent was around, the kids would shyly respond to us in English, but if either parent was around, they would respond to us in German and expect a parent to translate! (Having now studied another language more intensively, I actually understand this reluctance to speak the weaker language in front of someone who is truly bilingual...I'm always more willing to speak my new language if there's no one around to hear me who can speak good English!) However, as they have gotten older, they are speaking more and more English when around English-speaking relatives or on trips to the US. They do seem to have a bit of an accent, still, but they seem to have a good foundation now (as pre-teen/early teens) to continue to improve their English. I think they also study English at school, and French as well.
June 21st, 2013 02:03 AM #38
I almost think it's easier to learn three languages than two if you have two parents at home.
When we lived in the states my mom spoke German to me and my baby-sitter spoke English.
In Germany my mom spoke English and school and everyone else German.
My cousin was raised tri-lingual. (This is what I plan to do with my kids). His mom spoke French with him, and English with his dad or at all family functions. His dad spoke German with him. I think it helps that both parents speak German,English and French fluently so it wasn't like anyone had a "secret" language. I expect my SO will learn German (at least baby German) and I'll learn (hopefully) passable Spanish.
If this seems incredibly difficult for you or your kid to comprehend, a friend of mine (who teaches sign language) suggested teaching basic baby-sign - insisting that your kid pair a verbal sound with the motion is important but, it might help them understand that all three words for table mean the same thing. (Also if you don't speak Chinese but your kid does, but you understand the baby-sign it might make it easier to communicate and alleviate some of the frustration).
FYI: If you have a family history of language processing disorders (like dyslexia) sign language can be incredibly beneficial as it muscle memory based instead of auditory or vocal. (I'm dyslexic so it's just one more tool I plan on giving my kids).Little Lorelei - May 2016Endora - Merida - Viola - Zelda
Dexter - Felix - Gideon - Victor
June 22nd, 2013 10:19 PM #40Junior Member
- Join Date
- Mar 2013
- On the shore of the ocean
I grew up speaking Spanish with my mother and her family, English with my father, and French and Ojibwe with my paternal grandparents. Growing up in a very traditional, very white, area, I was always a quite embarrassed when I had to speak anything but English, because no one else seemed to know another language. My siblings and I never really used Ojibwe, except with our grandmother, so when she died, we pretty much stopped using it all together. That is now one of my biggest regrets. I would love to be able to teach my children Ojibwe.
As it stands, I speak to Brynn in French at home or when I need to speak to her privately while we're in public, and English with non-French speaking friends. Hubby speaks to her in English, and my mother uses only Spanish. She speaks all three languages. For a while, she would assume that everyone spoke English, French, and Spanish, and so would respond in different languages (and would sometimes switch languages in the middle of the conversation). If someone asked her a question in English, she might respond in Spanish. She's gotten much better about that, but she will still slip some French and Spanish words into her English (but she doesn't mix French and Spanish together, and she doesn't slip English into either). What little television she watches is a mix of English, Spanish, and French, and she has books in all three languages. We expect to raise Sage in the same way.*Brynn Saskia - 03/31/2010
*Baby Boy - due 07/19/2013