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Raising a bilingual child

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dampingwire
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 2773 days ago

1185 posts - 1513 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian*, French
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 17 of 37
20 February 2015 at 1:01am | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
One of my concerns was that if we only spoke English at home my daughter might be a bit delayed for German, which is obviously
the critical language for her (English is really just a bonus). From what I've read and heard here this doesn't seem to be a real issue though - and
probably wouldn't be a problem even if she only heard English at home.


First of all, many congratulations on your impending arrival.

I'd certainly second what others have said about not worrying about your child picking up the language that's spoken outside. My wife has taught in
various primary schools and in a nursery class over the years and has had to teach a number of children who started school at four or five years old
completely unable to speak English. They have all become fluent English speakers in less than a year. I spoke to my youngest almost exclusively
in Italian for perhaps the first five years of his life, but he still seemed to pick up English from all those other influences ... Regardless of what
you do in the home, you will not be able to prevent your child from learning German.

Three languages won't be an issue either, although whether your daughter will actually choose to pick up Spanish once she realises that it's only of
use in a limited environment and all the other kids (probably) speak German anyway, is a completely different problem :-)


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beano
Diglot
Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2730 days ago

1049 posts - 2152 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Russian, Serbian, Hungarian

 
 Message 18 of 37
12 March 2015 at 10:29am | IP Logged 
I've always wondered how big a factor the actual child is in these situations. You can implement countless strategies but ultimately the kid has the final decision in whether or not to engage. People raised in multi-lingual / heritage environments speak at a wide variety of levels. Some of this must be down to the individual's mindset and attitude towards different languages.
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dandt
Senior Member
Australia
regarderetlire.wordp
Joined 2732 days ago

134 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Italian, French

 
 Message 19 of 37
12 March 2015 at 1:49pm | IP Logged 
dampingwire wrote:

I'd certainly second what others have said about not worrying about your child picking up the language
that's spoken outside. My wife has taught in
various primary schools and in a nursery class over the years and has had to teach a number of children
who started school at four or five years old
completely unable to speak English. They have all become fluent English speakers in less than a
year.
This is exactly what happened with my father. His parents spoke no English at all until he was
6 and went to school, where he was taught English. It was only a few weeks after starting school that he
started replying to my grandparents in English instead of Italian without realising it. The language issue
has never held him back and he did well at school all the way through, especially in English, and did well
in university. His Italian is okay now, probably because his parents have such poor English, but he
doesn't use it very much. He mainly uses it to speak with his parents when they refuse to speak English.
His preference is definitely for English, even when in an Italian environment
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mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
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Spain
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Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 20 of 37
14 March 2015 at 8:16pm | IP Logged 
While most children turn out OK, some caveats still apply and, as much as you can expect parents to raise all their children the same way, individual differences matter.

I'm friends with a Russian expat couple, and they have two children. Russian is spoken at home, as I think it should be, 99% of the time, except maybe when I or other Spaniards are visiting, as courtesy. The eldest boy M., now 9, is somewhat of an introvert with few friends, and has a noticeable accent both in Russian and in Spanish, and at least his Spanish is slightly broken. We're all confident that once his 'social' problems are gone the language part will take of itself, though.

His little sister S., now 4, used to be notoriously shy too, but has no problem with either language, accent- or otherwise. Actually, her parents often correct her Spanish to ensure she doesn't pick too much of the horrid local accent, so she'll probably become the best of the four at Spanish in no time.

Other expat couples I know have bilingual and trilingual children which are doing pretty well with languages, but every child has a slightly different story that must be considered.

Bottom line -- it'll all be most likely alright... if you keep an eye on it.

Edit: (2: Spanish during visits above) and, of course, congratulations :)

Edited by mrwarper on 16 March 2015 at 11:38am

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shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 2552 days ago

747 posts - 1122 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 21 of 37
16 March 2015 at 3:21am | IP Logged 
In the beginning many parents want their kids to learn the mother-tongue with good intentions. A lot of the
learning can be done at home with kids just speaking the native language with their parents. It is not an
academic exercise you force on your kids. You simply encourage them to communicate using specific
languages. If you watch foreign videos on TV or over the Internet, your kids can join in. If kids don't learn their
native-tongue, they may do it later in life by enrolling in language classes or in university or other places.

I know 1 family where the husband is Austrian and the wife is Dutch. The 2 raised their 2 boys in an English-
speaking environment. They took a few European languages in high school including Latin, German & French
and ended up working in Europe where they also picked up Spanish & Italian. While they were living in
Canada, I don't think their parents even speak to them in German or Dutch. Their fluency came later after they
relocated.

When I was growing up and still in primary school, my older siblings were in high school and being educated
in Chinese. Many years later, I am the only person in the family besides my parents who still read a Chinese
newspaper. The others are still able to speak the language but have forgotten virtually all the Chinese
characters. I still follow a number of TV shows from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong online while my older
siblings watch mostly American TV like "Modern Family". Part of language learning and maintaining fluency
rest on the individual. In the old days living in a place like Hong Kong or China, we grew up with the attitude
that we look up to our parents and teachers as role models. When it comes to learning a language, the first
thing we would think about is to enrol in a class. It's a hassle and some people are just too busy or didn't
want to be bothered with. Many people including myself had been educated in Chinese for a few years.
Personally, I don't consider getting into a classroom is necessary because I have enough fundamentals to be
able to read newspapers and magazines. Everyday I come across new words & phrases I would add to my
word list.

Depends on your inclination, some people do learn other languages later in life.
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mrwarper
Diglot
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Spain
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Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
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 Message 22 of 37
16 March 2015 at 12:36pm | IP Logged 
shk00design wrote:
[...]It is not an academic exercise you force on your kids. You simply encourage them to communicate using specific languages. If you watch foreign videos on TV or over the Internet, your kids can join in.[...]

This reminds me of an example of the opposite case -- a Spanish couple I know, A. & M.J., asked me for advice on what they could do to make their newly born child speak English s early as possible, ideally to bring him up as fully bilingual in a quite monolingual country. But I think what I told them applies to any language, really:

I was lucky to be raised to love studying, learning, and reading, so I readily found on my own uses for the languages I studied, and that made them flourish. Since most people actually dislike studying, most parents won't rub off a passion for learning on their children, and then children (let alone adults) are usually resilient to learn something they don't have an use for anyway. So, chances are you won't get close to the same results with me even if you try --please do not try this at home--.

However, most children are easily hooked on cartoons, children shows, etc., so that's something you can do to give them a reason to want to learn / use the language -- and if you achieve that, then you're most likely all set for success early on. If you sit with them to do it, then possibly all the better. A bit later, you might be lucky enough to find expats with children who can make friends with yours, so using the language becomes an ongoing thing that really catches on.
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Stelle
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
tobefluent.com
Joined 2252 days ago

949 posts - 1686 votes 
Speaks: French*, English*, Spanish
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 23 of 37
16 March 2015 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
Congratulations on your baby!

You asked for stories, so here are three anecdotes about bilingual (or multilingual) kids - none of whose parents (as
far as I know) really thought about *how* they would raise their kids bilingually, aside from choosing French-
language schools:

case study one: me

I grew up bilingual, in a fairly bilingual small city in Ontario (about 30% of the population is francophone). My Mom
is anglophone and my Dad is francophone. We spoke mainly English in the house, went to francophone school,
spoke French with francophone friends and extended family on my Dad's side, spoke English with anglophone
friends and extended family on my Mom's side, and watched both French and English TV (if I recall correctly, Passe-
Partout was right before Dr. Dress-Up).

I don't think that my parents had a "plan" for raising us bilingually - it just kind of happened. It helped that we had
both French and English environments (home; school; extended family), and so we just learned naturally to switch
languages based on the environment that we were in. Because both of my siblings and I moved into anglophone
areas after hitting adulthood, I think it's fair to say that our dominant native language is now English. But I've always
worked in French, including teaching French on a military base for three years.

Case study two: my niece and nephew

My teenaged niece and nephew are definitely anglophone. They were born to two bilingual parents who only had
English in common (Dad spoke French and English; Mom spoke English and Tagalog). All conversations at home
were in English. But they grew up hearing a lot of Tagalog with their extended family (who is very close-knit). They
understand Tagalog very well, but speak almost nothing. Conversations often happen with one person (mom or
grandma) speaking Tagalog, and the children answering in English.

They both attended French Immersion school (a very popular elective public schooling program in Canada that
teaches all subjects in French). While they are by no means native French speakers (sadly, the French immersion
program will never produce that - especially since many French immersion teachers are second language French
speakers themselves, which is a whole other discussion), they are functionally bilingual and - if they maintain their
French in adulthood - will be able to work in officially bilingual jobs in Canada.

Case study three: my students

This is my favourite story, since it involves trilingual kids!

I teach primary French Immersion. My students start grade one with no French at all, and within two months are
expected to function solely in French. They get no English at all at school until fourth grade (although, let's be
honest here, it's hard to keep them from switching to English on the playground at recess time). If they stay in the
French immersion program until they graduate high school, they will be bilingual (although not native French
speakers). Fact: not all kids can make it in the French Immersion program. Kids who have anxiety coupled with
perfectionism are often happier in English. Kids with major language delays also struggle with the program. But the
average kid can do well in French Immersion (keeping in mind, of course, that a kid who gets Cs and struggles a bit
in an English program will also get Cs and struggle a bit in the FI program).

Many of my students speak Russian at home. They were born in Canada, but some of their parents speak very little
English, and so Russian is the first language at home and in the community. They are fluent Russian-speakers. Then
they start pre-school or kindergarten (which in this area is in English), and they make friends and learn to speak
English. They also watch TV and read books in English. I would say that most of my second-graders are equally
fluent in English and Russian, with no discernible accent in English, or else a very light accent which will disappear in
time.

TL;DR

Children will learn the languages that they use at home, at school and in the wider community. Don't worry too
much about it!

Edited by Stelle on 16 March 2015 at 5:57pm

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cod2
Groupie
United Kingdom
Joined 2662 days ago

48 posts - 69 votes 

 
 Message 24 of 37
20 March 2015 at 5:15pm | IP Logged 
We have raised our daughter to be bilingual. We are Indians living in England and our mother tongue is Bengali. The credit goes to my wife – as I am extremely laid back about all this.

Our daughter is almost ten. She was born in England, so her English is of course at native level. She speaks in native-level Bengali but with a very faint accent. She can read and write but those abilities are a little behind her speech. Her grasp of the spoken language is way ahead of Indian children (living in India) of her age. She can have a serious conversation with any adult and she can crack Bengali jokes.

My wife never speaks in English at home. When she was younger, my daughter would often speak to my wife in English, but my wife either wouldn’t answer, or answer in Bengali. Rules were thus established. Evenings are homework time. After my daughter finishes her school homework, she does her Bengali homework, using school books that my wife brings over regularly from India…. Yes, my wife is very determined.

Although sometimes both I and my daughter resented my wife’s single-minded focus, bordering on obsessiveness, I now see the result and I am proud of what the girls have achieved.

In the beginning expect the child to protest a lot. Also expect them to mix up the two languages from time to time – and leave the carers at the day-care totally confused.

I speak to my daughter in both Bengali and English.

Hope this helps.

Edited by cod2 on 20 March 2015 at 5:17pm



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