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DD is being funny about DH's native language

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
Lately, DD is being sort of strange about DH's native language. At home I speak mostly English with her but mix in some Portuguese (DH's native language) and if she brings books to me in Portuguese I'll read them for her in Portuguese. DH speaks just Portuguese with her (I really get on him if he ever slips into English because we live in the US) and if she brings English books to him he'll "read" the story in Portuguese to her. We speak a mixture of both languages to each other, although, we're trying to work towards DH always speaking Portuguese to me and me answering back in English so it's consistent.

Anyways, lately, she refused to let DH read Portuguese books to her! If she has a book in Portuguese she always brings it to me instead of DH. Now she'll bring DH English books but not Portuguese ones? She seems to know that DH's language is Portuguese because she'll say Portuguese words to him and English words to me (she's not speaking a ton but she's not really mixing the languages either). Also, many times if we're both with her she'll grab our fingers one at a time to point to the same object so we each say the objects name in our respective language. So she clearly knows there's a difference and each language belongs to a specific parent. So what in the world is up with her not letting DH read to her in his native language? She'll bring me books in Portuguese and I specifically hand them to DH to read them to her and she keeps bringing them back to me and will throw a tantrum if DH tries to read them! But she won't do the same for English books! I just don't get it????
post #2 of 11
maybe she just know that you both can speak the other person's language and wonders why you don't do it with her too, why you pretend not to ?
maybe she feels like you play a trick on her ?

but then, .... maybe I'm missing something because I am not a big fan of one parent/one language which seems to be the choice of many parents (partly because it means not modeling being bilingual, partly because I didn't want to give up speaking my DH's language when we moved to my country, partly because it doesn't feel "natural" to me, ....)

curious to know what other parents will have to say on the subject !
post #3 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaFrench View Post
maybe she just know that you both can speak the other person's language and wonders why you don't do it with her too, why you pretend not to ?
maybe she feels like you play a trick on her ?
That's a good point. I hadn't thought of that when I first read the OP's post, but it reminds me of something my dd was doing several months ago. I'd try to teach her the words for things in English, but she would just wait until later, when I recounted the events of the day in Italian to my husband, in order to learn them in Italian instead. My interpretation was that she figured why bother learning these words in both languages, if mommy understands Italian too? It may be that your daughter is just trying to work through what having different languages really means.

Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaFrench View Post
but then, .... maybe I'm missing something because I am not a big fan of one parent/one language which seems to be the choice of many parents (partly because it means not modeling being bilingual, partly because I didn't want to give up speaking my DH's language when we moved to my country, partly because it doesn't feel "natural" to me, ....)

curious to know what other parents will have to say on the subject !
This is going a bit OT, but I'm a little confused by this, maybe we're not doing OPOL right? I do model bilingualism to my daughter because I speak English to her and Italian to everyone else, and she hears me doing it. She is also aware of it, when we ask her what languages she and I speak, she answers, "English and Italian." As I mentioned above, she even picks up quite a lot of her Italian vocabulary from me, as she hears me speaking it to others.

Honestly, I'm not sure how we could raise dd to be bilingual if not for OPOL. My husband knows some English, but not enough to really speak it, so if I stopped speaking English exclusively to her she'd hear even less of it. The quality of the English instruction in the schools here is fairly low...I know many Italians who studied English throughout their entire school experience but cannot speak a word of it. I am really my daughter's only quality source for English.

Please remember that many families choose OPOL because the parents have only one language in common, and in many cases having the monolingual spouse learn the other language would be a hardship.

I also think you'll find that some parents find that speaking to their children in a second language feels artificial. It's really subjective.
post #4 of 11
pear-shaped, I wouldn't define your situation as one person one language since you speak both languages

but maybe that's just me & I don't get the exact meaning of this (english is not my mother tongue)

I agree with you that parents always have to make more effort to teach language of the country they are not in...in your situation, I would totally do what you are doing ...

my DH works long hours to start with and with our eldest I had to plead for YEARS for him to speak HIS language to her, it helped when we were sent in the US for 3 years ... but then now, I'm the one who's doing the bulk of formal teaching of his language now that we are back in my country ... so, of course I don't want to use "just my language"
so maybe OPOL is rather useful for defining the situation of usualy/mainly mothers when they are not in their own country ?

when it's Dad's language that's the minority language then I think the situation is much harder overall for the family ...
have you ever come accross studies that analysed success in language learning with data separated in categories such as "minority language was mom's language" // "minority language was Dad's language" ?
since more Dads than Moms work long hours outside home, exposure sure differs ....
I'd like to read more on that ...

my second child didn't find bilingualism as easy as my first
so I had to realise that even if I exposed him to as much as I could of the other language (which when in the US turned out to be my language which he would no longer speak after a while...) there was no way I could "make him" talk one language or the other
(+ I then remembered how I HATED it when my MIL, pre-kids, sort of took me to task for keeping speaking in english with DH now that we were in my country = she was concerned about him not progressing fast enough in my language ==> I was very much in the frame of mind of "how dare you tell me what langage I should speak with whom ... that 's MY choice to make" ....
That's when I started questionning my motives for wanting my children to speak both languages ...)
I didn't find much to read about that subject= how much to push for bilingualism and when is it really necessary to back down ... what are the sign of stress coming from the child ?
at one point I was thinking I was asking too much of my son by expecting him to keep using both languages at the same time
if any one has suggestions for books or web ressources, I'll be glad to read on that !

when my son was younger it was a very conflicting time for me = at the same time it hurt me quite a lot somehow to see him no longer using my language ... whilst I was at the same time so happy he could speak english ...

there can be a lot of anxiety for parents about languages learning
now that my eldest children are older, I can relax a bit more on the subject
but I'm still learning about it and trying to work out what's what and what should I have done (better ?)and what to do with the youngest that will have had different exposure times to both languages ....

so glad that there is this forum, I find it really eye opening to read about what other people are doing and thinking
(some books can be quite dogmatic & people surrounding us can sometimes shower us with unwanted advice that's not always very much researched to put it mildly ....)

must get back to laundry and other chores
hope more people will join the discussion ....and OP will be back too (don't want to highjack your thread ...)
post #5 of 11
Thanks for clarifying that, isafrench. I just assumed that OPOL meant one parent, one language, but only as far as speaking to the child is concerned, so I may have too literal in my interpretation of what it means.

FWIW, if I were in your situation, I would do what you're doing. We might move to my country (U.S.) someday, and if that happened, I would definitely speak Italian at home with dd, especially because of the point you make about how little exposure a child gets to the minority language when it's not the one the primary caregiver speaks.
post #6 of 11
I also have had limited success with OPOL. DH and I both speak English and always have together. However, English is my native language and not his. We live in his country, where English is the minority language and our DS (now 7) has been born and raised here.

We did strict OPOL and DS' English ended up being weak, despite books, DVDs, etc. in English and yearly visits back to the US + lots of bilingual friends with bilingual kids (they just all played together in the majority language).

We eventually switched to English as our "home" language and our "family all together language." So, if all three of us are together, we speak English. I have to remind DS and DH a lot, because they speak their shared language if they are together but I'm not there. DS' English has improved a lot.

All this to say, I'm less than enchanted with OPOL for *our* situation. If I had to do it again (or if we ever have another kid), I would start off with English as the home/family together language.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by IsaFrench View Post
maybe she just know that you both can speak the other person's language and wonders why you don't do it with her too, why you pretend not to ?
maybe she feels like you play a trick on her ?!
hmm... maybe? I mean, I do speak in Portuguese with her often during the day and we sing/read in it too so she knows I can speak it and do speak it with her. But I can't figure out the resistance to having DH read books to her in Portuguese? Because she'll do this even if DH is the one who initiates reading the book. Like he'll pick up a Portuguese book and try to read it and she'll grab it from him and hand it to me. But she's completely ok with him doing his translation of English books. I just can't figure it out.


About OPOL we're not particularly strict with that. Like I said, I speak Portuguese with her fairly often. It's actually not even my second language but my third so I wouldn't say I speak it perfectly (plus, I tend to have a funny mix of a German accent with my husband's local dialect, which is pretty unique). I haven't been formerly taught in it (I took 2 night classes for the very, very basics but have learned most of what I know just from relatives, reading books, listening to TV etc. ). I can definitely hold my own when it comes to household things and can understand the vast majority of conversation but I can't talk about "deep" subjects so it's not enough for us to speak entirely in Portuguese at home (otherwise we might). Also, DH and I work together and talk about that often and I don't know the science terms in Portuguese either. So I do the best I can and I also prefer English just because that's where I know all the "baby stuff" from. I know the lullabies and stories in English so it's more fun for me. I know it's probably not the best for DD's exposure but I figure part of parenting is to enjoy passing on some of these traditions, right?

That's a really interesting question about language acquisition when it comes to the mother or father knowing the minority language!! I've discussed this with many friends of mine because we've lived abroad for so many years and have had the chance to work with a number of kids who grew up bi/trilingual with various family situations. From what I've seen OPOL can work if it's "fun" enough and the kids have enough exposure to both parents AND they have friends that speak the minority language. I actually know couples who were in this exact situation (mom spoke country's language, dad spoke minority language, which was English) and their kids all spoke English just like a native speakers. However, those families really made A LOT of effort (like they went to English speaking churches, etc.) and most of the time the moms were fluent in English too.

We might actually end up moving to DH's country in about a year and then the situation would change entirely. In that case I think it would be a lot easier on us language-wise because we'd just switch to 100% English at home unless relatives were visiting (DH's family doesn't not speak English at all). Outside of the home we'd just speak Portuguese.

Anyways, thanks for the posts and I don't mind my original thread getting side-tracked either because I'm enjoying the discussion.
post #8 of 11
It does sound to me like she knows that you speak both as the previous posters said. I tried to get dh to do OPOL with our daughter but he couldn't keep it up and now she only speaks English. He picked up his other languages by listening to his parents, they used to speak another language to have private conversations LOL his parents taught him 3 lanuages by trying to speak privately LOL
post #9 of 11
I'm thinking it may be as simple as the way he reads the books. Maybe he reads the Portuguese books faster than the English books? Or maybe she likes to hear the books she knows read in a different way?
post #10 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by aramat View Post
I'm thinking it may be as simple as the way he reads the books. Maybe he reads the Portuguese books faster than the English books?
Hmm... I wonder if you're on to something there. Today he was "reading" her a book in English. Since he has to translate everything he adds to the story, makes jokes etc. I haven't heard him read in Portuguese recently but it could be that he just reads the story straight through and that's why she prefers when he reads in English. I'll ask him to read something in Portuguese tomorrow and see if there's a difference.
post #11 of 11
haven't had time/energy to post but am reading replies whenever I can

am curious to know if indeed there's a difference depending on the language that the story "is read" in .... yes please do keep us posted on that...
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