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Vacation: and now they are speaking ENGLISH!

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
It makes me happy. How can I help encourage them to continue?

DS is 5, DD is 3. I speak with them in american english and DH speaks with them in Danish. Although they understand everything I say they always answer in Danish. FWIW, this is not a problem. It's "normal" for us.

But we just got back from 3 weeks in the USA, where they were of course bombarded with american english. And now they are saying a few things in english. So now if I use a figure of speech or say something unusual, they will often repeat it. I'm tickled pink. I'm hoping it lasts longer than the week.
post #2 of 8
I have no advice, I'm afraid, but wanted to say congratulations and I hope you are able to help them keep it up!
post #3 of 8
I was in Denmark as a child from about '72 through '75 and while I was only 4-7 years old at the time myself I remember almost all the kids my age, and especially the kids a little older than me all spoke English. I never learned much Danish beyond "Tak" myself, and no doubt my environment and exposure to other kids was controlled by my parents, but I think Denmark was really pushing English to all school children then. I would imagine that is still true? If so I'd guess once they get going in school that they'll be encouraged to continue by sheer fact that they have no choice ... I don't really have any advice otherwise, except to keep interacting with them in English. Maybe some additional incentive, "You want a cookie? Can you ask for a cookie in English?" type thing?
post #4 of 8
Yeah!!!! They're no longer monolinguals!

Remember that speaking is the difficult skill. Understanding a language is not very useful. Now they have proven that they can do the more difficult part; speaking, grab it and run with it.

You may not consider answering in Danish a "problem". It's not really because they only need one language to get by in life. But if you want them to speak English, you need to guide them. Think of it like table manners or sharing. They may not do it automatically. It's easier to do things in the better language for anyone!

Just be really positive if they use English with you. Be poky and slow with any commands made in Danish. Read to them in English and test them on vocabulary. Bilingual children need lots of vocabulary input to keep speaking the weaker languages. Without the words they need, they will resort to Danish so make sure they can say what they need to.

Play with it. Make it fun. I ask numbers, months of the year, days of the week, etc. in the car in the three languages my children speak. Name things around the house and outside the house. Be sure to use English when out in public so that they can see it's not something to hide or be embarrassed about.

Be zen with the fact that their Danish will be better than their English. This doesn't mean that they can't keep the English up and be able to communicate with their American relatives easily. Don't give up on this project because of that fact. Now that they're a little older, they might be happy to put their skills to use so find some opportunities to use it.

I got out a map one time and showed them all the countries that spoke English. I then compared it to where French is spoken. Wow, their eyes went all big! Now it's this big, fun, novel thing to them.

Speaking another language is such an advantage in life. Now that you're over the big hurdle, it would be a shame if they slip back into their all-Danish world. My children actually asked once why I always spoke English to them. I explained that it was like an animal who has to be fed and watered or it will die. They kind of thought it was something they could just do and it would stick.

You have two big advantages over me. I live in a country where few speak English and my dh can't speak it either. In Denmark, you're assured that they will learn it at school and probably your partner speaks conversational English.

My kids have made huge leaps forward on vacations. English all of sudden becomes something very real to them.

Just keep it up... Don't force or even insist but with a positive attitude, you can get them actually speaking English and being bilingual.

Good luck!
post #5 of 8
I don't know. the same thing used to happen to us if we visited india-- it's just about the immersion.

Your kids know both languages, it's just that English is harder to get out (access the correct word, ect.) I was never able to keep my hindi/gujarati going-- perhaps seek out more ways to get that immersion going?
post #6 of 8
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post
Yeah!!!! They're no longer monolinguals!

Remember that speaking is the difficult skill. Understanding a language is not very useful. Now they have proven that they can do the more difficult part; speaking, grab it and run with it.

You may not consider answering in Danish a "problem". It's not really because they only need one language to get by in life. But if you want them to speak English, you need to guide them. Think of it like table manners or sharing. They may not do it automatically. It's easier to do things in the better language for anyone!

Just be really positive if they use English with you. Be poky and slow with any commands made in Danish. Read to them in English and test them on vocabulary. Bilingual children need lots of vocabulary input to keep speaking the weaker languages. Without the words they need, they will resort to Danish so make sure they can say what they need to.

Play with it. Make it fun. I ask numbers, months of the year, days of the week, etc. in the car in the three languages my children speak. Name things around the house and outside the house. Be sure to use English when out in public so that they can see it's not something to hide or be embarrassed about.

Be zen with the fact that their Danish will be better than their English. This doesn't mean that they can't keep the English up and be able to communicate with their American relatives easily. Don't give up on this project because of that fact. Now that they're a little older, they might be happy to put their skills to use so find some opportunities to use it.

I got out a map one time and showed them all the countries that spoke English. I then compared it to where French is spoken. Wow, their eyes went all big! Now it's this big, fun, novel thing to them.

Speaking another language is such an advantage in life. Now that you're over the big hurdle, it would be a shame if they slip back into their all-Danish world. My children actually asked once why I always spoke English to them. I explained that it was like an animal who has to be fed and watered or it will die. They kind of thought it was something they could just do and it would stick.

You have two big advantages over me. I live in a country where few speak English and my dh can't speak it either. In Denmark, you're assured that they will learn it at school and probably your partner speaks conversational English.

My kids have made huge leaps forward on vacations. English all of sudden becomes something very real to them.

Just keep it up... Don't force or even insist but with a positive attitude, you can get them actually speaking English and being bilingual.

Good luck!
Very good advice IMHO. Understanding English, or another language, is much easier than actually speaking. English is our third language, after Swedish and Spanish, and the kids are now understanding and speaking a lot The also really enjoy it. Daughter is 4 and son 6.5, the older one is of course far better. THeir English is not as good as Spanish or Swedish but it's coming along nicely.

Keep it up, it will stick even though it might not seem like it.
post #7 of 8
I have a similar story. We decided to raise our children in Dutch(dh) and English(me). However at a few years old my oldest figured out that I understood Dutch and refused to talk to me in English. She would however talk to my American family when they visited in broken English. My youngest basically rejected English. I ended up just talking to her in Dutch and feeling like a failure. My relatives couldn't communicate with her at all without dh or I there to translate. Last year in April(the kids were age nine and four) we went to the USA for half a year. Within two weeks the oldest was just talking Dutch to me and the youngest was learning. After two months both children were completely fluent. We have been back in Belgium since the fall and I only speak English with my children and it is lovely!

Edited to add that I was afraid that it wouldn't continue when we returned to Belgium. I talked to my oldest about how much I enjoyed speaking English with her and hoped it would continue. Also that it would be good for her to keep up her skills. Francesca is a very sweet girl and agreed right away to keep up with the English. Her little sister just copied what she did. Also I think it helped that a few months after we returned to Belgium my parents came for a visit.
post #8 of 8
We have had that experience this summer, too! Three weeks in England, and now our son (4 1/2) is speaking more English than Norwegian! DH very happy!
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