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How do you speak to your kids in many languages? - Page 2

post #21 of 25

I really think this is *so* dependent on the specific situation: on the languages used and on the personalities and talents of the parents and children.


I kind of agree with Taqah that 'just speaking' with one parent will usually not be enough for fluency.  (Eclipsepearl I'd say that frequent trips to English-dominant areas fulfilled that extra-reinforcement need for your kids.) 


I also think that the differences between languages are quite important.  Teaching a widely used language like English or Spanish is a different ballgame than trying to teach a less common one.  Availability of media (books DVDs etc), availability of speaking communities for exposure, and obvious motivation for the children to learn (vs the backlash of language rejection bc it is 'not-cool' to speak the language of your funny-sounding immigrant parent) are huge.


Also teaching a language that has many commonalities/cognates with the community language is different than teaching one with a totally different alphabet, grammar and vocab. 


Eg a kid with one Spanish-speaking parent who is growing up in the US in a neighborhood with lots of Latinos might well become fluent with no more effort required from the parent than just using the language consistently.  Another kid growing up in the same neighborhood with one Croatian parent... not so much.

post #22 of 25

Definitely going places where English is spoked have helped but it would have been possible without. We didn't spend enough time on each visit to make a huge difference but it helped psychologically. They often made slight improvements after each time but our language success was not solely dependent on those visits.


My children would still be fluent in English, even if we hadn't made so many trips, because that's the only language we use on a daily basis together. I personally know quite a few families where the child is fluent in only one parents' language.


Remember too, we are talking about the ability to speak the language. The example you gave of a Croatian child, perhaps growing up in N. America, would be a good example. They still can be fluent, if the Croatian speaking parent is consistent and tries to expose the child to the language through other mediums (books, DVD's, Skype, etc.)


The new technologies are really making this task so much easier! No more hunting down English language cassettes (just switch the DVD) and communication with friends and family is so much better than just 10 years ago.


If you took that child and placed him directly in a Croatian language school in Croatia, probably he would not be able to pick up the material right away nor would test at age level. I know mine would have difficulty if we suddenly moved to the States. 


Most international parents at least make a few visits, if not, family come to visit them (especially in say, a refugee situation). Where I'm from, there are a lot of people originally from Iran. Their children still speak Farsi, even with only one parent from there but visits to that country are out of the question. So it's actually rare to have a child completely isolated from the culture and people of that language (although I'm sure it exists, I don't know any cases like that). 


So success, if you measure it by the fact the child speaks the language, is possible. You may not have a completely, equally bilingual child as you would if you, for example, lived in Southern California or Texas and spoke Spanish. My kids don't have the level of vocabulary or the writing ability of American children their age. They also make mistakes children their ages wouldn't, but they speak English with an American accent. New words and writing ability are something that can be worked on later on. 


The advantage children have when little is to learn to speak another language without an accent, without relying on their stronger language to communicate. I may have to listen to a whole minute of "the thing that you use to...that looks like..." because she doesn't know what an egg timer is called in English but she's explaining it without an accent in English. 

post #23 of 25

I think it best if the both of you speak in your mother tongues to your children. They have an opportunity to grow up being trilingual. To this day I regret that my parents did not do this but instead just spoke English with me.


post #24 of 25
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

You certainly can't just expect to speak a language to your child and expect that this will be enough.


LoL! I actually did just this. I spoke only English and always English to them. They were in normal French schooling. I did have plenty of videos, English language toys, books and we made frequent trips to the U.S. and England to reinforce it. I also joined organizations and participated in events, even if it was just to show them I wasn't the only one who spoke English in the world!


I only speak English to them, in public, in front of my non-English speaking parent. We're not rude and it's usually obvious what we're saying We don't have big conversations in front of French speakers and often switch to include anyone when we do say something interesting/funny/important.  


I did put my kids in local schools. While it's a bilingual program, it's French and German. Only my son has had to take English and not until he was 10. He's kind of bored. Many think we're nuts but it worked. They're trilingual! Their English is not as good as their French but not far behind. None have accents. 


So OPOL with only one person speaking the minority language can work. I have three little proofs of my efforts. You just have to stick to it. 



Ditto to everything.  Except my kids are only with me about 30% of the time, so they really have only one person in their life to speak English with (and learn English from) and not everyday by a long shot.  (although when they were little, they were with me nonstop and heard English and learned to speak in English ahead of their other two languages).

Anyway, OPOL definitely works.  My kids speak both of the local languages (their school is in Swedish which is a minority language in Finland, but their dad is part of that minority) as well as English, all fluently, and without an accent.


I strongly feel that you should conduct your relationship with your child in your mother tongue, period.  My dad did not (he's from Iran), he just spoke English to me, and I have always wished he had spoken Farsi with me, as my Farsi is weak at best now that I don't have his mother around to speak with anymore (my grandmother never picked up English so she taught it to me when I was little).  I think it really sucks to have a relationship with a parent with a language barrier between us.  


To the OP, the only way to teach Russian to your child (if you are his only source of exposure to the language) is to be a purist about it.   If you want him to learn English, it will need to be from elsewhere.  

post #25 of 25

 Swedish which is a minority language in Finland, but their dad is part of that minority


Had to laugh when I read that. Not to get OT but I know a guy here in France. He uses Swedish with the kids but since they're not growing up in Finland, they're not learning Finnish. So funny how they have to constantly explain that they're Finnish citizens but speak... Swedish lol! 


I took Scandinavian Politics in college and they talked about the Swedish minority in Finland. It's held up as a model example of the treatment of a minority group... Anyway, when I met him, I saw him start to explain and I popped in with "Oh you're Swedish minority Finn!" and the look of relief that he did not, yet again, have to explain it all...

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