We live in the US. My husband is Arab, I speak our Arabic dialect pretty well (not fluently), and our almost 2 year old is "bilingual" with Arabic as her dominant language and English as the less dominant language. I've spoken 90% (or more) Arabic to her since she was a few months old. She sometimes speaks English when we are with English speakers or after she is in a group of kids speaking English, and she understands English well. She has a pretty big Arabic vocabulary and likes to talk.
My non-Arabic speaking mother is coming to live with us for most of each year. I am happy about this in some ways, but I feel really sad that my daughter will be getting so much English reinforcement so early and at home. I was hoping to avoid that until she starts preschool or kindergarten in a couple of years. I have heard so much about kids who, even if they live in minority language communities in the US with two parents speaking the minority language, end up not speaking the minority language much after they start school. Knowing that this is a big possibility for us, we really wanted to give her the best minority language start we could. (We also do other things to make Arabic natural for her and give me chances to improve my Arabic, but since this post isn't about that I won't describe those things.)
I guess there's no magic way to "protect" my daughter's Arabic once my mom is here. I want to keep speaking to my daughter in Arabic, and I will. My husband requires our daughter to speak Arabic to him, and he goes out of his way to spend plenty of time with her. I'm aware that it makes my mom uncomfortable to not know what we're saying, so I may have to translate sometimes for her benefit. My mom also tends to be spooked by the fact that she cannot understand my daughter. (I've been trying to help my daughter improve at switching between languages and being aware of which one she is speaking. I guess having my mom around will make it clear, since Arabic will result in my mom being confused and English will not!) My mom theoretically supports our mission, but she seems to believe deep down that if she doesn't speak English as her first language she will suffer in school, so she is always going out of her way to "teach" English words to my daughter. My own interaction style with my daughter is not about language drills or any kind of drills--we expect her to pick up knowledge and she does on her own, just through living and asking questions and trying things out.
I guess to a large extent this is "out of my hands" unless I want to kick my mother out, or send my daughter away to Arabic daycare or the Arab world! But I was wondering how others had dealt with similar situations. Really, I'm needing help having a relaxed and accepting attitude, since my mom moving in is not completely easy for any of us, and if I concentrate on language issues, it will only sow discord. So I would appreciate practical ideas for coping with monolingual housemates/relatives as well as encouragement that this doesn't have to be the end of my daughter speaking Arabic.
Edited for clarity.
Edited by sky_and_lavender - 8/5/11 at 12:52pm