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Parents NOT communicating in their native langage

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I've searched through the threads but can't seem to find anything about this.

I'm curious to know if there are any other couples out there who communicate with eachother in a langage that is a second langage for BOTH. If so, what influence has it had on your child's communicationg skills?

I know many, many billingual (english and french) families, but regardless of what is spoken in the house, the langage is one of the 2 parent's native langage. In our case, our common langage (english) is neither his nor mine's native langage (yes...this often leads to some serious communication issues...but that's another story!!)

We are still TTC, so I know that this is a not-in-the-immediate issue, but I'm very interested in langage acquirement skills, and as a teacher, I see the importance of langage skills in children!!!

I'm curious to know if anyone else is living this reality (i'm sure it's actually quite common) and how it works out for you.
post #2 of 11
I grew up in this kind of household. My parents, though both Filipino, grew up speaking different dialects. The common language in our house was English. However, with the househelp, we spoke in Tagalog as that was the language they seemed to understand better. The medium of instruction in school was English as well. Although in more casual settings (not in school), we spoke in Tagalog.

I could speak both languages early on and in fact spoke a 3rd language (Mandarin) when I was very young. I sort of lost the 3rd language because of lack of practice.

Because English use was more prevalent (school, books, tv), I am more fluent in this language than my native language. I tend to think in English though my conversational Tagalog is pretty good.
post #3 of 11
Friends of mine handled this well I thought.
One spoke Portugese, one spoke Spanish and the family lived in the US.
Each spoke the native language inside the house (to the children and to each other) but they always spoke English outside of the house - which was nice when we were around them because we knew what they were saying to their kids. This was helpful because I learned she didn't want her kid to have juice, so I made sure I offered water to her kids.

Spanish and Portugese are close so they could obviously understand each other. The mom also told me that they fought in English and made love in English because that was the language they knew all the dirty words in!
post #4 of 11
I know a few families here who are in this situation, though I'm not in it myself. I live in Holland and I know a few families with one Dutch partner, one partner from somewhere else, and they speak English together.

In the case of the family I'm closest to, the mom is French the Dad is Dutch, and they speak English together. Unfortunately, both their girls have had a *really* tough time in all three languages. It could be the girls themselves, and it certainly could be something they grow out of, but, thus far, it's been problematic for them. The girls are 4.5 and nearly 6.

The girls don't speak English at all. They understand it passively, but don't speak at all. Their Dutch is their strongest language (not surprisingly, since they live in Holland, their dad is Dutch and speaks to them only in Dutch, and they go to Dutch school). However, they are behind in Dutch compared to the other kids, even bilingual kids like my son, and have to go to speech therapy. It also impacts their formation of friendships, because they can't communicate as well with the other kids in school.

Their French, though, is the biggest problem. They understand it all, but their speaking ability is at least two years behind their actual ages, and their French grandparents have a really hard time communicating with them. Their mom has actually recently signed them up for French classes to help them along.

I don't want to be negative or discouraging based only on my close-hand observation of one family, but I think all tri-lingual families should really be prepared for language to be a challenge. I've even had that with bilingual DS, thinking one parent, one language would be fine. Actually, though, DS' English is weak and we constantly have to work on it. That's exacerbated with the tri-lingual situation.

In the end, though, as my friend (the mom I've just described) says, her kids will have *three* languages under their belts. Their English may be passive till they start learning it in school, but they'll still be way ahead of other kids who are just being exposed to it. So it's a wonderful gift to their kids. It's just a more of a challenge than expected.
post #5 of 11
One of the things that helped me speak fluent English is having reading materials that were in English.
In fact, my American husband often comments on how I speak better English than he does. This is probably due to the fact that I learned from written English as much as conversational English.
Foreigners in the Philippines read Tagalog comic books or novels in order to learn the language and I find that they actually speak better Tagalog than I do and have a better grasp of the grammar as well as the use of more proper Tagalog words.
I have now asked for my family to send me children's books and history books that are written in Tagalog so that I may brush up on it and hopefully impart the language to my son.
post #6 of 11
I've know 2 people who grew up in the US with parents having different non-english first languages. Both are perfectly articulate. One's parents were from Norway and China respectively and the other's were from Sweden and the Philappinesrespectively.

Often nonnative speakers of a language are more careful and follow the rules better.
post #7 of 11
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
Often nonnative speakers of a language are more careful and follow the rules better.
I'm sure this is sometimes true, depending on the speakers, but FWIW I grew up with the opposite viewpoint. My parents grew up and were married in Italy, then came to the United States. They chose to speak to the four of us children in Italian only. They reasoned that they did not have an adequate grasp of English to teach us to speak it properly. They did not want us to learn "broken" English. They figured, and rightly so as it turned out, that we would learn English first from being immersed in it (TV, friends, etc.) and secondly from school. All four of us grew up bilingual and predominantly speak English, although we are all conversational in Italian.
post #8 of 11
My native language is Russian and DH's is Romanian. Cause I don't speak Romanian and he doesn't speak Russian, we speak English between ourselves. I really hope DD will learn to speak Russian, but the way it goes, I think that she will speak only English, and in the best case will understand a little bit Russian. This is cause she doesn't hear Russian at home, except when I talk to her directly or when I talk on the phone with my mom.
post #9 of 11
My dad is from Peru and my mom was from Chile. When they met in college here in the States and married and had kids they only spoke English at home. It was the early 1970's and they were trying to embrace their new home and be "good little Americans", new citizens and all.

So growing up it was English in our home, even though that was a new language for them. Many of their friends spoke Spanish and my mom had jobs that required Spanish, but by the time they started to try to use it at home and teach us, we were old enough to rebel and not be interested. We would whine "Noooo, mommy, say it in English!!!" Back then it was not hip to be multi-lingual the way it is now. There was the "you're in this country then you should speak our language" attitude.

All of us siblings speak perfect English and would forever tease and correct my poor parents when they pronounced words incorrectly, even after 20-30 years here they still got the odd word off.

Sadly, we never became bilingual and the loss of that gift is impacting all future generations. I speak some Spanish now, but not enough to raise my son bilingual. Just enough to pass along this and that. While I totally understand why my parents made the choices they did regarding languages to speak, I am still sad and bitter about not getting the chance to be bilingual or the chance to pass that to my son.

Regardless of what the language is, definitely seize the chance to teach your child as many as they can, as early as you can.
post #10 of 11

You're scaring me :
This is our situation: I'm bilingual (sort of: English/German), my husband is a native Kinyarwanda speaker, but his French is almost perfect since he did a lot of his schooling in French. I speak German with my daughter, my husband speaks Kinyarwanda, my mother English.....and the family language is French. I've been really worried about languages, because as much as I'd love my daughter to at least understand all those languages, I'm worried that she won't have a mother tongue. That's also one of the reasons I enrolled her in (French speaking) childcare early. That way I know that she'll be learning the correct version of French, and I'm pretty sure that's going to be her dominant language. I'm still worried that she'll have a hard time figuring all this out though....

My absolute nightmare scenario is from a family with a similar constellation as ours, but where the parents only spoke English with their children. Not only do the children make mistakes in English, the only language they've ever learned, but it's very hard for them to learn a new language since they've never spoken one language perfectly. They have all sorts of learning disabilities which may be connected to language acquisition. They were one of the reasons we decided to do things differently...
post #11 of 11
Oh gosh! didn't mean to scare you, K!

I really do think the kids in the family I described will be fine. It's just a lot more work and effort than expected. The parents are ok with letting the English be passive and knowing that the girls will have an advantage when they start learning it in school (at around 10 or 11). The Dutch can be worked on with the school. And they've found a way to work on the French with the extra lessons.

I just wanted to point out that some of the literature seems to say that it is pretty easy for kids to be bil/tri/multi lingual , but that, in my experience, it can often takes a lot of work.

As I mentioned, with my own bilingual DS, it still takes a lot of work to keep his English strong, and his Dutch is definitely better than his English. I think parents of multi-lingual kids should be prepared for linguistic challenges.
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