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Bilingual Families formula

post #1 of 25
Thread Starter 
Just wondering if you are a bilingual family how you are approaching it. At home what language do you speak? Do you stick to a one language per parent or converse with your kids using both languages. We keep switching on the kids and I am just not sure what will work out better in the long run, DS (4) and DD (1.5). The dominate language is English so I am more concerned with preserving the DCs Spanish.

We began by speaking only Spanish at home but I spoke English to DS, he started speaking Spanish and there came a point he rejected English and this scared me. So my DH and I began speaking English in the home. This coincided with a period of great language acquisition for my DS. He now has a lot more trouble speaking Spanish and he appears to have an accent in Spanish. We are just wondering how other bilingual families are going about things since I believe it is still early on and we can learn from others who have seen how things pan out.

post #2 of 25
We live in the Czech Republic. I speak with DS in English and most of the time DH does too (DH is Czech, I'm bilingual American-Czech). We figure that the dominant language around him is Czech and we won't be able to afford to send him to an English-language school even if we wanted to to, so his schooling will be in Czech. His grandparents and aunts speak Czech with him, the neighborhood kids and kids we meet at the playground mostly speak Czech......so DH and I speak English to him predominantly because we want to make sure that he learns English well before his world becomes more Czech.

I think preserving the minority language is always tricky. I guess in your shoes (this is what I do, too) is think about the long-term. Will you be living in the same country/dominant language place for a long time, what language will your DC be speaking in school? Because if it happens to be the dominant language then I would make sure that the home environment becomes a haven for the second language.

There was a time when I was a kid when my parents spoke to me in Czech and I answered in English. But the fact that my parents preserved Czech as the home language even when I was struggling with it is one of the biggest reasons why I'm fluent in Czech. This is what we plan to do with our DC, except for us the home language is English. If we were to move to an English-speaking country, we would switch the home language to Czech to support his bilingualism and preserve our own capabilities of speaking Czech.

post #3 of 25
We mix both languages quite a bit--Turkish and English. DS mostly speaks Turkish, but has a few words in English that get used every now and then and he clearly understands both. When we lived in Istanbul, it was a no-brainer--we spoke English at home and he heard Turkish everywhere else. Now that we're back in the US, I try to maximize his exposure, even though I'm less than fluent (but still going for lessons every week). I sing to him in Turkish, he watches Turkish children's programs on You Tube, DD's BFF and DH speak Turkish to him, we attend events at our Turkish cultural center, and whatever else we can think of to keep up his exposure. I think it's much harder to try to keep up a language when it's not predominant in the environment, so even though I would ordinarily try to go with the OPOL method, in our case it simply won't work out because DS wouldn't hear it enough.
post #4 of 25
We are bilingual English-German and we usually speak English at home except when DH is home, when we speak German. Although we sometimes mix them up some more than that.
post #5 of 25
We do home language/outside lanaguage. We speak Russian at home and dd goes to an English language pre-school.

I actually did a poll about this a while back. If interested,

post #6 of 25
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the link EVC, this is exactly what I was looking for! I need to get better at the forum searches but I can never pull up anything!
post #7 of 25
We live in Italy. DH (Italian) and I (American) speak English at home (most of the time) with DD. She gets Italian from Daycare, all of my inlaws and everybody else here.

She has lots of words in both English and Italian and a for a few things she knows the word in both languages.

I have found myself giving her commands in Italian though, I don't know, it seems to make sense to me since it is the dominant language right now. I want her to understand the really important things wheather they're said by me or an Italian.

(PS DiMi Mama, I have trouble with Forum searches too.... )
post #8 of 25
Dh is Filipino, I'm Dutch, we communicate in English - kids are bilingual Dutch-English. When we were in the US, I spoke Dutch as much as possible with ds1. When we moved to (Dutch-speaking part of) Belgium, ds1 started losing English pretty quickly, so we switched to English at home (or for either of us with the kids) since they hear/speak Dutch everywhere else. We also expose them to English books/videos, and we have a wonderful English speaking occasional babysitter.
It seems to work well, ds2 is starting to speak both languages.
Ds1 does have an accent in English, and sometimes makes literal translations ("I do the tv out"), but I'm hopeful those things will resolve over time.
post #9 of 25
My husband is English, I am Norwegian, we live in Norway. We originally started out with a one parent - one language approach, but eventually saw that our son's English was losing out. As my husband's frustration and jealousy (as he heard us have long, wonderful conversations in Norwegian) grew, I finally agreed to speak English to our son at home, at last when we are both there.

I resisted it for a long time because it felt so unnatural to me, but it has helped - to a certain extent - he does use more English words now. Still, he speaks mostly Norwegian. He understands both languages equally well, but will answer in Norwegian when spoken to in English. He mixes English words into his Norwegian sentences, and there are some words that he prefers to consistently use the English term for - like "paper", for instance - only nouns, but he never says English sentences beyond two-word constructions like "more, please".

I'm not sure what to do.
post #10 of 25
We use OPOL, I speak English and Dh speaks Greek. Ds (4now) has always understood dh but has always answered in English. However, this summer dh took both littles to Greece for a month, and none of my ILs speak English at all. It took a week, but our 4yo hasn't spoken a word of English to my dh since then. It was all there, he just needed the opportunity for it to "click" I guess. He doesn't have an accent in either language.

Our youngest is almost 2, and went through a stage of language acquisition while they were in Greece this summer so most of his vocabulary is in Greek. If he knows the word in both languages, he prefers the Greek.
post #11 of 25
Our approach is that we only speak to our kid in our mother tongue. In the near future we are planning to move to a foreign country where neither of us will be mother tongue. We are confident that dd and (future kids) will pick up the third language at school, from T.V., etc. However at home and in public we will continue to speak to our children in our mother tongue. I think this is very important at least until the child has a firm grasp on your language. Then if you feel uncomfortable speaking your language around others who don't understand it it probably won't hurt. This is the approach I have seen work best.

The thing we haven't totally figured out is the formal education in the various languages. Its one thing to be able to speak the language but they need to be able to read and write and understand the ins and outs of the language. Perhaps when they are older we will send them to summer programs in the respective country where they can learn all the grammar rules and writing skills needed. I am not an english teacher and dp is not an italian teacher so I don't think we are the best resource for the formal stuff.

What is everyone else doing for that aspect?
post #12 of 25
We are the same kind of American/Czech family as East Carolina's. I speak English with the kids and DH speaks Czech. We permanently reside in a small village in Central Bohemia and usually visit the US once or twice a year. Our the kids get to talk with grandparents and agemates there, but virtually never meet English-speaking kids over here. At home we watch some English films and some Czech ones, but I read and sing to them only in English. As a matter of courtesy when we are around Czech friends & neighbors we all speak Czech, and naturally we all speak English when English-speaking people come to visit us, which is actually pretty rare.

As for the "formal stuff" Bellabaz asked about: my kids do not yet read and write on their own, but I am planning to encourage them to write letters to their grandparents and keep journals to help with their writing. You do not have to be a professional teacher to help them with self-expression, grammar and spelling. Just let them write a draft first and then tactfully show them how to make themselves more clear for the final version. If they have "pen pals" such as friends or grandparents they will get to see good models of English writing. They will also pick up a lot from books when they begin reading independently. If relatives ask what they want for birthday or holiday gifts tell them BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS. Good ones are often not available abroad. Few children need more toys, and you will always find clothes if you need them.
post #13 of 25
we do arabic/english i speak english hubby uncle and all our friends speak arabic to our boys

when we move to lebanon i will do english only cause my inlaws we will be living with only speak arabic with him but some english with me soo i have to learn arabic

but my son will talk both languages to hubby and too me we think it is cute we try and teach him the arabic words and he gets mad and yells it in english soo right now is main lang is english
post #14 of 25
so glad to have found you all and able to read what everybody else is doing = feels less lonely !

I'm french, my husband british, we both were speaking NOT our mother tongue to each other when the children arrived (people around us criticised and predictet our children would speak "bad english + bad french" & we were living in my country = as a result they had virtually NO english when we moved to the US (they were 6 and 4) for 3 years ...

yes, exposure exposure exposure & always struggling for more exposure to the language that is NOT spoken where you live

these days we have a rule at home ... that everyone speaks the language they want to speak depending on the mood and subject but I 'm lucky that we can borrow books in english as well as french ones ...
post #15 of 25
We mix up both, but speak mainly French at home. Ds goes to English kindy 2.5 hours a day, though. Ds has an accent in both languages so this may not have been the best route accent wise (as I have an accent in French, and dh has an accent in English). However, vocabulary wise ds is definitely balanced 50:50. There is no word he knows in only one language. He even knows that Smurfs are Schtroumpfs .
Whenever a new word comes up (in an obvious way, sometimes you don't notice but if he asks, what's that?) we tell him the word in both English and French.
EVERYONE said ds wouldn't speak till he was 3, but he was adressing all family members (parents, grandparents, greatgrandparents and cousins, uncles, aunts...) in their preferred language, in full sentences, at 26 months (I keep obsessive language notes, took psycho linguistics when he was little).
He's also beginning to read (e.g. Dr. Seuss type books) and write (phonetically) in both languages. I used to worry. Now I just wish he'd stop talking sometimes. (see my siggy)
post #16 of 25
DP speaks both english and hindi with DD. He does speak to her in hindi alot when he is alone with her. When I'm around it's mostly english. I'm also teaching her some baby signs and she has just started showing me the sign for potty, but hasn't needed to go when she shows me. But it's coming along. That counts right?
post #17 of 25
I want to bump this thread.

I'm struggling because we live in an English-speaking area and dh is uniligual (English only). My mother tongue is French and my 3.5yo son doesn't speak a single word of it. Our 9yo dd has always gone to school/daycare in French so she picked it up from a pretty young age but her brother is at home with dh, the sahp.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that it feels very unnatural to me to speak French to the kids because our entire lives are in English and dh would be excluded. It just feels weird.

Is anyone else in that situation? Do you have any tips or ideas on how I could get over that?
post #18 of 25

I'm uni-lingual and DP is tri-lingual. But he speaks Hindi and English to DD when I am around. I do feel a little left out, but for me, it is more important that DD learn the languages of her cultural background and I know it's not meant as a way of excluding me. I am also learning (very slowly) hindi/punjabi and will eventually learn his 3rd language, swahili as well. At this point I am learning more for DD benefit as I think single parenthood is going to be my path for a while.

And, DP was raised by hindu/punjabi parents in a hindu community in Kenya. I'm sure his parents only spoke hindi to him at home and that he learned swahili from agemates, hired help, school, media etc. So, I just wanted to throw that out in case it helps anyone in a similar situation with their DC.
post #19 of 25
I have a question as well. I debated starting a new thread on this.... I still might depending on response....

In single parent households..... when the primary parent is only native in one language, how is best to incorporate other languages? It is very important to me that DD learns hindi, punjabi and later swahili. These are the languages of her father, and her cultural/ethnic background. I've been slowly learning these, but have a long ways to go still. DD is very vocal, is starting to sign back things to me as well. I don't want to confuse her, yet I don't want to not teach her these things. I'm not officially split from her father, but it's most likely and so I'm hoping others out there will have some experience to chime in with. So far I've been saying the different language word's back to back as I'm not fluent enough to compose good sentences yet. So I might say "garam hai, garam hai" and then also say "it's hot, it's hot". Suggestions?

post #20 of 25
My daughter is only eight months old, so I don't know how well it will work out, but we're doing OPOL, though I read to her in both French and English, and we listen to music in both languages. When she's a little older, we may choose movies and/or television programs in both languages too. If we go the public school route, it's possible that we may be able to get her into a language immersion program through our school district, where her primary language of instruction will be French.
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