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#1 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 01:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DH is multilingual. The children and I are not. I would very much LOVE for the kids to be bilingual Arabic (DH's mother language) English.

But at this point that has not happened.

And I think it's completely unfair to them as they can't speak to half of their own family! (I guess this has REALLY hit home to me now as the older two are starting to talk to people on the phone and I remember that I was probably 5 when I used to type little letters to my grandma on my mom's work typewriter, ) Seems just so friggin wrong to me that for whatever reason, DH refuses to talk to them in Arabic. He's dropped the argument with me now that they'll confuse the two. Now he's moved into "they will learn when we go overseas" Sigh. While they might learn fast in full immersion, I think the whole experience would be better for them if they had at least a LITTLE bit of the language!
Not to mention don't you think his mom might like to be able to talk to her grandchildren?!

I guess this is mainly a vent. Maybe I'm super sensitive because I grew up with a close relationship to both of my grandmothers especially, and I just lost my mom's mom the day after Thanksgiving. I adored her, and I am fairly sure I was closer to her than many of the grandkids....I just can't imagine not being able to know your own grandmother. I am almost going to cry now as I type this.

But also a chance to share a few of the funny comments DS1 is starting to make.
The kids had a lot of fun in the town where DH's aunt lives, visiting her. It just so happens we visited several Sudanese families there. Later, the kids overheard a conversation we had about possibly moving there, and DS later tells me we can't move there because I don't speak Arabic. LOL (the kids actually WANT to move there, DS tells me so regularly, that he wants to play with his "cousin", DD wants her hair braided like DH's aunt's and the other little girls--something they can do and I can't.)

Anyway back to the original subject.....I've told DH I really think this sucks. I've told him all my reasons. I've told him *I* would like to begin to learn a little conversation at least. I've even told him I don't give a flip that i don't know what he is saying to them, I WANT him to spend some time talking to them, I will NOT feel "left out." In fact, I would like to LEARN.
I have even gone as far as to suggest we have maybe mealtimes or something where we ONLY speak Arabic. Not that we're going to punish the kids or not answer them if they speak English, but that it would be a good way to learn.

I told him that while we were at his aunt's house, his brother called (Dh was not there) and his aunt actually put me on the phone. I exhausted my entire vocabulary with a greeting and "How are you" and then I half-understood a response

Has anyone had this experience in getting started being a bilingual family?? What did you do to change it? My main concern/point is I want my children to be able to communicate with their own relatives. This is, after all, their FAMILY......

lovin DH since 1/04, SAHM to 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), and one 13 wk (10/13) just your average :ha ng multigenerational living family!!
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#2 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 02:01 AM
 
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nakking but we are in the same boat, and i'm equally frustrated / furious. aaaahhhhh

no clue, waiting for advice frome someone who kicked her dh into shape.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#3 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 11:58 AM
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DH refuses to talk to them in Arabic. He's dropped the argument with me now that they'll confuse the two. Now he's moved into "they will learn when we go overseas" Sigh. While they might learn fast in full immersion, I think the whole experience would be better for them if they had at least a LITTLE bit of the language!
OK, so he's making up excuses. Does he really *believe* his excuses, or is he covering up his real reasons for not teaching them? What do you think his *real* reasons are? Is he just lazy about it? Or is purposely withholding this knowledge from them for some reason? I think we need to figure out the exact issue here with your dh before looking for solutions. There is *some* reason for this (even if it is laziness), so we need to figure that out first in order to look for solutions.

Meanwhile, can you take up the initiative? I know there are some audiocourses on Arabic. Maybe try one out, pick up a few phrases and then practice them on your dh and use them with your kids? Maybe learn together with your oldest? Once you have some basic vocabulary, find some children's shows. Watch them through a few times, and then try to talk about them with your older kid (asking them simple questions like "who is that?" "what is he doing?"). At least get a basic vocabulary going and in use. Incorporate it into playtime. Perhaps if your "lessons" are fun and entertaining, your dh will want to join in? Or at least correct you if you are speaking wrong?

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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#4 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 12:08 PM
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Another thought if you want to learn Arabic and your dh isn't cooperating: where we live we have a local "Adult School" that offers low cost classes geared to adult learners in various subjects, including Arabic (my dh is doing an ESL course through the school right now and loves it). Maybe there is something like that near you? You could enroll in a beginning Arabic course and at least get some basic knowledge that you could bring home and use with your kids?

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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#5 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 12:48 PM
 
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How about taking an Arabic course on your own or picking up a book/CDs? Fortunately, DH was always encouraged me to learn Portuguese (his family doesn't speak any English) but I don't think if I hadn't really pushed it I would've learned much.

I'm really into languages to start with and Portuguese is actually my third language but I made a point to sign up and take a few night classes when we were engaged. I also insisted that any Portuguese speakers speak with my in Portuguese (most were very happy to). DH actually loves to talk to many in Portuguese now so that we can have private conversations in public.

Also, are there any Arabic playgroups in your neighborhood? You could try and have yours kids meet other speakers and pick it up from there.
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#6 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 07:00 PM
 
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Being the sole person in charge of teaching children a language to which they have no other substantial exposure is daunting. Being asked to be in charge of teaching both one's children and one's spouse isn't any less so. And may for some people be an outright unrealistic expectation. I would really focus more on taking classes or other independent learning to be able to help with the task of educating the kids. (If you don't have classes available, can you afford and/or does your local library carry the Rosetta Stone program? I've used the Arabic program myself and while it wasn't what I anticipated it was worth it.) Do any area mosques offer Arabic education for kids? Do any of them do Arabic language khutbahs and have a substantial Arabic-language speaking population? Does your husband have friends in your area with whom he converses in Arabic, for your kids to get more exposure to normal Arabic conversation? Can you leave his family to talk to them as often as possible on the phone or over the internet? If you do TV time, do have you access to Arabic sattelite, or do you have Arabic language children's DVDs?

Your husband isn't really wrong that immersion may be the way to go. The trick is in trying to create as immersive as possible a family/community environment rather than counting on time spent in Arabic-speaking countries alone to do it. (Provided we're not talking the intention to move there outright when the kids are still pretty young.) That's not necessarily something your husband can -- and is clearly something he is not comfortable to -- shoulder alone.
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#7 of 9 Old 07-10-2009, 08:19 PM
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Can you leave his family to talk to them as often as possible on the phone or over the internet?
Ah, yes. Not sure if your (and your inlaws') finances would permit this, but is there anyway you could both get small web cams for your computer? If so, you can Skype each other each and they can talk "face to face" with their families. Attaching real people to the language might also encourage them to speak. If they can see their granparents' (etc.) loving faces speaking Arabic, they might be motivated to learn and to try to speak back.

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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#8 of 9 Old 07-15-2009, 01:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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He said they have internet cafes there. I asked him about Facebook, LOL, so they could see pics of the kids. I never thought about Skype! I've never used it. I don't have a webcam on this laptop, now I wish I would've paid the extra for the one that had it, among other things. Oh well I can buy a $30 webcam lol I will have to ask him about Skype.

He works a lot, I think part of it is when he's home, he just wants to relax, he doesn't want to "work" on "teaching" something. just a random guess.

I'm going to keep working on it. I bet if there was any way at all to do it his mom would LOVE to be Skyped her grandkids, LOL

If I know my children, DS1 would play shy. DD would chatter and tell them I did piggytails in her hair today. And DS2 would just smile and drool and try to eat the webcam (for some reason, DD's "thing" is when she gets on the phone, she says "hi" and then "Mommy did piggytails in my hair!" and then "bye"

I still think it's unfair she wouldn't be able to understand them and there is NO reason for it! (in my mind) Like I said, what completely tears me up is the idea that my children can't understand their own grandmother's "I love you"
This is not fair to them. Forget me and what I wouldn't mind learning. I married into this family.

This is THEIR FAMILY. This is their heritage, this is half of who they are, and they are being denied.

I don't get it. I don't understand how he does not see it and does not appear to care.

Sorry but I just got done reading a section in a book on race talking about Latino identity and whether or not you speak Spanish.....it's the same thing here. They are the only Sudanese-American children I know who are not bilingual. (Of course, they are also the only Sudanese-American children I know who have an American mom. That probably factors in somewhere, the fact that they have "home language" and "outside language" but why should it mean they can't have both??)

I know it doesn't mean they can't be the ones to ask him to teach them, and I think he would if it came to that. But we've already missed a huge window where the oldest should be fluent in both and my 2 year old should be speaking in both........

lovin DH since 1/04, SAHM to 3 boys 10/04, 11/08, 11/10 one girlie (1/07), and one 13 wk (10/13) just your average :ha ng multigenerational living family!!
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#9 of 9 Old 07-15-2009, 12:25 PM
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I know it doesn't mean they can't be the ones to ask him to teach them, and I think he would if it came to that. But we've already missed a huge window where the oldest should be fluent in both and my 2 year old should be speaking in both........

Not necessarily (and I only say this with the hopes that you won't feel so bad about the situation). Maintaining bilingualism can be HARD. For many (most?) kids, it's not as simple as having a parent in the home actively speaking to them in the minority language. I can use myself as an example. Russian is our home language and dd's first words were in Russian and until she started pre-school, Russian was her stronger language. Once she started speaking English daily (in a school environment), however, her Russian began rapidly declining as her English started to progress. We still speak Russian at home (and it is the only language that dh speaks, so he speaks to her esclusively in Russian), but she is no where near being bilingual at this point. Her Russian comprehension is very good, but her spoken language is very weak. And, again, this is despite the fact that she has one parent who speaks/understands ONLY Russian and who deperately WANTS her to speak Russian.

This is NOT meant to discourage you, I am actually hoping it will console you in some way. While I fully support bilingualism, it often isn't as easy as it sounds and "just" having a parent speak the minority language often isn't enough. There needs to be a good deal of exposure to the language in order to become fully fluent. Welcome any small progress as a "victory" rather than focusing on where you think your kids "should" be. You can still do this, but it's going to take a lot of work. And if real fluency is your goal, it will likely take a lot more than just your husband's willingness to speak to them in Arabic (although that would definitely be a start!).

PhDin' mama to dd (Oct. 2005)
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