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#1 of 22 Old 07-28-2009, 09:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My husband is Mexican and we live in the Midwest--I and my whole extended family speak English and he, obviously, speaks Spanish. We have a 2.5 year old and a baby on the way. At home we speak mostly English and some Spanish, mainly due to the fact that his English is better than my Spanish, and because he is practicing his English for classes and for work.

I'm concerned though, that our daughter is not learning Spanish. My husband speaks to her in Spanish every day, but not throughout the day and not consistently. He also doesn't seem to talk to her conversationally in Spanish--it's more when asking her to do things or talking about routine parts of the day, so I think she has learned a pretty limited vocabulary in Spanish and is not getting to hear him talk about a variety of things all the time, like I do with her in English. She is not around any other Spanish-speakers, and her only other exposure was when our mother-in-law lived with us for six months. I'm sure this was very helpful, since she only speaks Spanish, but it was just a short time.

Have any of you had trouble with this type of situation? I've tried to ask my husband to speak exclusively in Spanish at home, but he says that our daughter will learn Spanish from watching TV, listening to music, or taking classes in school. We watch very little TV, but aside from that I just disagree with that--I think that she will NOT become fluent from those sources, and that we are missing an important window when she could very easily pick up lots of language. She speaks pretty well in English, and while she clearly understands basic Spanish and can say many words in Spanish, she refuses to answer questions in Spanish and she would never voluntarily speak it.

Obviously I have limited control over this because I am not the one who can teach her fluent Spanish. Maybe the only thing I can do is improve my own Spanish and try to speak it more at home--I think my husband avoids speaking Spanish to me because he often has to slow down or translate words and he gets frustrated because we communicate more easily in English.

This is a little bit of a vent, but any advice or encouragement would be much appreciated. I know my partner wants his kids to be fluently bilingual, but he doesn't seem to believe that his role is that important, while I see it as absolutely essential.

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#2 of 22 Old 07-28-2009, 09:56 AM
 
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My brother & sil are mixed language. My sil is American but her parents were from Colombia & Puerto Rico & she grew up speaking only Spanish at home.

For their kids, she wants them to be bilingual. She mostly speaks in Spanish to them - directions, descriptions, prayers, even admonishments and my brother speaks English. They also have a nanny that speaks Spanish. Even with that, my niece (almost 6yo) refuses to speak Spanish. She understands but doesn't want anything to do with it. Her twin (boy) moves effortlessly back and forth between both languages. My other nephew (4) will speak it sometimes & understands, but again it's a push.

I think it's great trying to develop both languages. The more exposure, the more they will pick up. My dd has learned a lot just from being around her cousins. But I disagree with your husband - conversation is the best way to pick up the language...which is why he's speaking in English to get better at it! And your Spanish will come too.

Maybe you can have a compromise - Spanish at home in the mornings, English at night.
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#3 of 22 Old 07-28-2009, 09:56 AM
 
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Hi there!
First off, good for you for wanting to give your child the gift of two languages.

I understand your situation completely. My XH is a German citizen and I urged him to speak only in German to our daughter, now eight years old. When she was little, I did my best to speak as much in German as possible, but my German language skills are only mediocre and I have to revert to English to express more complex ideas.

Since I was her primary caregiver when she was small, it was really up to me to keep the language immersion flowing.

When DD was little, I did everything I could to supplement her German, including finding other German speaking playmates, encouraging her German grandma (Oma) to visit often, providing German music for children, singing German lullabies, and having plenty of German and English books and videos on hand.

What I really found most effective, however, was speaking with my now XH in German. Conversing in German around my DD, I felt, made the biggest impact. Plus, it really helped me expand my language skills.

I know that my XH doesn't always speak in German to DD, and my DD speaks in English most of the time, but I do know that she understands and can respond to German perfectly. For example, she'll correct my German when I err. And if I ask her to do something in German, she'll respond right away.

And I'm proud to note that she's beginning to embrace her German heritage more and more. I'm sure that if and when the time comes, she could easily converse in German with just a little practice and encouragement.

Perhaps if you share my DDs experience with your DH, he'll be more open to going with the program, so to speak. I'd also encourage you two to converse in that language whenever possible and practical. Above all, maybe you can convince your DH the value of a gift of another language.

One more thing--don't be surprised or dismayed if your DD responds to Spanish with English--that's pretty common and doesn't necessarily mean she's not learning and internalizing the language.

Good luck!

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#4 of 22 Old 07-28-2009, 06:11 PM
 
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No personal experience (yet!) but I studied second language acquisition in children in my college studies, and the research showed that the most effective way to achieve bilingual skills in children is for each parent to speak only one language to the child. So you speak English and your husband speaks Spanish, always. Now since you stay at home with your child, she will still get more English, and most tv is English, and playmates and then school, etc... so I would go ahead and speak both to her yourself. But DH should speak only Spanish to her.

He needs to realize that after she starts school, even if she is in a bilingual program, most of her language exposure will be in English because you live in the states. So it's even more important that he give her more Spanish exposure.

If she resists answering in Spanish, have him request that she do it. So if he asks a question in Span and he answers in Eng, he can say "tell me in Span please" and help her out where need be.

Good luck! When our LO is born, I will be speakly to him/her only in Spanish and DH only in English (he doesn't speak Span anyway) so we hope to be successful with our kids speaking both!

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#5 of 22 Old 07-28-2009, 06:30 PM
 
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I'd try to sign up for some extra Spanish classes (for yourself), if I were you. We do English (me) and Portuguese (DH) at home. Knowing DH, if I hadn't had the initiative to take Portuguese classes on my own, DD would probably get very limited exposure to Portuguese. However, because I now speak it fairly well (still not fluent but I can normally get the idea across), we'll talk in Portuguese often and he talks almost entirely to DD in Portuguese. However, I know if I didn't speak it he'd end up talking to her much more in English because he'd feel bad because I wouldn't understand.

Also, I've worked with a number of bilingual (and a few tri-lingual) kids. In the early stages they tend to prefer the easier words in each language. So don't be freaked out if she answers a question with the other language. Normally this straightens itself out eventually.

I would also make an effort to see if you can get your hands on as much Spanish multi-media as possible. Especially books. It might actually help you with your Spanish at that. Maybe you could also try and see if there are any Spanish playgroups around?
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#6 of 22 Old 07-29-2009, 08:53 AM
 
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been there, it's hard, my husband wouldn't speak his own language to the first 2 kids (he came to my country to learn my language & was too tired after a long working day)

what saved us was that we were sent to an english speaking country for work for 3 years; but then we felt really stupid not to have taught at least a little english to our kids before "abandonning them" all day long at school & the first few months were hard ...

.... and it's only now with child number 3 that my husband sees the need/interest into reading to her in english ....

so exposure, exposure, exposure that's the key, ... could you invite some spanish speaking relatives/au pair for some holidays ?
on the net, I can't remember exact details but there are talking books in different languages, free to access with a computer.
what does your local library do ? is there a spanish speaking church near you ?

another point to consider is that exposure is one thing but you can't really force a child to speak two languages at the same time if they really don't want to or don't feel ok doing it ... I mean we moved at a crucial time maybe for language learning for my son (who had a speach delay in his mother tongue) and for nearly a year he refused to speak english .... but then after that he refused to speak my language and on our return in my home country, it took him at least 4 to 5 months to remember his mother tongue ... and now he avoids speaking english if he can and he's lost some of his understanding of it , although he accepts to read some books in english & will complete some summer program exercise books for his grade ...

so maybe it's more important to focus on incorporating as much spanish in your daily life, as a normal part of it, BUT not to focus too much on results and be too stressed out about the whole issue .... I know, it's easier said than done (I totally freaked out when I thaught my son had totally forgotten his and my mother tongue !!!)

good luck !
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#7 of 22 Old 07-29-2009, 05:46 PM
 
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Here is a link to a current thread that covers all of this.
My advice is to just go for it! Every word you speak in Spanish, every song you listen to and sing to in the car, every positive vibe you attach to the language, adds up and helps produce language.
Have fun!
http://www.mothering.com/discussions....php?t=1104654
P.S. Don't listen to all those rules (OPOL) and studies--my kids are living proof that you can have fun, mix it all up, and have biligualism (and at times trilinguaglism) work!
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#8 of 22 Old 07-29-2009, 08:00 PM
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Well, we are in more or less the same boat.

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She speaks pretty well in English, and while she clearly understands basic Spanish and can say many words in Spanish, she refuses to answer questions in Spanish and she would never voluntarily speak it.

Yup, yup, yup.



We speak Russian as our home language (dh is monolingual in Russian, I am bilingual in Russian and English), but dd (3.5) absolultely refuses to speak Russian. She will occasionally make some concessions when speaking to dh as she has come to realize that that is the only way he'll understand her. But if I try to speak Russian to her she flips out and starts whining, "Why are you talking like that? STOP speaking like that!". She absolutely hates when I speak Russian to her, and will NEVER speak Russian to me. Really she would prefer not to speak Russian to dh, but she knows that she has no choice. Still she keeps it to an absolute minimum.

At this point, she still understands Russian quite well, but her speaking abilities are limited to a handful of vocabulary words and a few set phrases such as "what are you doing? What is that?" type of stuff that she says to dh frequently. And that is it. I can't even honestly call her bilingual at this point And this is something that we have BOTH been working at.

My strategy right now is to try to find other children who speak Russian. I think that might really be the key for dd. She is EXTREMELY social, a total extrovert, and LOVES to make herself the center of attention. So I think if being the center of attention required her to speak Russian, that might be the motivation that she needs.

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#9 of 22 Old 08-01-2009, 01:23 AM
 
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We are in the same spot. My husband is fluent in Spanish and English, and he nearly always speaks English at home except when telling our son what to do.

There is such resistance on his part, but he will tell me that it is important that our son learn Spanish, but he tells me I have to remind him. I do, almost every day, and then he tells me I need to speak in Spanish more.

I read to my son in Spanish (my pronunciation is good, my vocabulary is limited). I sing songs to my son in Spanish. I talk to him as much as I can, but obviously he will not be fluent with my poor attempts.

I don't understand this at all, but I wonder if it is subconscious since my husband felt out of place in school because he didn't know English at the time. He was even sent to speech therapy because he couldn't say his r's "right".

Frustrating, and if anyone has suggestions I'm all ears.
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#10 of 22 Old 08-01-2009, 09:05 AM
 
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I'm from one of those weird families that didn't push the whole bilingual thing, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

If you child seems to understand the basics of a second language, I wouldn't push to hard to have them speak it all the time. I also wouldn't push a hesitant spouse to do it either.

Both of my maternal grandparents are native Japanese speakers, but only spoke to my mother and her sibs in English when they were growing up... they learned some conversational Japanese from church, grandparents and Japanese school. 3 of the 4 are conversant in Japanese as adults.

I think my grandparents decision to not speak Japanese to their children at home was heavily weighted by my grandfather's experience with the internment camps though. Grandma was still learning English when Mom was born, so I think that may have had something to do with the decision too.

My own parents never placed much of a value on teaching us Japanese because Mom isn't fluent herself, and Dad isn't Japanese at all.

Both sets of DH's grandparents are/were native Japanese speakers, had similar experiences with the internment camps as my grandfather. FIL spoke only Japanese until he started school, but MIL was raised speaking mostly English. Neither FIL or MIL are conversant, although they understand quite a bit of spoken Japanese.
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#11 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 02:51 AM
 
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Take Spanish courses to improve your own fluency. Join other Spanish-speaking families for playgroups and play dates. If those aren't possible, then get the music and DVDs. Passive learning of the minority language can still count for something!

Regular and consistent exposure to the minority language is what counts.

Good luck!

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#12 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 03:09 AM
 
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This might not be a popular response, so no flames please. My dh is spanish. Born and raised here. His father immigrated here from Spain in the 1920"s. My dh entered school, not speaking English. There was no ESL in the 60's. So of course he learned English. His father was adament that he learn English. So he did. Then he married me, had 2 kids, and neither one of them can speak Spanish. I have been married 31 years and I can understand it but can't speak it. Do I feel like my sons missed out? No! Like Grandpa said, thls is America, speak Engllsh.
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#13 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 12:20 PM
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Do I feel like my sons missed out? No!
Maybe you feel that way, but what do your sons feel? Do THEY feel like they missed out? Will they feel that way as adults?

You know, my own personal feelings on the matter aside, I can state this fact:

I have known MANY people who regretted that their parents never taught them their language, but I do NOT know a single person who ever expressed regret that their parents DID teach them their language. YKWIM?

There may be some circumstances where knowing a second language may never be truly necessary, but there are NO circumstances where knowing a second language is a detriment. In other words, knowing a second language can only HELP you, it can never HURT you.

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Like Grandpa said, thls is America, speak Engllsh.
Well, I completely disagree with this attitude for many reasons, but that is irrelevant, I suppose.

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#14 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 01:22 PM
 
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Try to find some more research for your dh that shows what a gift it is to be bilingual, and that the most effective way is for one parent to only speak the other language all the time?
Or like some others say, get better in spanish yourself and speak to her. Or have a nanny that speaks it, or see if there are playgroups/other families that speak it close to you and join them.

We have kids who are fluent in three languages, mine (aussie-eng.), my dear's (french) and the one in the scandinavian country we live in. Both me and my dear are bilingual as well. And we are very consistant, he only speaks french to them and I only speak english/aussie-english to them. They learn the third one from living here, going to daycare and school here, and having friends that speak the language.
Two of my kids are gifted and they wanted to learn more languages, so they are having spanish and mandarin lessons, but even though they have that, they wont be as fluent in those languages as they are in those they have heard from us all the time. So I agree with you that she will be fluent only if he speaks it to her all the time. (I also know this from myself, I've been with a french-speaking man for so many years now, but I'm not fluent, even though I hear it every day.)

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#15 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 03:06 PM
 
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It's really hard to learn a second language fluently when it's only spoken by one parent and only at home. Kids also learn alot from other kids. My suggestion would be to find some Spanish speaking families with kids and hang out with them.

Even though we live in a Czech speaking culture, DS's Czech really picked up at the playground and from his Czech friends. Our home language is English.

Good luck, and bear in mind that passive fluency is excellent and it's never too late to learn another language.
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#16 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by east carolina View Post
It's really hard to learn a second language fluently when it's only spoken by one parent and only at home. Kids also learn alot from other kids. My suggestion would be to find some Spanish speaking families with kids and hang out with them.

I TOTALLY agree with this

Quote:
and that the most effective way is for one parent to only speak the other language all the time
To the best of my knowledge there is no research which shows that OPOL is the most effective method for bilingualism. If you know of such research, I would love to see it

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#17 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 07:39 PM
 
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From my reading, the advantage of OPOL is that it sets clear boundaries for when the child is expected to speak one language vs. the other.

The reading I've done says that children do respond best to their parents voices. So a parent speaking the language is better than a stranger. But Steiner's "7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child" says that the parent does not have to be fluent as long as the child(ren) is(are) exposed to fluent speakers at some period. So given this, I would agree with pp's who suggest you could take Spanish classes.

DH and I both studied Spanish throughout high school and into college. We're planning to teach our son the language. One of the resources I've found on iTunes is Cody's Cuentos. We also occasionally check out Spanish-language books, music, and videos at the library. I like Sesame Street and Dora some for *casual* introduction to words, but they're so English-dominated that I'd like to find something with more immersion.

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#18 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 09:46 PM
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From my reading, the advantage of OPOL is that it sets clear boundaries for when the child is expected to speak one language vs. the other.

But doesn't "home language/outside language" establish the same language boundaries while actually giving more exposure to the target language (since both parents would be speaking it)?

And it still seems to me that for SOME children this simply isn't enough exposure for real, active fluency. Many (most?) children need additional motivation such as a peer-group or an immersion school setting.

Obviously, like anyone else, I am biased by my personal experiences. As noted above, we are REALLY struggling with getting dd to speak Russian (despite the fact that it is our home language AND the fact that it is the ONLY language dh speaks). ALL of her friends speak English, so that is the language she feels motivated to speak (because she is extremeley social with other children). She does not feel motivation to speak Russian despite the fact that there are occassions when she simply MUST speak it (to dh). SHe does so grudgingly.

Interestingly, dh had almost the exact same experience growing up. His parents are actually both native Ukrainian speakers (although they know Russian fairly fluently). However, they spoke Ukrainian exclusively at home. Dh was sent to a Russian language school and now, as an adult, can understand Ukrainian fairly well, but really can't put two words together. Russian has essentially become his native language (he actually still considers Ukrainian his "native language" despite the fact that he can barely speak it at this point). Russian was the language of his education, the language of most of his friends, and it was generally the more prestigious language at the time, so he adopted it to the detriment of the language that his family spoke at home.

Now the same thing is basically happening with dd who started out speaking Russian (her first words were Russian, not English), but for whom English is now her FAR stronger language.

So I personally am very much convinced of the role that outside motivation plays in language acquisition and maintainance.

Of course, this may not be true for ALL children, but I do believe it is true for MANY children.


.....

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#19 of 22 Old 08-02-2009, 10:57 PM
 
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But doesn't "home language/outside language" establish the same language boundaries while actually giving more exposure to the target language (since both parents would be speaking it)?
Конечно! Of course! I am no expert, merely a language enthusiast just starting to introduce my son to these things. From what I hear of your situation, I have no problem with your family using Russian at home and English away. I was focusing my inputs on the OP's issues, where the one parent who does speak the language isn't using it.

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#20 of 22 Old 08-04-2009, 12:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by LVale View Post
This might not be a popular response, so no flames please. My dh is spanish. Born and raised here. His father immigrated here from Spain in the 1920"s. My dh entered school, not speaking English. There was no ESL in the 60's. So of course he learned English. His father was adament that he learn English. So he did. Then he married me, had 2 kids, and neither one of them can speak Spanish. I have been married 31 years and I can understand it but can't speak it. Do I feel like my sons missed out? No! Like Grandpa said, thls is America, speak Engllsh.
I think that had something to do with my mother's parents and DH's maternal grandparents decision not to push Japanese on their kids. Neither set of parents had any intention of relocating their families to Japan, so being fluent in Japanese wasn't a priority.
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#21 of 22 Old 08-04-2009, 02:05 AM
 
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I learned two languages growing up. Actually, it was interesting. I was born in Poland and stayed there for 5 years. My mom spoke English to me exclusively, while the rest of the family spoke Polish. My mom refused to speak in any other language except English to me.

Then, we moved to America, and things switched. I spoke English at school, outside the home, etc. My mom spoke Polish to me exclusively. She ignored me (obviously not in emergency situations) when I spoke English to her, and would only respond when I spoke Polish.

When I was a kid, I thought this was fun. When I was a teen, I thought this was so annoying.

Now, I am SO grateful to her for putting in that work. Being bilingual from the beginning is SUCH a gift. I was able to master Spanish in under one year in high school because I already knew linguistic basics of two languages. I didn't have to figure things out from scratch.

I plan to do the same with my child. Speak Polish to her/him exclusively, followed by summers spent in Poland. When you're a child, soaking up another language is effortless. It's not like when you're an adult.

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#22 of 22 Old 08-04-2009, 08:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Do I feel like my sons missed out? No! Like Grandpa said, thls is America, speak Engllsh.
I heartily but respectfully disagree with this statement. No one's advocating that our children NOT learn to speak English fluently while living in the United States (which is one of very few English-speaking countries in "America"). Just saying that it is a gift and an obligation to pass on culture and languages from elsewhere, in addition. My daughter also has half of her family living in Mexico, almost none of whom speak any English. It would be a disservice to them and to her to leave her unable to communicate with one set of grandparents, several aunts and uncles and dozens of cousins.

Thanks for all of the responses! I am newly motivated to step up my own efforts to become fluent in Spanish, so that I can at least speak to my partner in Spanish at home more often than I do. I still think it will need to be my husband's responsibility to teach our kids fluency in Spanish, since I'm not a native speaker, but I agree that my role could be a more active one. I know that our kids will be grateful for the ability as adults, and it will open up so many opportunities for them as bilingual persons.

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