Teaching 2nd language when neither parent fluent? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 11-03-2009, 07:21 PM - Thread Starter
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My husband and I are expecting our first baby in March. He is Korean, I'm white. I really want to raise our baby bilingually but I don't know how realistic that is so I'm looking for suggestions. Dh's parents & grandma live about an hour from us and I expect to see them about once a week once the baby comes (right now we usually see them 2x/mth but I'm sure that'll change). His parents came here in '77 & both speak English fluently but his grandma doesn't speak any English.

The problem is that dh stopped speaking Korean at 5 yrs old thanks to advice from an idiotic teacher. He can understand family conversations but that's about it. I've been working on teaching myself Korean but it's very limited & of course I'll never have the accent right. I wish dh would start trying to relearn but he's really sensitive about the fact that he doesn't speak & I think that he's too embarrassed to try to learn (hope that makes sense).

The in-laws will speak Korean to the baby but I don't think one day/wk will be enough. I'm wondering what else we can do since OPOL requires a parent to speak? I could learn the basics: colors, shapes, numbers, etc & teach those specifically but I'm wondering if that would confuse the baby? We have a Korean church about 45 min away that I'd like to start attending but I know dh is going to be embarrased to attend because of the language issue (they do have an English service). I'm trying to get CD's of Korean childrens songs as well. Any thoughts? Is this even possible?
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#2 of 6 Old 11-03-2009, 11:12 PM
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I think it's possible, although it may take some effort to expose your child to the Korean language regularly, which is what is needed for fluency. Are there some local Korean families who can help out? What about a Korean speaking nanny or caregiver, if you are going to work outside the home?

Other ideas, some may have to wait until your child is a little older:

- a regular playgroup/playdate with Korean families.
- Korean immersion pre-school or after-school/weekend classes
- software programs like Rosetta Stone
- travel to Korea

If you are learning Korean, that will be very helpful. I wouldn't worry about confusing the baby by using Korean words. Children are very adept at learning languages.

Best of luck with the pregnancy and the baby!
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#3 of 6 Old 11-03-2009, 11:17 PM - Thread Starter
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We don't know any Korean families but I expect if we join the church we would meet some. I'll be a SAHM so we don't need a nanny. I had thought about getting a Korean au pair anyway but dh says his mother would have a fit if any non-family member was caring for the baby in any way (and our house really isn't big enough). I'm hoping to meet Korean families but I'm not sure if I'll fit in and I don't really see dh taking baby to a playgroup.
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#4 of 6 Old 11-07-2009, 04:25 PM
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A friend of mine who is Japanese American (who isn't fluent in Japanese) went to the local colleges and community colleges in our area and found Japanese students who were here going to school and hired a couple of them to come spend 2 days a week with her son to speak Japanese to him. He was a little older, I think she started when he was 1...he's now 8. My friend was there with them the whole time (in the house, not necessarily in the same room). It was a really casual thing, the girls would just play with her son, but they only spoke Japanese.
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#5 of 6 Old 11-09-2009, 12:11 AM
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We're in a similar situation. Neither DH and I are fluent in Spanish, although we have studied it for many years including college. I've been very casual about it, checking out book from the library and playing lullabies, but not necessarily using it every day.

The local branch of our library mostly has just Spanish., but the main branch library in our town has all sorts of non-English material, including childrens books, music, and lessons, in a variety of languages (including Korean).

The reading I'm doing says that non-fluent parents can still help the child(ren) learn, as long as the child(ren) have the opportunity to hear / converse with fluent speakers at some point.

The other thing the book I've been reading suggests is that there should be a plan for exposing the child to both languages every day. The more time in each, the better.

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#6 of 6 Old 11-10-2009, 08:08 PM
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Unless you are totally against TV, I'd suggest subscribing to a Korean-language channel. Preferably cartoons, if available.

Honestly the only way I have ever seen kids learn a language that is neither the language of the surrounding culture, nor a language typically spoken to them at home, is by watching TV.

Me, DH, DD1 (2009), DD2 (2011), and DS (2015).
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