teaching reading/writing in multi-lingual situation - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: if and when you teach your children reading/writing in your language when different from environment
teach reading in my language before primary school in other language 2 11.76%
teach reading/writing in my language before primary school in other language 5 29.41%
teach reading in my language simultaneously with primary school teaching in other language 0 0%
teach reading/writing in my language simultaneously with primary school teaching in other language 2 11.76%
teach reading in my language after primary school teaching in other language 2 11.76%
teach reading/writing in my language after primary school teaching in other language 2 11.76%
do not actively invest in teaching my child to write/read in my language 1 5.88%
other (pls specify, am curious) 3 17.65%
Voters: 17. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 15 Old 11-09-2009, 07:39 AM - Thread Starter
 
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(cross-posted in the childhood years)

We use the OPOL method at home. We speak an additional language between us parents, so that language is learned passively by our children, too (to some extent).
The environment language is my dh's language, mine the 'minority' language, BUT equally important :-)

Ds1 (5,5) is absolutely bilingual and now has two main tongues. I wish to keep a both languages on an equal balance where possible, also when environment language will more and more start to be dominant.
At the moment his level of mother tongue may be slightly better than father tongue because am a sahm and read them lots of books.

Next year ds will start primary school and learn how to read/write in the local language, in European alphabet which is slightly different than the basic European alphabet (has some extra letters and lacks some other).



He now goes to local language (father-tongue and environment language) Kindergarten where they do some primarily reading/writing preparation, mainly just letters as far as know. And they add some (very basic) English teaching (I assume alphabet and words, mostly auditory, though these lessons are not a big deal).
He also goes to Kindergarten in his other mother-tongue language 3h/week, there they kids familiarised with basic letter recognition/writing too at the moment, they may continue with a little more advanced lessons in January. He enjoys this school environment the most.

I have been dealing with reading, to and with my children, we have a lot of (children's) books, have done letter recognition and some word copying (not by writing, by letter blocks/tags) together, and mom and dad are readers (not always books but they see us read on a daily basis).

I am wondering what other parents do regarding (starting) teaching their children the basics of reading/writing a language, when it's their mother tongue they are passing on in an other-language environment. If you have the time for it and are willing to work on this, and of course if your children enjoy this too, or otherwise worded: in a way children enjoy the teaching and see it as play and connection rather than as 'obligatory' and/or 'boring' lessons.

Do you start teaching reading/writing basics in your own language BEFORE they learn basics at school in the other language? Simultaneously? After they got familiar with reading n the other language at school?
What are your experiences?

My personal idea is that my child will probably be best taught right now with me at home in a playful way before the 'obligatory' part of primary school starts next year, to be really able to give him the basics of his mother's tongue.
I fear next year it also may be 'too much to handle' or learning simultaneously may mix up some things in both language learning (eg the slightly different alphabet) ?

Me:,loving HB,two active sons of 3 & 5,1 cat, nature lover,,extbf,occ,SAHM, multicultural/lingual family,+/-cl, :become a better parent/person by not expecting to be the perfect parent/person
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#2 of 15 Old 11-09-2009, 09:22 AM
 
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I kinda had to go with other because I wasn't sure where we fall in.

We just do what comes naturally to us. DS1 doesn't seem to really differentiate between the two much when it comes to reading and writing. Sometimes he will decide to use English, sometimes Norwegian. The fact that Norwegian has 3 extra letters doesn't seem to bother him. He was interested in letters and numbers from a very early age so he is probably way beyond most of his peers at this point (5.5). It wasn't through any real active effort on our part, it's just where his interests are. So just playing with him has lead to a lot of written language work.

I personally concentrate more on English at home simply because he is getting a huge dose of Norwegian during the day at barnehage and once school starts it will be even more pronounced. Skills he picks up in one language he just naturally transfers to the other so far. From what I have read that is pretty commmon. Much of the general skillset is the same from language to language (I didn't have to relearn how to read or write when I moved here) so organized learning in one language will passively strengthen the skills in the other(s).

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#3 of 15 Old 11-09-2009, 07:08 PM
 
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I voted "after"
not because I think it's better to do it that way
....just because circumstances both times (two kids two years apart starting first grade) limited my choices in this matter.

originally I was all for starting to teach reading in my language (the minority one) a good 6 months before the start of first grade ... but it didn't happen after all ....

both kids now read in both languages but we changed countries again, ... so I would sum it up by saying that the "hard work" always is on the language of the country you are not living in !
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#4 of 15 Old 11-10-2009, 04:55 PM
 
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Wow! the OP is certainly investing a lot to make sure the children have a solid grounding in their roots

I haven't voted because I haven't figured out where I fit in.

I read minimally to the children in my mother tongue, and do not do any of the teaching of the reading and writing, other than to supervise my oldest, now 7 yrs, in doing his Chinese homework. He started Chinese school 3 yrs ago at the age of 5. It's for 3 hours on Saturday mornings, with the expectation of doing homework through out the week (practising how to write the characters).

There is a Chinese population here of at least 50 000, so we do have heritage language classes that run on Saturdays at an affordable price. There are a few families like DS1, where only one parent out of the two is ethnic Chinese.

I try to make it a point to highlight special holidays (CNY, Moon Festival), but it's hard when my family is 600 km away.

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#5 of 15 Old 11-11-2009, 01:09 PM
 
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I didn't vote because I'm not sure what we'll do yet; my dd only 22 mos. old so I've only just begun to consider these issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ernalala View Post
(cross-posted in the childhood years)
My personal idea is that my child will probably be best taught right now with me at home in a playful way before the 'obligatory' part of primary school starts next year, to be really able to give him the basics of his mother's tongue.
I fear next year it also may be 'too much to handle' or learning simultaneously may mix up some things in both language learning (eg the slightly different alphabet) ?
But I've been thinking similarly, that starting out before reading instruction in school would give her a good foundation in English, and that it could be a lot more fun too. As it is now, she only has books in English because I'm the only one that reads to her. I don't think that will change before she goes to school, and it seems to me like this English exclusivity would be a great opportunity to start her on the basics.

I also wondered about confusion between the two languages, particularly because of the peculiarities of English spelling and pronunciation. In Italian, words are pronounced the way they are spelled...I don't know how better to express that...whereas in English there are silent letters, multiple pronunciations for certain letters depending on letter combinations, placement, etc., and I worry that that might cause a problem with dd reading Italian, which just seems more straightforward. (Or vice-versa, that her reading of Italian could cause issues with English for the same reasons.) But I'm encouraged by the experiences of previous posters, which suggest that won't be a problem.
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#6 of 15 Old 11-12-2009, 01:55 PM
 
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I started doing some early reading w/ DS in English this year only to find out that he really wants to "figure out" Spanish words as well. (At the end of the day, I think he prefers Spanish because it's a lot more consistent w/ vowel sounds, etc.)

So I guess you could say we're doing English and Spanish literacy together, though we're doing it in a very informal way.

(BTW, I voted as if Spanish were *my* language even though it's technically DH's native language...)
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#7 of 15 Old 11-14-2009, 02:51 AM
 
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I didn't vote bc DD is only 5 months old, but I'd like to put in my two cents as someone who grew up bilingual.

I do think that maximal exposure to the non-environmental language is crucial. The kid is going to pick up the environmental language no matter what. Therefore I would ideally teach the non-environmental language before primary school, to give it as much of a head start as possible.

I grew up bilingual but have spent most of my life in the US. Lived in Greece for a couple of years and spent most summers there. My dad actively taught me the Greek but not the English alphabet. Nevertheless I was reading in both languages well before primary school.

If there's anything I've learned from watching the children of my parents' friends - many of whom failed to acquire Greek fluently despite hearing it spoken at home - it's that you cannot possibly 'overprivilege' the non-environmental tongue if you want your child to acquire any fluency in it at all.

I really don't know what is going to happen with our LO. DH is trilingual and I'm bilingual, but our shared language is English and we live in the US. I'm hoping that with a lot of hard work on our part DD will be able to understand Greek as well as one of DH's languages, but I don't know how optimistic I am for more than that.

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#8 of 15 Old 11-14-2009, 06:00 AM
 
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I didn't teach (or am teaching) my kids to read and write English (my native language).

I didn't want my teaching methods to clash with the rigid approach they use here in France.

Turns out, they learned to read English on their own (well, the two older ones, dd is only 5).

My mom was the one who told me not to teach my kids to read and write because he mother did and she was really, really bored the first few months of school. She also had trouble sitting still in the chair when the rest of the class caught up to her level. They learn more than just reading and writing in school!

I found that my kids had a natural curiosity about English, once they learned French and German. They are in a bilingual program but get no schooling in English.

I'm surprised how they don't mix up the three languages. Once in a long while, they'll say a word that is similar or the same in either German or French while reading English. Sometimes they sound things out by accident in the other language. We actually play a game. I'll point to a text and have them read it, in French, in English or in German. Any text. We get a laugh out of it but it's amazing how they can just switch gears like this, even reading something that doesn't make sense!

I think it's good here in France that they don't teach reading till 1st grade. Teaching them too early can turn it into a "monkey trick" and lead to learning disorders (not my opinion but what a specialist in learning disorders told me). The French do lots and lots of pre-reading skills which mean that when children learn to read, they really have a good foundation. I was able to take advantage of their work to make mine in English easier!
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#9 of 15 Old 11-14-2009, 06:11 AM
 
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Hi Ernalala,

My DD (3.5) is learning the European alphabet NOW (same minority language as yours ), so before school, which starts a 7 here. She started asking to learn letters, and it seemed the most natural to use this alphabet. I have no plans to teach the other (cyrillic) alphabet for quite some time, because some letters are the same, other look like letters of the other alphabet but with a different meaning and... I think that is just too confusing!

Good for you for having a truly bilingual child. At this point, my DD speaks the majority language as her preference language, and answers in the majority language when you speak to her in it.

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#10 of 15 Old 11-15-2009, 04:28 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MittensKittens View Post
Good for you for having a truly bilingual child. At this point, my DD speaks the majority language as her preference language, and answers in the majority language when you speak to her in it.
I think this is *extremely* common.

My SIL pretends like she doesn't understand if her LO answers in English.

I think it's really hard to keep this up (esp if you are talking to your DH in English all the time) but it totally works. SIL and BIL have the same deal as DH and I - they live in the US and their shared language is English - but they are very very good about each parent speaking to their DD exclusively in their own other languages.

As a result their DD (she is 5) speaks all three languages quite well right now (though doubtless her English will be leaping ahead of the other two soon).

I was amazed by this bc I didn't really think it was possible for a kid to pick up much of a language when they only heard it spoken by one parent. Looks like it works OK if you are really hard-core about it though, at least in the early years.

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#11 of 15 Old 11-17-2009, 09:33 AM
 
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I didn't actually ignore my oldest when he tried to speak to me in French. I was just slower or asked him to repeat it. I wouldn't even request he repeat it in English but he often did automatically. Any request put to me in French was slow or quickly forgotten. When he asked me something in English, I responded immediately. Needless to say, I soon only heard English directed towards me. His two younger sisters never addressed me in French (on purpose, one mixed a bit).

There is very little English here and my dh can't speak it.

There is little confusion between the three languages. The two older ones also are taking Hebrew classes once a week and again, no confusion and the different alphabet is not posing a problem.

We do have a few tiny problems with homework, especially since they're doing half their schooling in a language which I don't know that well (I'm taking a class though!) I can still read a poem that they're supposed to memorize and I can understand the math well enough to test them. Sometimes I can't read the homework though, and they have to show me. I have to trust them because they could be pulling my leg! None of these are a problem if you can really speak and read the child's school language.

I also do my math differently but that has nothing to do with language. For long division, they put their numbers in all different places. I didn't want to let into this but finally, it came up and I showed them. They were in hysterics.

I do want to mention that if you are planning to move/return to another country, and want to put your children directly in the school system, you have to be a lot more on top of this issue than I am. We have no plans to move to the U.S. so the fact that their English is not up to "grade level" is not a problem. If something really awful happened and I moved to the U.S., I would have to put my kids in EFL (seriously, even though they don't speak with an accent in English).

The amount of vocabulary is what they really lack, not the ability to read, write, etc. My son can even read adult articles and books but he has to ask me what a lot of the words are.
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#12 of 15 Old 11-17-2009, 09:41 AM
 
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reading back my post, it really doesn't make sense though you seem to have understood . I mean, DD answers back in the majority language, even when you talk to her in the minority language.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post
I think this is *extremely* common.

My SIL pretends like she doesn't understand if her LO answers in English.

I think it's really hard to keep this up (esp if you are talking to your DH in English all the time) but it totally works. SIL and BIL have the same deal as DH and I - they live in the US and their shared language is English - but they are very very good about each parent speaking to their DD exclusively in their own other languages.

As a result their DD (she is 5) speaks all three languages quite well right now (though doubtless her English will be leaping ahead of the other two soon).

I was amazed by this bc I didn't really think it was possible for a kid to pick up much of a language when they only heard it spoken by one parent. Looks like it works OK if you are really hard-core about it though, at least in the early years.

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#13 of 15 Old 11-17-2009, 01:33 PM
 
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DD is just a toddler so I can't really say from personal experience. However, I can tell you what we're planning on doing. Right now we're actively working on making her bilingual (I do speak a third language but I just passively expose her to that at this point, even though she's visited that country this past summer and I have many friends that speak this language with me).

English is my native tongue (and we live in the US). However, I speak DH's native language *almost* fluently, or more like fluent enough for household matter, but I couldn't really keep up on a deep conversation about politics or religion. DH just speaks his native language to her and i speak mostly English but I will sing songs and read books to her in DH's native language. We speak a mixture of English and Dh's native language to each other.

She'll request certain books and sometimes they are in English, sometimes Dh's language. I happily read both to her. For some reason she understands commands better in DH's language but can speak better in English? I think it's because English has more short easier words? She points to words in both languages, though.

I'm doubt I'll actively teach her phonics anytime soon but we'll continue to read to her extensively in DH's language. We really make it a point to buy a lot of books in his language so that she is continually exposed to it. Both DH and myself were early readers so I guess we'll see if she starts reading on her own and if not we'll probably teach DH's language first just so she has a good foundation in it.
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#14 of 15 Old 11-18-2009, 06:13 AM
 
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DD answers back in the majority language, even when you talk to her in the minority language.

It's natural that a child wants to use his or her easier/stronger language all the time. If she gets what she needs without having to bother with the minority language, she will. The only problem is that it's not being bilingual, since speaking is the difficult skill to learn. Anyone can understand a language, but actually expressing yourself in it is what needs to be learned.

Try asking her to repeat it and responding to her slower in the majority language. It was much easier to break this bad habit than I thought and I didn't have to ignore him (although I kind of "didn't hear" him when I was out of the room). It's just a question of habit.

You can even do a "rewards" system if she uses the minority language, say, for a whole day.

Now, it would feel weird to speak to my kids in French and they correct ME if I slip and use French with them lol!
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#15 of 15 Old 03-10-2010, 05:03 PM
 
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Other -- teach reading and writing in "home language" (Russian) which is not "my" language since I learned it as an adult but is DH's language -- before primary school teaching in English.

DS learned to read in Russian early and then I didn't really have to teach him how to read English because the technique is essentially the same, just different letters.
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