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#1 of 11 Old 09-24-2010, 08:48 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Dh is American and only speaks English fluently. I'm Indian and I speak English and Tamil, but am far more fluent in English as a result of having grown up in the U.S. I would *like* our kids to be able to speak (or at least understand) Tamil, but the problem is that I'm not very comfortable speaking it full-time. I've been trying to speak it as much as possible, but the exposure has been really limited.

Out of his 150 or so words, only 3-4 are in Tamil. I wish we could do the one-parent, one-language thing, but I just can't say a lot of what I want to say to him in Tamil. Plus--I don't know how much sense this will make, but especially with discipline stuff, I can't be quite as gentle as I want to in Tamil. I try, but the stuff that comes out of my mouth tends to be more shaming and I'm not okay with that at all, so I always switch back to English.

At this point, I'm not sure it's even worth it to continue trying to speak Tamil to him at all. Is it really possible to have a bilingual family in which neither parent is fully comfortable with the non-community language?

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#2 of 11 Old 09-24-2010, 09:22 PM
 
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I was thinking if you're 100% fluent and confortable in Tamil, still more than fine to include Tamil as a part of the language for your little ones, whetever grade it's.
We're a bilingual family. We as a parents, Spanish is our native language and English is everywhere, so our kids native language is English but at home Spanish is our language. Also, DH and I speaks a fair Portugues with friends, here and there. Even though we're not very fluent in Portugues , we tried to sing , talk with friend, etc, every time we can in a much relax way. I feel that my kids gets the differences between languages, and maybe same day they want catch up with Portuges, or maybe that going to facilitate the learning of any other languages. I always see it as a plus.

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#3 of 11 Old 09-25-2010, 06:06 PM
 
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It's hard to speak a language in which you are not comfortable to your own child. I can understand that. While Tamil is your "first" language, your better language is obviously English.

Mine too but even then it was hard to not slip into French, here in France. I lived here before I met my dh, am a citizen and have been here for 14 years. Even I find the French word slipping out when I talk to my kids. I was born and raised in the U.S. in only English and in the beginning, I had to remind myself to stick to English with my first child (who didn't speak any language for ages!)

Also, you don't have the Big Motivator, which I did. No one in my family speaks French. But obviously, you're Indian and after 300+ years of colonialization, your child(ren) will not be entirely cut-off from communication with anyone back in India by using English. I had visions of having to translate for my kids on every trip home, which is not your headache.

My question is, do you have any other purpose to teaching them Tamil? Are you planning trips back to India? Do you have relatives nearby who are more comfortable in Tamil? Is there any Tamil community where you live?

If the spouse doesn't speak the language, it's not a problem. I always use English with my kids and my dh doesn't speak it. He now understands after a decade of hearing it in his home though! You do want your partner to be supportive of it. If he's resentful or finds it offensive, then it's not an ideal situation.

A parent can teach a language by either establishing a relationship in it. This would mean the majority of the communication is done in the language. But you can also teach it as a school-subject would be taught. The child can still learn to whatever degree you want to teach him. Vocabulary words, songs, games, etc. You might even experiment later with having small exchanges or even conversations in it if you get to the point.

This project would be easier if you have relatives or other Tamil-speakers in your life. If you do, by all means, get them on board.

Don't give up just because you don't have an ideal language situation. Let me assure you, from an OPOL "veteran", none of us do. The grass is always greener. So get over any guilt and just proceed at a pace which you can keep things sane and fun. You know your child will not be perfectly bilingual but sweep perfection to the side and share your culture and language at a level you can maintain.

Just getting him to repeat the words back to you or to sing songs is helpful. It will still give him an "edge" if he ever wants to pursue learning the language at another level, when he's older. If you only set a foundation, getting him to pronounce the sounds and form the words, it's still a foundation that can be built upon in the future.

Good luck!
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#4 of 11 Old 09-26-2010, 02:19 AM
 
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I'm just popping in here because I am also trying to teach my nondominant language to my child (although I am fluent and literate in that language, all my higher education has been in English and I've spent most of my life in the US, minus a couple of years and many summers in the 'home country').

I agree with Eclipsepearl that whatever you can get is good. OK it is extremely unlikely that your son could become fluent in Tamil in this situation (unless he has a good deal of exposure to other relatives who are fluent). But he may learn to understand a good deal, which will be far better than understanding nothing if you ever visit Tamil Nadu with him. (And from what I understand of Tamilians I'd guess English would not be a sufficient substitute.)

But what I really wanted to say is that as you focus on speaking your nondominant, you start to notice where your holes are and fix them. Eg if I need a word that I don't know, I look it up and use it the next time. I also find that a lot of vocab that had gotten stashed in my brain's back file drawer is returning now that I use my nondominant language all the time, instead of just once a week to talk to my dad. Even vocab that I don't use with my DD is getting reactivated, so I find it easily when talking to my dad, instead of having to pause to retrieve it or substitute an English word.

I am actually improving my own fluency in my nondominant, just by practicing all the time. And it is very natural to me now to speak to my DD in that language, even though when I started (when she was a newborn) it sometimes felt odd.

So I wouldn't give up on this, although it might make sense to moderate your expectations for your son's fluency in Tamil. At the very least you will improve your *own* Tamil, and contribute to his ability to understand and to a foundation for later learning if he should choose it.

Me, DH, DD1 (5/2009) and DD2 (10/2011).
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#5 of 11 Old 09-26-2010, 11:34 PM
 
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I don't know that I have any advice, but I just wanted to tell you, for what it's worth, that you are not the only one in that boat, in case that brings you any small comfort. I could have written your post, except substitute Spanish for Tamil.

All I can do is try my best - I'm finding my approach is probably coming closer to what a pp described as school-setting like. But like another pp said also, I do keep the English/Spanish dictionary out so I look up words. It's been very frustrating reading picture books together and not being able to come up with the Spanish word for "raccoon" or some other thing just like that off the top of my head. And I couldn't agree with you more when it comes to issues of discipline or love language. I just don't have those constructions in Spanish as easily as I do in English.

It will be interesting to see where the journey takes us though. I'm the only one of my siblings not married to a Spanish-speaker. But still, one nephew knows NO Spanish at all even though both his parents can speak it (but they never do). My sister's daughter can both understand it and speak it, but the younger brothers only understand it (well, not sure if they can't or won't speak it).

Having myself been in the shoes of someone whose primary language is taken over by English by living in the States, I'm trying to be realistic about how much Spanish my son will speak - add to that only one of his parents speaks it and struggles sometimes with the right words, I'll be happy if he can understand me even just half the time I think .
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#6 of 11 Old 09-27-2010, 12:31 PM
 
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dont give up. still carry on.

as a possible future linguistic let me tell you the power of speaking the lanuage in day to day life, learning it as a child is far more powerful than learning it at school.

rent tamil movies. watch cartoons in tamil. http://www.youtube.com/results?searc...+in+tamil&aq=f

if both of you seek active participation in tamil both of you will improve. otherwise it would mean the death of a language in your family and death of culture. today you wont see it but generations down your descendants will mourn not knowing their culture.

i know a family with two young kids who are ALL learning irish together.

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#7 of 11 Old 09-27-2010, 05:02 PM
 
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does anyone you know speak L2 fluently? not so much to speak to the baby, but maybe someone to ask a few questions to might be helpful. there are so many things i am more comfortable saying in english. when i catch myself hesitating to say something in L2 cause i either don't know if it's gentle enough or if i am saying it right, i write it down and ask someone who is fluent in L2 for advice at the end of the day.

for example, in L2 asking someone to 'move [out of the way]' is REALLY mean sounding. but i found out through a friend that 'i can't see,' and bit of gesturing in L2 is just as effective.

when i get lazy i keep reminding myself that DH's family does not speak english and i would feel like kaka if they could not communicate.
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#8 of 11 Old 09-28-2010, 10:14 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the help, mamas!

Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post
But what I really wanted to say is that as you focus on speaking your nondominant, you start to notice where your holes are and fix them.
This is exactly what I'm hoping happens! I'm glad to hear it's happened to you

Quote:
Originally Posted by thehighernest View Post
I'll be happy if he can understand me even just half the time I think .
Me too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by shotmama View Post
does anyone you know speak L2 fluently? not so much to speak to the baby, but maybe someone to ask a few questions to might be helpful. there are so many things i am more comfortable saying in english. when i catch myself hesitating to say something in L2 cause i either don't know if it's gentle enough or if i am saying it right, i write it down and ask someone who is fluent in L2 for advice at the end of the day.
This is a great idea. My mom is fluent in L2, but she's married to an American too, so rarely uses L2 with DS, but I can certainly ask her how to say things. I'm not sure she could help me with the gentle phrasing, but she could certainly help with general vocab.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

My question is, do you have any other purpose to teaching them Tamil? Are you planning trips back to India? Do you have relatives nearby who are more comfortable in Tamil? Is there any Tamil community where you live?
Yes, we're planning trips back on occasion, but my main purpose in wanting him to know Tamil is just to keep in touch with the culture. It's not really the kind of language you can fully learn as a non-native because there are so many phonemic differences between it and English that people who haven't been raised hearing it often have trouble distinguishing the differences between certain sounds (for example, there are three different /l/ sounds, 2 different /r/ sounds, a few different /n/ sounds, etc.)

There is a Tamil community, but it's largely religion-based, and we're not a part of that community.

Again, thanks for the advice, everyone! Just knowing that there are others in similar situations and that we're all muddling along as we can is helpful

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#9 of 11 Old 10-05-2010, 02:37 AM
 
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While videos are lousy for actually learning a language, they do help with continuing to hear the sounds of the language. Tamil movies/shows, plus singing some Tamil songs together, plus reading some stories, should be plenty to let him continue hearing the sounds.
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#10 of 11 Old 10-05-2010, 11:15 AM
 
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We are in the same boat, only my husband is the bilingual parent. His first language is Arabic, but he is much more fluent and comfortable in English. He's tried speaking Arabic with the kids a few times, but always ends up frustrated and gives up. Our kids each know a handful of words in Arabic, most of which I've taught them with my poor language skills, and that is it. Until recently, our oldest son (6) wanted absolutely nothing to do with Arabic and would get angry if I tried to teach him anything, but after a trip to visit his grandma, he is more open to it now. I'm hoping we can capitalize on his newfound interest!
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#11 of 11 Old 10-05-2010, 12:47 PM
 
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Sadly, we've just given up. While Cantonese is technically DH's first language (he wasn't exposed to English till he started kindergarten,) he is much much more comfortable with English. Really the only thing he seems to be really comfortable doing in Cantonese is fighting with his parents.

I try to get DH to speak Cantonese with DS as often as possible, but it is a huge struggle. It is near impossible to find child friendly language materials in Cantonese, every thing is just labeled "Chinese" and it's all Mandarin (actually DS has gone and picked up some Mandarin from watching Ni hao Kai-Lan.)

DS is 4 1/2 and I've just given up.

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