"but, she should learn English!" - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 13 Old 12-15-2010, 04:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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DD is 13 months and is currently producing mostly things in my L2. She says some English, like, "What's that?" and "No! (this one she got from my brother who can't really handle children, cause DH and I have never used that with her hehe)."

 

I used to teach at an international preschool in DH's country where the kids learned in English, and some even had English speaking parents, but their native language was, ofcourse learned elsewhere, outside of school. It naturally happened for them, since TV, and virtually everyone else spoke their native language. I found that not one affected the other, especially since the kids were attending classes since the age of 1 or 2, so it was natural for them.

 

So we are taking the same approach, cept backwards since we are living in the States now. So L2 at home, not English. People keep getting worried for DD, as if she would never learn English. Being a woman in my family's culture (I am Asian-American), no one really takes me seriously when I explain things so I just try to listen to Naomi Aldort's advice about criticism. But since we have not changed our ways, we're facing harsher, more worried, criticism. The holidays are coming up, and I just wanna stick to my guns better by knowing there are others out there doing the same! (and having their kid's "English" be perfectly fine in the end). Not that we would change a thing, but that I wouldn't crumble under all the frustration, haha!

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#2 of 13 Old 12-16-2010, 09:38 AM
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Well, I can only tell you our experience.

 

From the time dd was spoke, we spoke exclusively in L2 at home. Dd's first words were in L2 and for the first few months of speaking, did not speak English. 

 

Then she started daycare/pre-school and her English took off and soon surpassed L2. Now, we are STRUGGLING just to maintain SOME proficiency in L2. She far and away prefers English and it is her much stronger language.

 

In my opinion, the worry really isn't "will she speak English?"; the worry is "will you be able to maintain L2 once she begins interacting more with the English-speaking environment?" 

 

And I think the better the foundation in L2 that you lay now, the better in the long run :)

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#3 of 13 Old 12-16-2010, 01:35 PM
 
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This. I agree with your approach, and I wish we could implement the same in our home-- i'm second gen and am muuuuch more comfortable in english. (despite, come to think of it, being raised in an asian american home where L2 was spoken most often in our child hood.)
 

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And I think the better the foundation in L2 that you lay now, the better in the long run :)


 


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#4 of 13 Old 12-17-2010, 07:35 AM
 
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Just ignore them and keep doing what you're doing. They don't know what they're talking about. She'll have no problem picking up English if you live in the U.S.

 

She's only 13 months old. Two of mine didn't say anything at that young age.

 

I know it's tough to ignore criticism. The easiest thing to do is to NOT explain things. Ignorant people wont easily be educated. Only time will teach them. I had my mother-in-law, herself raised bilingually, telling me that I was "confusing" my son by speaking English to him. Then a few months later she brags about her grandson being bilingual... I couldn't win!

 

Often, I'll simply call their bluff. Actually tell them "Careful! She might not understand you. She doesn't understand English yet". Then it's hard to lecture you if you've already "admitted" your "guilt".

 

I also did a lot of "WHO told you THAT!" and then I'd mumble about "people" who don't know squat about raising children bilingually/breastfeeding/scheduling, etc. I'll even try to draw the speaker into the criticism. "Can you believe people actually believe...??" I got it more for breastfeeding than the bilingual issue. I would also make dismissive statements. "Oh bottlefeeding is so much work. Too bad your breastfeeding didn't work out..."

 

An example in this case would be to simply smile and say "We're certainly not worried about her learning English living here in the U.S. It's the X we need to concentrate on, to make sure she is fluent..." When you make proclaimations like this, it's really hard for someone to come in and deconstruct them. Don't be afraid to REPEAT what you just said. You can even emphasize it with statements like "As I just said, since we live in the States, she'll get plenty of English..."

 

I would even play it to the hilt. I would point out things like "She already says X, Y and Z and she's only 13 months old!" Then they'd have to play kill-joy and add that it's not in English...

 

Problem is that there will be people criticize you for everything when it comes to parenting. If the issue is safety or health related, it's worth listening to say, car seat advice. But bilingual or say, sleeping issues are not in that category.

 

The fact that you're Asian-American might have some psychological issues wrapped around their criticism. They may be desperate for your dd to fit into American society. They might be misinformed about accents, especially if some of the relatives have accents themselves. You may not want to address this, as they may not even know that's their "fear".

 

Acknowedge their concerns. "She'll hear English in the park and after all, other children are the BEST language teachers!" or "Our babysitter says she manages... and she's understanding a few things in English..." just to let them know that you're not entirely ignoring her English learning.

 

Don't be afraid to stick up for yourselves. These people are very misinformed. My mom's boss, a bilingual child himself, asked me why I "forced" my son to speak both languages from the get-go. Don't you want to wait till age 2 before making him do this? Of course, I didn't want to offend my mom's boss lol! I realized he was more concerned with the "burden" I was placing on my son. I told him "Yes, my son is delayed speaking but it doesn't seem to bother him too much. He gets his point across..." Now today, my children are trilingual and his grandchildren are monolingual. I no longer hear about any "burdens" they have to bear. I'm still really fond of him and I resist all temptation to say "I told you so". He's legitmitely sad that none of his grandkids speak his language (or his own children, very well).

 

I will add that support actually can be what you regret wishing for. My mom runs around lecturing non-native English speakers to use their language and ONLY their native language with their children. These are the boss's clients! She endlessly prattles on about her "perfectly bilingual grandchildren who also speak a third language". A guy came over to tile the bathroom who was originally from Peru and he got the Whole Speech. She brags about how many parents she's convinced to raise their children bilingually. "You're going to be glad you did!"  

 

It's nice to have a SUPPORTIVE parent but in her case, it's a bit too much of a good thing. So I'm suffering the opposite than you are. We can't win either way so don't even try!

 

Good luck. 

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#5 of 13 Old 12-17-2010, 12:55 PM
 
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I just wanted to give you another vote of support. Our dd spoke only L2 until she figured out that her friends and Bugs Bunny speak English. Then she picked up English faster than you can say "what's up Doc"! We ended up taking her to live in my dh's country for 2 years so she wouldn't forget L2 entirely.

 

As an interpreter I work with a lot of first-generation immigrant families, most of whom speak only L2 at home because the parents speak English poorly or not at all. The challenge is not to get their kids to speak English - they are all fluent despite the fact their parents don't speak English - but rather to get the kids to remember any of the L2 they learned when they were younger. If you can believe it, I've actually had to interpret between a mother and her own son, because she spoke little English and he spoke little L2!

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#6 of 13 Old 12-17-2010, 01:57 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

I know it's tough to ignore criticism. The easiest thing to do is to NOT explain things. Ignorant people wont easily be educated. Only time will teach them. 

 

ITA. To annoying person "Oh, interesting. Pass the bean dip please." 

 

I am lucky enough to have the opposite. I speak english at home, so my babes started with that. But as soon as they got to daycare, their Danish took off, and english was left in the dust. I speak to them in english and they answer in Danish. Actually they were a bit annoyed perhaps, as I was the only one speaking english and DH and all their friends and everyone in daycare and everyone else "in the whole world" spoke english, so maybe they didn't see the point in speaking english.

 

But so many Danish people stopped and said, in front of my kids "Wow, what a gift that is you give your children, teaching them english." And now that the kids are older, they see that most of the websites they visit are in english, some TV is in english, kids in school sing english songs.... so now they are more interested in speaking english. Though 95% of what they say is still danish, they understand 100% english. 
 

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#7 of 13 Old 12-20-2010, 11:42 AM
 
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Originally Posted by EVC View Post

Well, I can only tell you our experience.

 

From the time dd was spoke, we spoke exclusively in L2 at home. Dd's first words were in L2 and for the first few months of speaking, did not speak English. 

 

Then she started daycare/pre-school and her English took off and soon surpassed L2. Now, we are STRUGGLING just to maintain SOME proficiency in L2. She far and away prefers English and it is her much stronger language.

 

In my opinion, the worry really isn't "will she speak English?"; the worry is "will you be able to maintain L2 once she begins interacting more with the English-speaking environment?" 

 

And I think the better the foundation in L2 that you lay now, the better in the long run :)

This. The whole "will they speak English?" thing is insane. If you live in the US, your child will speak English unless you raise them under lock and key. It is MUCH harder to maintain the minority language. I'm shocked by how hard it is, and my kids are only 2 and 3. 
 

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#8 of 13 Old 12-21-2010, 04:03 AM
 
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My husband had a conversation about this with a co-worker at work. For the record, he's Finnish and speaks Finnish with our son. I'm American but lived in Germany a while and speak German with our son. We speak to each other in English. So he mentioned that his son's native language was basically German, since he hears it from me.

"German! Why would you want your son's native language to be German? Don't you want him to speak English?"

"yes, but he lives in the US so of course he's going to learn English but where else is he going to learn German or Finnish at such a young age."

"Well, I guess he'll learn English when he goes to school."

"School? We're not sending him to school." (we're homeschooling)

"But don't you want him to be successful?"

"Yea, that's why we're not sending him to school."

"But how is he going to learn English!?"

 

It was hilarious. I can understand the shock of us not sending him to school...but to assume school is the only place where he would learn English is hilarious. He's already picked up on the fact that even though I always tell him to say Tschüss, in the US people say Bye when you leave, so he always says that. When we were in Germany and Finland this summer, though, he quickly picked up on the different words for bye in each of those countries and readily adapted. In Germany he said Tschüss and in Finland he said "hei hei!" Kids are so much more adaptable than we give them credit for. I think it's more to do because we ourselves find it so hard to adapt and learn new languages but if it's normal for them, then it's just NORMAL.

He also learns a lot of English from his friends and we had one really cute interaction one day when he was determined to go with his dad when his dad was leaving. "Isä!" pause. "Papa!" pause "Daddy!" all trying to get him to hurry up and come to the door. My husband was like, yea, those are all synonyms, you're still not coming with me. Then when my husband opened the door and started leaving, DS headed out, too...in nothing but a shirt. So I told him to come back inside and he looked at me and said, "I be righ back!" which also happens to be what DH and I say a lot when oen of us leaves :P. Seriously, I almost died laughing and if he hadn't been half naked I probably would have let him go at that point.

 

They'll learn English...unless you're keeping them in a locked closet and not talking to them, they'll learn it.


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#9 of 13 Old 12-21-2010, 04:29 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kindchen View Post

This. The whole "will they speak English?" thing is insane. If you live in the US, your child will speak English unless you raise them under lock and key. It is MUCH harder to maintain the minority language. I'm shocked by how hard it is, and my kids are only 2 and 3. 
 



YES! It is insane to even mention it. It is made even more ridiculous by the fact that your child is still a baby. Dd did not really start to talk until she was two but is now (5.5) fluent in both languages. Has been for a long time...


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#10 of 13 Old 12-22-2010, 11:04 PM
 
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Your real concern is that the minority language will be lost.  Dh didn't speak a single word of either English or French (he's Canadian) when he started kindergarten, his parents only spoke Cantonese at home.  Now as an adult, he is hard pressed to express himself in Cantonese, but he is perfectly comfortable in English and decent in French.


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#11 of 13 Old 01-07-2011, 08:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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i love all these answers! thank you experienced mamas!

 

so we survived the holidays, somehow. i tried to pay more attention to why people were concerned, and i realize it's cause they notice she reacts more to what we tell her in L2 than what they tell her in english. i don't think, however, it is because it is in english. i think it's more of the fact that we are her parents who spend the most time with her, so naturally it turns out that way. 

 

the family that we saw raised kids in a 'the child with spend equal time with as much people as possible,' sort of way, so when their children meet others they can be personable enough to impress. so i think it might appear strange that we don't care about that? (goodness, should we care about that?) maybe it appears as if we are trying to 'hog' our daughter?

 

so after going back to my teaching days and reading all of your responses, i guess it's just a waiting game for us to show others the benefits of what we are doing now. your responses have upped our confidence! (or more like mine, DH is quadralingual so he was never worried about it all haha)

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#12 of 13 Old 01-10-2011, 03:21 PM
 
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Been lurking and didn't get a chance to post, but I wanted to chime in on my own experience being raised bilingual.

 

We came to the states when I was about 10 months old and Mandarin was the only language spoken in my home so it is my first language. My mother said I did not speak any English until I started kindergarten around 5-6 years old. She's not sure exactly how far into school I was until I started, but said it was pretty early on and remembers dropping me off one day and marvelling at hearing me chatter away in English. 

 

I only spoke English at school and only Mandarin at home, probably because my parents and grandparents barely knew any English at the time. My Mom said I didn't really try using English at home until my tweens (going through a rebellious stage?) and the only time I spoke English in their presence before that was to translate for them. I also distinctly remember as a child whenever I tried to speak English to my family they would pretend to not understand me until I spoke in Mandarin.

 

I speak Mandarin like a native with no accent and when I meet Chinese people they cannot believe I came to the states when I was 10 months old and they are usually even more shocked when they realize I speak English like a native born and bred American.

 

4 out of my 5 cousins came to the states at a much older age than I did and they actually had formal schooling in Taiwan which means they were also taught to read and write in Chinese. Currently only 1 out of the 5 cousins can speak Mandarin. My eldest Aunt and Uncle always spoke Mandarin to each other, but they exclusively used English with their 3 children at home so they would assimilate quickly and all 3 lost the ability to speak Mandarin though they can understand basic Mandarin somewhat, but they can't follow conversations well. Another cousin's parents spoke mostly Mandarin at home but they also used English, this cousin can speak Mandarin fluently like I do but he has a slight accent and his vocbulary is not as extensive as mine (though I confess for a time in my teens and twenties I was addicted to Chinese soap operas and that helped build my vocabulary skills a lot!).

 

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#13 of 13 Old 01-11-2011, 10:41 AM
 
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What an excellent example of how parents don't need to speak the community language at home in order for their children to assimilate. I'm sure you run into small issues growing up with two cultures but you obviously have your foot firmly planted in both. 

 

I hope those who come in contact with you learn from your positive example. That's exactly what I want for my own children. You're a good role model for bicultural children.  

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