Using multiple languages in the same sentence. - Mothering Forums
Multicultural Families > Using multiple languages in the same sentence.
mrskingred's Avatar mrskingred 06:34 AM 02-10-2011

DS speaks english at home, but is taught at school in euskera. At playtime and with his friends he speaks spanish. Other (spanish-speaking) parents have pointed out that he is mixing all the languages in the same sentence. Although we insist on speaking english at home and do not respond unless he speaks english, many times I have absolutely no idea what he language he is speaking and do not understand him. Is this normal language development?

DS is 41/2 and we have been in Spain for a year now.He has been in school here since last easter but after a few weeks school finished for the summer so I think his exposure to other languages was limited. We have now got a tv (after being tv free for years) but are having to limit his tv watching. (DH speaks only english and works in english. I'm learning spanish).

He is also asking to read - I'm not sure how to handle this. Do I let the school teach him in euskera or should I teach him in english.

What do you think?

 



cappuccinosmom's Avatar cappuccinosmom 11:01 AM 02-10-2011

I am pretty sure I remember some mixing being a normal part of being bilingual at young ages.  Pretty sure that if there is a consistent differentiation between who speaks what language, his little brain will sort it out.  If he gets a little older, and you're concerned, perhaps you could do "English school" at home, just to make sure he's grasping the grammar and vocabulary?

 

What he's probably doing is finding that certain things are better expressed (to his mind) in one language, but forgetting (being so young) that there are different languages going on there.  Dh and his brother do that--they both know English, their trade language, and 3 tribal languages and they just switch back and forth depending on which langage better expresses their thought.


physmom's Avatar physmom 09:24 AM 02-11-2011

Definitely normal at a young age (and older!).  I went to an international church for years where the kids were pretty much all bilingual/trilingual and even well into middle school/high school you'd get occasional language mixing (and well, even more so since we all understood both languages).  DH and I both speak each other's native languages and I have to admit there are just some words that are better expressed in a certain language.  DD mixes all the time.  For instance, she refers to cow's milk as "cold leite" and nursing as "warm leite".  If you're keeping the languages consistant I wouldn't worry about it too much and just be patient in the meantime.   As for reading, why not teach him?  If he's interested and asking you it probably means he wants to learn in English and the school might not be teaching reading yet. 



mrskingred's Avatar mrskingred 11:07 AM 02-11-2011

Thank you for you responses. The concept of some words expressing an idea more clearly makes a lot of sense.

I was asking about the reading because they teach them to read in euskera in the 6th year when school officially starts (DS is currently in the 4th year). My understanding is that although the alphabets are slightly different (euskara vs castellan), the common letters are pronounced the same in both euskara and castellan whereas the pronounciation is completely different in english. I don't want to make him more confused than he already is.


ChiaraRose's Avatar ChiaraRose 11:23 AM 02-11-2011

There is an awesome book called 11 steps to raising a bilingual child and it explains everything so well. Language mixing is normal. My son just turned 5 and he never mixes English, and just starting to phase out the English from  the German, My daughter is mixing both languages as my ds did at her age.  THey have been raised bilingual from birth, I speak German, dh English and dh and I speak English to each other. So English is their stronger one, but the German is happening , too just a little slower.


sapphire_chan's Avatar sapphire_chan 07:24 PM 02-11-2011

Surely you're already reading books to him in English? That's the most important learning to read thing you can do.

 

As for confusing the alphabet sounds, English has several ways of pronouncing each letter anyway, and some of those overlap Spanish pronunciation (can't speak to Euskara). Some more pronunciations plus a few additional letters won't be confusing enough to matter.

 

And realistically, if he's wanting to learn to read in English now, and won't be learning the other language(s) for a couple years, he's going to already know how to read English when he starts the other language(s). It's easier to learn to read another language (barring ideograms) when you already know how to read.

 

English to Spanish is particularly easy because Spanish is a fully phonetic language while English isn't.

 

What I think will actually happen is that you'll teach him to read in English and then his teacher will tell you he's reading the books at school.


mrskingred's Avatar mrskingred 07:36 AM 02-12-2011


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

Surely you're already reading books to him in English? That's the most important learning to read thing you can do.

 

English to Spanish is particularly easy because Spanish is a fully phonetic language while English isn't.

 

What I think will actually happen is that you'll teach him to read in English and then his teacher will tell you he's reading the books at school.


We have an extensive library of picture books in english - he gets one new book a month (thanks to amazon's free spanish shipping policy for spends over 25gbp and bookdepository). He is read to nightly after dinner, at bedtime and on request. He also loves to sit and look at his books.

 

I'm learning spanish and I'm finding it very difficult to pronounce correctly because my british english pronunciation is so ingrained in me, along with my yorkshire accent. I also struggle with the "rr" sound. DS spells his name using spanish pronunciation - it used to be english pronunciation.

 

I'll check out some resources on teaching a child to read, along with the book recommended by ChiaraRose.


aishamama's Avatar aishamama 06:56 AM 03-04-2011

I agree with the others that this is normal. Our Pediatrician actually said that it's normal and a sign of fluency, that the kids know where to use which words even if it's mixed up. Also, my kids know which language to use with whom. Although they didn't even know the names of the languages and that totally makes me laugh. Last night I was asking my 5 y/o why he likes to talk to his father in x language and me in English. He said I don't know what x language is. I really got a good chuckle. But he knows which words belong in which language set. Kids are interesting. =) They're able to work it out themselves I think.


betmina's Avatar betmina 09:34 PM 03-04-2011

Its totally normal and it varies. DSS (7) he mixes Ukranian and English all the time, DD is 4 and she doesnt mix at all.


Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl 11:04 AM 03-05-2011

It's normal but you do want to help him get over this hump. It can be frustrating for a child. It's one thing if they don't understand him at school but when the parents have trouble, that's not a good sign...

 

Listen carefully to hear where the problem is. Is he missing vocabulary in English? for example. That's easy to fix. Make sure he knows what he's asking for. Just supply the words as he needs them. Try to insert little vocabulary building skills into your daily conversations. Make up games where he has to name things, make him do numbers and colors in the car, etc.

 

Perhaps he should be encouraged to stick to one language and if missing words, point or gesture what he needs. He also needs clear boundaries. My kids know with whom and when to use each language. 

 

I had my son in a daycare where the poor women ran around like chickens without heads trying to figure out what he was saying. Don't let anyone make this mistake. Tell everyone in his life, have him show you and tell him what it is for next time. 

 

For the record, I let the school teach my children to read and then they almost automatically picked up English. He should be working on his spoken skills at this point but if he's really keen to learn to read in English, I don't see why not. Be sure though that you're doing it correctly and not reinforcing bad habits. This was part of the reason I didn't do it myself (especially since I'm slightly dyslexic). 

 

My children are trilingual and learning to read all three was no big deal. Their real enemy is vocabulary. It's just tough to get all those words into them. My kids refuse to mix and I taught them to "talk around" whatever they need, without dipping into their stronger language (French). Sometimes they overdo it, absolutely refusing to say it in French until I tell them to! 

 

Try not to overcorrect. My dh does this with German and now the kids are shy to speak German in front of us, although they continue to do well in school (they're in a bilingual French-German program).


AllisonR's Avatar AllisonR 03:51 PM 03-12-2011

I don't know about growing out of it. I'm 44 and I still mix words in the same sentence. Several reasons.

1. I leared a new language much older. I think children learning a new language will have much more control and grasp of the languages.

2. Some words just can't be translated. My daughter goes to børnehaven. Yes, I could say day care or pre-k or pre-school ... but none of those words really fit. So I just say she is in børnehave.

3. Access to other people in the second or third language. Access to speakers of language X once a week or during a two week summer vacation doesn't cut it. I am not around english speaking people much, so even thouhg it is my mother tongue, my english vocabulary is going down the drain. Sometimes I start a sentence in english and then can't think of the word I need, so I switch to danish. As for my kids, since they don't have that access either, they don't see english as being something they need to speak. So why bother? Actually, it is because of TV shows and computer that they see english as relevant. Otherwise, it is only mom that speaks it. And when my english speaking friends come over. But all their friends speak danish. So why bother?

 

FWIW, my kids speak fluent danish and poor english, but their english comprehension is high. When they do speak in english, they do it with danish grammar. For example: one tree, two treer, many treerne.... My son is 6 and just this week figured it out, saying to DD "it is one car, two cars, not two carer."


Oriole's Avatar Oriole 04:32 PM 03-12-2011

I agree that it's normal. My family moved to the US 12 years ago, and when I speak in my native tongue, I very often throw in English words, my whole family does. When we visited our relatives in Israel, we noticed the same thing. The entire family blended the two languages. 

 

I have to admit, when we just came here, my brother drove me crazy, because he's been living in the US for a couple of years before us, and he did this mixing the languages thing. I HATED it. I insisted that he picks one languages and talks to me in ONE language. Little did I know, that as soon as I started picking up English myself, I would be doing the same thing. If you don't want to hear me pause to find the right words in my native languages, you'll have to deal with a few English words here and there. I believe it's natural, and switching from one pure form of a language to another is not as easy as it seems. redface.gif

 

 


Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl 11:24 AM 03-15-2011

Do any of you, especially those of us who are expats and/or immigrants, get together with those in a similar situation and start doing this really badly. "So my son forgot his &*%$#%$# so we called the %#%#%# and she said..." then we quote verbatim...

 

There are so many words that just don't translate well, especially school terms. The kids do activities and I just don't know the parts of a saddle or gymnastic equipment in English (I looked some of it up-on the daughter's request). 

 

My dh grew up speaking French plus a dialect. I've seen him trying to have a whole conversation in the dialect. It's an effort for him! He can do it but he has to concentrate on not throwing in French. 

 

The good news about mixing is that it can happen in one language and not the other. For example, my husband doesn't really throw Alsatian into his French. Yes he does. No he doesn't... If he's in a situation where they're "real" French people and they wont understand it... He did all his education in French and then the school children would run into the playground and speak Alsatian to each other. 

 

There is a difference though, between a small child mixing and matching because he's just getting a hang of the languages and an adult being lazy but really does know what it is. If there is a pile of clothes on the floor all mixed up, does the child know where they belong in the closets and drawers? If you see the logic...


AllisonR's Avatar AllisonR 04:22 PM 03-21-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

Do any of you, especially those of us who are expats and/or immigrants, get together with those in a similar situation and start doing this really badly. "So my son forgot his &*%$#%$# so we called the %#%#%# and she said..." then we quote verbatim...


OMG - yes!!!! Even exactly that one - "My son forgot his flyvedragt, so we called bornehaven and she said "Det ver i orden, bare bringe den imorgen...." Thanks for the laugh.

 

So many words just don't translate. Or should I say are more precise in the language of the current culture. What would I say for Flyvedragt - a long one piece coat that zips up front but pants and top are attached - no, way too long when everyone here knows what a flyvedragt is.

 

And so many specialized words I just don't know in english. It took me forever the other day to remember the word placenta, in Danish it is called "mother cake" - which is more more practical (and also more lovely). But since I birthed here, all my technical birthing terms I know in Danish. And now that my oldest is in school, a lot of the school terms I also keep in Danish. 


Bellabaz's Avatar Bellabaz 03:11 AM 03-22-2011

My dd1 is 4. Our family has always been bilingual and in 2009 we moved to a country where we use a third language(dh-italian, me-english, local lang-french). She began school in Jan of 2010. She regularly mixes the maguages in her speech. She will sometimes even say a sentece with all 3 in. I don't worry about it too much. We are consistent in each speaking to her in our own language (occasionally in the third if we are with someone else). What I do is if she asks me a question mixing for example french and english. I repeat the question back to her using all english, just to reinforce the terms for her in english. then I answer in all english. She is still young and so I feel it will sort itself out.

 

Dd2 is just starting to talk but says words in all three languages (she goes to a french speaking nanny part time). We respond to them because we all speak the 3 languages. I usually say repeat it back in my mother tongue to reinforce it fo her as well.

 

I also want to add that I do this myself. I find that I "forget" words in English so I use them in Italian or French. Its not a very good example I know, but it just comes out sometimes that way. =) I guess another reason not too worry about it. I can speak using only one language at a time when needed =P


aishamama's Avatar aishamama 11:36 AM 03-22-2011

We mix our languages as well. For many words there isn't a good translation in English, or it takes a while to recall it. Many times we use several words to explain what we mean by the one word in another language. It's common in my husband's country to mix their words with English or it's an English word with an accent and slightly different spelling. We actually use 4 languages in our house everyday, though my dh and I are fluent in additional languages each. The kids are fluent in two full languages and becoming fluent in the two additional. I'd like for them to learn European languages in school when they go. I can teach them these but since we don't use them at home, I just focus on the reading/writing and comprehension fluency of what we speak at home.


mambera's Avatar mambera 02:31 PM 03-22-2011



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mrskingred View Post

DS speaks english at home, but is taught at school in euskera. At playtime and with his friends he speaks spanish. Other (spanish-speaking) parents have pointed out that he is mixing all the languages in the same sentence. Although we insist on speaking english at home and do not respond unless he speaks english, many times I have absolutely no idea what he language he is speaking and do not understand him. Is this normal language development?

DS is 41/2 and we have been in Spain for a year now.He has been in school here since last easter but after a few weeks school finished for the summer so I think his exposure to other languages was limited. We have now got a tv (after being tv free for years) but are having to limit his tv watching. (DH speaks only english and works in english. I'm learning spanish).

He is also asking to read - I'm not sure how to handle this. Do I let the school teach him in euskera or should I teach him in english.

What do you think?

 


1) I think that in a multilingual environment it is absolutely normal to mix languages, and actually it can be quite hard to avoid and is not something you can necessarily expect a child to grow out of.  (Personally I find it aesthetically displeasing and I will actually take the 1-2 seconds to find the word I need in the right language if that's necessary - unless I'm joking around and doing it on purpose.  But that is just a quirk of mine, I think most bilingual people will do a bit of language-mixing whenever they are with companions who understand both.)

 

But it sounds like you have a situation where the people around him are mostly monolingual (his Spanish and Euskera are not understood at home, and his English is not understood by his friends and teachers).  In that case he may learn to stop mixing them as he finds that people don't understand his mixed speech.  I wouldn't worry about it yet.

 

2) Is there a reason you don't want him to learn to read in English at home and in Euskera at school?  I would teach him to read in English if he is asking to learn. 


mrskingred's Avatar mrskingred 12:52 PM 03-23-2011


Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post



 


1) I think that in a multilingual environment it is absolutely normal to mix languages, and actually it can be quite hard to avoid and is not something you can necessarily expect a child to grow out of.  (Personally I find it aesthetically displeasing and I will actually take the 1-2 seconds to find the word I need in the right language if that's necessary - unless I'm joking around and doing it on purpose.  But that is just a quirk of mine, I think most bilingual people will do a bit of language-mixing whenever they are with companions who understand both.)

 

But it sounds like you have a situation where the people around him are mostly monolingual (his Spanish and Euskera are not understood at home, and his English is not understood by his friends and teachers).  In that case he may learn to stop mixing them as he finds that people don't understand his mixed speech.  I wouldn't worry about it yet.

 

2) Is there a reason you don't want him to learn to read in English at home and in Euskera at school?  I would teach him to read in English if he is asking to learn. 




Yes, we his parents are monolingual. I have no intention of learning Euskera, although I am trying to learning Spanish, as we now live in Spain. DH knows even less Spanish than I do as his work is all in English and he was recruited because he was a native English speaker. I understand some of DS Spanish, but try to only speak English to him, when we are in the playground and only English in the house. I myself mix english and spanish, when I am with someone who also speaks english, as I don't have a large vocabulary yet.

 

I have started teaching him to read in English. I was unsure because of him mixing languages whether to do it or not - hence my question. I ordered the Usborne Very First Reading and we are slowly working our way through them. The school will teach him to read in Euskera when he is 6 and formal education begins.


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