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Old 07-10-2011, 11:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Okay... I'm American and English is my first language. I learned Spanish as a second language starting in middle school, took it throughout HS, did 2 study abroads and eventually earned a degree in Spanish. After college I taught in a Spanish immersion program, speaking Spanish all day to my students. So basically, while I am not a native speaker I am quite proficient. DH has learned a little bit of Spanish too.

 

DH is from India and speaks Urdu as his first language but speaks English with near-native proficiency. I understand pretty well and speak (to a lesser extent) Urdu at a basic level. 

 

We would also like DS to speak some Arabic, but neither of us really can lol!

 

SO... 

 

1. I'm thinking I'd like to start setting aside a few hours a day to speak Spanish to DS. It's easier for me to be "in" one language or the other rather than to code switch. Any advice on this? What are others' experiences? How many hours?

 

2. DH is having a hard time speaking Urdu to him. I think because he's so used to speaking English to me. He code switches constantly. Usually he speaks with English syntax and throws in Urdu words. (ex. "Here comes a big chummi (kiss) !")  Is this good/bad/just natural? Any advice? Should I also be speaking what little Urdu I know or is this confusing?

 

3. With the Arabic I feel like we will just wait until he's older. Hopefully the experience being multilingual will make learning a new language easier later on. 

 

4. Oh and what about baby sign language?? Would having signs help him to navigate among languages?? 


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Old 07-10-2011, 09:29 PM
 
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1. I'm thinking I'd like to start setting aside a few hours a day to speak Spanish to DS. It's easier for me to be "in" one language or the other rather than to code switch. Any advice on this? What are others' experiences? How many hours?


Not to be a downer, but for me, I chose not to do this.  I'm also fluent but non-native in Spanish, and to me it doesn't seem realistic to bring a child to proficiency without having multiple language sources (eg relatives, trips abroad, bilingual school - not just one parent speaking).  Just knowing how much exposure it takes to get to proficiency (never mind fluency) in a non-community language, I want to maximize DD's exposure to the languages that really matter to us - the ones she will need to communicate with relatives.  I didn't want to dilute that exposure with a language that is not as personally important to me.

 

We unfortunately have a trilingual situation with two non-community languages; but I really think this is non-ideal.  If I did not have my own family language that I wanted DD to learn, I would be trying to reinforce DH's language with her rather than introducing a third non-community language.

 

(Also of relevance, Spanish in particular is incredibly easy to learn IMO and IME - the grammar is superbly straightforward so it's not one of those where you're doomed if you don't get the early exposure.)

 

 

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2. DH is having a hard time speaking Urdu to him. I think because he's so used to speaking English to me. He code switches constantly. Usually he speaks with English syntax and throws in Urdu words. (ex. "Here comes a big chummi (kiss) !")  Is this good/bad/just natural? Any advice? Should I also be speaking what little Urdu I know or is this confusing?

 

You should probably ask your DH about this.  Urdu is quite close to Hindi and I notice that Hindi speakers code-switch with English as a matter of course.  You can see this in action in many Bollywood films.  Not sure if it applies to Urdu as well but if it does there is probably no point in trying to prevent your DH from using the code-switched language as it is normally used by native speakers.   If he is going above and beyond what would be used in his country of origin then I would talk to him about trying to tone it down.

 

I am in a similar situation to yours where I understand simple conversations and speak small amounts of DH's language.  I would not speak it to DD unless I were much better at it because I don't want to transmit a foreign accent and grammatical errors to her.  But I think understanding and responding to it helps make it easier for DH to use it with DD (it is awkward to speak to your child in a language your spouse does not understand or react to).

 

As I said above though, if I were not simultaneously trying to teach DD my family L2, I would be working harder to learn DH's to the level where I would feel more comfortable using it at home.

 


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Old 07-10-2011, 10:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You should probably ask your DH about this.  Urdu is quite close to Hindi and I notice that Hindi speakers code-switch with English as a matter of course.  You can see this in action in many Bollywood films.  Not sure if it applies to Urdu as well but if it does there is probably no point in trying to prevent your DH from using the code-switched language as it is normally used by native speakers.   If he is going above and beyond what would be used in his country of origin then I would talk to him about trying to tone it down.



Yes this is the case. A lot of times when I try to ask him how to say something, he just says they "don't have a word for that" so they use English. 

 

Thanks for the insight about Spanish. I know he would not be able to be fluent of even proficient with just me talking to him. I just wonder if it's worth trying for the sake of simple exposure. If he's interested in learning later then he would have some comfort with the language. I don't know...


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Old 07-11-2011, 12:09 PM
 
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I am struggling to keep all-Hungarian but I end up mixing with English. It's really hard to keep my head in one language only when the kids started speaking in English, DH only speaks English, the majority language is English, I read books in English, I write in English, etc. Heck, I majored in English. lol I do sometimes do the equivalent of the "can i have a puszika please?" (kiss). They're picking up on nouns more, which is fine with me... I guess all I can say is just do your best.

A lot of my bi, tri, etc., lingual friends growing up mixed languages quite a bit too. I think many people can speak more than one language and as long as you're understood by whoever you're trying to communicate with, it's a success. It doesn't have to be pure, I don't think. I know that's controversial, but I would rather have my kids be able to communicate with as many people as possible when they're grown rather than have perfect grammar in every language. I don't think languages are an all or nothing type of deal... Of course, it also depends what they're interested in. I do want them to have at least one native language where they are close to perfect so they won't be at a disadvantage. I don't know, I'm sort of contradicting myself, but it's a balancing act, a living thing. The more exposure they have to whatever language, to any language, the better, I think. I don't think anyone's been ever hurt by being exposed to too many languages.

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Old 07-11-2011, 11:49 PM
 
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I do agree that it's better to be able to communicate in more than one language more than being fluent and perfect.

Our kids are bilingual and understand a bit of a third language. Hubby speaks a bit of his first language to them, but not enough.

We all speak my (and the kids) first language at home most of the time, but sometimes we switch to English. English is second language for all of us, and since we no longer live in the US, we have to speak some English to keep the language. We do not choose certain situations or hours a day to speak one language or another, it just happens.

 

In addition to English and my first language, I am able to communicate in two more languages, and communicating makes me happy - even though I'm not fluent.

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Old 07-12-2011, 03:21 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ZakareyasMama View Post

I just wonder if it's worth trying for the sake of simple exposure. If he's interested in learning later then he would have some comfort with the language. I don't know...

YES!!!! definitely so!!!! remember language is not just another language but a whole culture. there is definitely an advantage to learning it. 

 

however this takes some discipline. so basically ur son's native tongue will be english, spanish and urdu. THAT is a great beginning. 

 

what i would do is right now choose 3 songs - english, spanish and urdu - 3 lullabyes and sing to your son. 3 songs that will grow up with him that when he is first leaerning to sing those are the songs he would sing. 

 

in the meantime both you and your dh can brush up on your own languages. get back into the groove kinda thing. 

 

it will take a lot of discipline for you to continue speaking the languages between the 3 of you. dont try to do it as an after thought. it is SOOO important to start from childhood so that your child intuitively knows the rules of grammar. 

 

i became lazy with my own dd and i tell it its HARD to go  back. but i am trying and we are working on it. its NOT easy. 

 

1. rather than trying to figure out the hours, do one activity in spanish. mealtimes or bathtimes or bed times. the thing is this is for you. for your training. i wasnt too focused on hours and when. i just went with the flow. 

 

2. i wouldnt expect you to teach both urdu and spanish. there is nothing wrong with it per se, but bad habits taught with language tends to stay. i would say ask ur dh to relearn his urdu and then speak to ur son. however if dh is really not wanting to learn urdu then i would let it go. 

 

3. yeah you can send him for arabic lessons. 

 

4. not sure about the baby sign language and learning language. dd was an early talker so she hardly did any signs except for the ones she herself created. if your son is a late talker hopefully baby signs would be a great way to communicate. 

 

be prepared. this could be harder for you than you think. esp. when ur son starts speaking. for hte first 3 years of her life dd had a huge exposure to many languages due to our multiethnic neighbours. when dd started talking i was lost many a times because she was saying stuff in a language i didnt understand and she was also just saying half the words. when dd realised i didnt understand a couple of the languages she was talking in she would code switch quite a bit. she had her favourite words meant to be spoken only in certain language. 

 

a lot of language also involves listening. so you can borrow cds from the library in many languages. it helps to know the sound. dd and i are learning 3 languages now. and let me tell you just knowing how to make hte sound makes a huge difference. many times i have to make dd listen to herself to realise what she thinks she is saying is not exactly what she IS speaking. 
 

 


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Old 07-12-2011, 11:40 AM
 
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I hate to be the Negative Nancy on the thread, but I really think the early-exposure thing is way oversold.

 

Little children have the great strength to be able to pick up languages quickly, but the flip side of that coin is that they lose them just as easily.

I was raised in a bilingual home in the US with yearly trips to the home country.  My language ability used to deteriorate unbelievably in between visits - even though I had continuous exposure to the language in the home!  I'd get there and feel almost unable to speak for the first days/weeks of the trip.  (The range and depth of grammar and vocabulary required to function in the country was just so much broader than what I needed in the circumscribed home environment where I normally used the language.  Ultimately I ended up living there for an extended period of time at two separate points in my life, and I don't think I would be fluent now if I hadn't had that degree of exposure.)

 

This doesn't happen to me anymore, even if I go months or years without using my other language.  Adults have a much harder time picking up a new language, but they are able to retain what they learn despite long periods of disuse.  Obviously there is some deterioration but it is nowhere near what it is with a child.

 

That's why I think it is almost pointless to expose a young child to a language that will not be continuously and abundantly reinforced until he reaches adulthood.

 

Even if you just have one non-community language that is spoken exclusively in the home by two native-speaker parents, a lot of kids will end up unable to speak much (it seems to depend a lot on the kid actually).  I see a lot of people on this board who are really optimistic about trying to teach their young children two or more languages, some of which they themselves do not speak natively or sometimes even fluently.  I just think the result of that is that the children will know a few words in a bunch of languages but not enough to be able to speak well in any of them.  If that's your goal it's fine, but to me it doesn't seem to be worth the effort - you can learn that much as an adult by spending a few weeks in a Berlitz class.

 

There was an interesting fMRI study some years ago that found that native bilinguals use overlapping language centers for their two languages, whereas fluent bilinguals who learned their second language as adults have two physically separate language centers.  There was one case where the subject had been exposed to fluent native Italian as a young child speaking with his grandparents, then had little to no exposure for some years, then learned Italian fluently as an adult.  His imaging results looked no different than someone who had never had the early exposure.


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Old 07-12-2011, 02:05 PM
 
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Little children have the great strength to be able to pick up languages quickly, but the flip side of that coin is that they lose them just as easily.

I was raised in a bilingual home in the US with yearly trips to the home country.  My language ability used to deteriorate unbelievably in between visits - even though I had continuous exposure to the language in the home!  I'd get there and feel almost unable to speak for the first days/weeks of the trip.  (The range and depth of grammar and vocabulary required to function in the country was just so much broader than what I needed in the circumscribed home environment where I normally used the language.  Ultimately I ended up living there for an extended period of time at two separate points in my life, and I don't think I would be fluent now if I hadn't had that degree of exposure.)

 

This doesn't happen to me anymore, even if I go months or years without using my other language.  Adults have a much harder time picking up a new language, but they are able to retain what they learn despite long periods of disuse.  Obviously there is some deterioration but it is nowhere near what it is with a child.

 

That's why I think it is almost pointless to expose a young child to a language that will not be continuously and abundantly reinforced until he reaches adulthood.


I know what you mean - DH and I did think the lack of continuous exposure as a potential problem.  One big change since the time we grew up and now though, heck even 10 yrs ago and now, is - the internet.  There are more options to keep up the exposure, if you will, with email, skype, etc.

 

My in-laws speak no English and I don't speak their language.  When it's just DH and DD, DH would speak exclusively to DD in his native tongue since she was a baby. So far, she has managed, not only to communicate, but to have genuine relationships with her grandparents and other extended family from DH's side. She keeps in touch with various family members with skype, email, etc at least 3-4x/week.  This simply would have not been possible if she doesn't speak DH's language.  And in turn, keeping in touch further improves her mastery of DH's language, orally or otherwise.

 

For us, the early exposure is so far paying off - though both me and DH were skeptical for a long time.  For our family, this multilingual thing has been done out of necessity really - without it, DD would never get to know any member of DH's family otherwise.  So, there have been plenty of supports from everybody involved. 

 

I guess, the bottomline is, it - is - possible.  Speaking for my family, even if it ends up not working in the long run, it's probably still worth it for my LOs to have some childhood memory spending some time with their grandparents, cousins, etc in the native language.  The interaction seems a lot more natural when everybody speaks the same language and not busy translating and being translated - it's simply impossible to translate some jokes, teases, little play of words, childlike confusion of mixing up similar words etc.  For my family, It's not about multilingualism for its own sake - for us, it's not about communicating, it's more about relationships, or at least the possibility of those relationships.

 

 


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Old 07-13-2011, 11:35 AM
 
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I know what you mean - DH and I did think the lack of continuous exposure as a potential problem.  One big change since the time we grew up and now though, heck even 10 yrs ago and now, is - the internet.  There are more options to keep up the exposure, if you will, with email, skype, etc.

 

My in-laws speak no English and I don't speak their language.  When it's just DH and DD, DH would speak exclusively to DD in his native tongue since she was a baby. So far, she has managed, not only to communicate, but to have genuine relationships with her grandparents and other extended family from DH's side. She keeps in touch with various family members with skype, email, etc at least 3-4x/week.  This simply would have not been possible if she doesn't speak DH's language.  And in turn, keeping in touch further improves her mastery of DH's language, orally or otherwise.


Talking to dad all the time and connecting with other relatives 3-4x/week sounds like continuous and abundant exposure to me.  I think you have a great setup and have done a wonderful thing for your DD in allowing her to form close bonds with her non-English-speaking relatives.

 

The OP's situation is really different - she learned Spanish in school so (I imagine) doesn't have any Spanish-speaking relatives to help keep up the language. She would be the one-and-only source of Spanish for her child and since it is not her native language I suspect that 100% Spanish would be (both emotionally and logistically) difficult to keep up until her child reaches adulthood.  See the comment above from a poster who has difficulty maintaining the Hungarian with her kids even though it *is* her native language.  That's why I said that in the OP's situation, I would not bother with Spanish unless I had specific plans for another major route of exposure like a bilingual school or frequent trips to a Spanish-speaking country.


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Old 07-13-2011, 07:54 PM
 
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Quote is not working very well for me ...

 

Dear mambera,

 

Now I get what you were saying ... Somehow, I thought you were discussing early exposure in general - just wanted to share how things have worked out for us despite the concern of lack of exposure, so far anyway ...  We didn't anticipate that it would be possible to get the exposure needed, but we were wrong (it's the internet that helps for us) - I just wanted to share that.

 

But I totally missed what you were saying - it looks like you were thinking about OP's situation specifically, and also about a poster's upstream.  Sorry I didn't get what you said the first time.  Got it now thumb.gif


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Old 07-19-2011, 10:34 AM
 
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A lot of this depends on your goals. 

 

If you just want to expose your child to the other two language but have no illusions of your child actually speaking either/both, than it's fine what you're doing. It'll introduce your child to the concept that other language exist and this is what they sound like. You would remain an English speaking family. 

 

If you want your child to speak either/both, than a more concerted effort has to be made. Unless both languages have LOTS of outside support (lots of family members nearby, bilingual schools, a large community, lots of trips to the country, etc.) tackling two languages at once wont really work. 

 

First, just having one parent speaking the language is not really going to cement the language in the child's head, even if your dh were really good about always speaking Urdu to him. It's not true that the problem is switching languages. While I had to get used to it at first, I really have NO problem switching from speaking French to my dh and speaking English to the children (my dh can't speak English). Everyone speaks differently to the different people in their life (their boss, their partner, their children, etc.) and this is just one step further. 

 

The fact that my dh and I speak French together doesn't impact the children nor detract from their ability to speak English.  

 

Second, for a child to learn a language, they need to establish a relationship in it. My children relate to me in English, even though we live in France. The language has to be a real medium in his or her life. If the parent does the "lightswitch" approach, just flipping languages at some point in the day, the chances are that the child will just tune out. Children don't just learn a language because they hear it. The language has to be a vibrant part of their life. 

 

Lastly, you don't need to early-expose a child to ALL the languages you want him to learn. Once a child completely bilingual, he can learn other languages more easily. My children didn't start German until they were 4 years old when they started a bilingual French-German program at school. The older two are fluent and my 7 year old understands very well. Since they only really speak German at school, the progress is slower. 

 

By contrast, if a child doesn't learn the second language well, they can stall when exposed to a third. One family seemed just like our own. One American and one French speaking parent with their child in the bilingual program but their child couldn't hack it. That surprised me, especially since mine do so well. Turns out, unlike my dh, the French parent in the other family spoke English and had lived in the States. They spoke primarily English at home. The son's French wasn't so well established and although they lived in France, they opted to switch their son to a bilingual English-French program. That was more successful.

 

Meanwhile, my children have a very well-ordered linguistic arrangement. English with me, German at school and French everywhere else. When we can't make it to the States, I've taken them to England. We skype a lot. We have a rule that they have to watch originally English movies in English, etc. I read to them only in English, etc.

 

Look at your life and your commitment to this project and ask yourselves what you want for your child. If you really want your child to speak the language of his culture, a more concentrated effort has to be made. While just exposing him to Urdu and Spanish can't hurt, don't be under any illusions that you're raising a bi- or tri-lingual child.

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