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#1 of 35 Old 08-08-2011, 04:57 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all!

 

I am new to the site and so excited to be here!

 

I am Arab (Palestinian) and my husband is American. My husband is SAHD. We have a 26 month old daughter whom we are raising bilingually. I speak to her exclusively in Arabic and DH speaks to her in as much Arabic as he knows, which is considerable though not fluent. We read lots of Arabic books, listen to lots of Arabic music, watch Arabic DVDs and do Arabic language games on the IPAD. We don't have much of an Arab community, so there is very little chance for Arabic classes etc. as she grows up. I am trying to get together a playgroup, so if you live in the Greensboro, High Point, Winston, NC area and would like to start an Arabic playgroup, please let me know.

 

Anyway, as a result of our efforts my DD is doing great with both Arabic and English though her Arabic, understandably, is stronger.

 

She will be starting pre-school in a month: 3 hour a day program.

 

Here's my dilemma. Everything I've read and heard so far about bilingualism in our situation seems pretty depressing. Children seem to become passive bilinguals, preferring to speak the dominant language and while understanding the minority language, sometimes flat out refuse to speak it.

 

I am trying to think of ways to keep my DD interested in speaking Arabic: Skyping with family members, hiring an Arab speaking babysitter so she has others around her who speak Arabic on a regular basis besides me, visiting as many Arabs as I can in our area, visiting Jordan as often as the budget (small indeed :) allows etc.

 

Now here's my question: Have others had success raising active bilingual children who have continued to speak the minority language even after they've entered school?  I'd love to hear those stories because they will give me much hope, but also because I'd love to hear about how you were able to achieve this success. I would love to get as many tips as I can that can help us achieve our goal of active bilingualism.

 

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 

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#2 of 35 Old 08-08-2011, 08:20 AM
 
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Now here's my question: Have others had success raising active bilingual children who have continued to speak the minority language even after they've entered school?  I'd love to hear those stories because they will give me much hope, but also because I'd love to hear about how you were able to achieve this success. I would love to get as many tips as I can that can help us achieve our goal of active bilingualism.

 

Thanks so much!

 

 

 

 


Welcome! Glad you found the site.

 

My DS (8.5) is a success story and I know tons of other success stories in my wider circle of friends and acquaintances (as well as some less than successful stories, too)

 

Anyway, I'm American and live in a W. European country. My husband is from here and DS has been born and raised here. English is his minority language and he's a very active (!) speaker and listener. The only thing is that he doesn't really read it well, but we've held off on teaching him to read in English for the time being because he's possibly dyslexic and is having enough trouble reading in the majority language. There's no real need for him to read in English any time soon and I still enjoy reading aloud to him in English!

 

What has worked for my friends' families and for my own is:

 

Consistency  . . . Keep speaking to your DD in Arabic! Don't switch to English (except maybe at the playground or on playdates if the other children don't speak or understand Arabic). If children think there's an "out" (Mom or Dad won't really make me speak in minority language .. . .) they'll use it.

 

If your DD answers you in English, say, "How do you say that in Arabic?" and have her repeat it, helping her if necessary.

 

Books, DVDs, etc. in the minority language. This has been really big for us.

 

Having people around who only understand the minority language . . . For instance, my family in America obviously doesn't understand the majority language here, so DS *has* to speak English with them.

 

Try to make Arabic your home language as much as possible! (We used to do purely OPOL but DS' English was far too passive. He went to daycare in the majority language and my DH spoke to him in the majority language and he only heard English from me. We switched to English as our "home" language and DS' English improved considerably. That meant that DH spoke to DS in English when we were all together.)

 

The success stories I know of have all been from families where both couples spoke each others language and, therefore, could speak it to the children. The failures were were one of the partners did speak or understand the others language and they either communicated together in the majority language or in a third language.

 

Don't be shocked if, despite your best efforts, your DD has an accent in Arabic. My DS does in English. Also, your DD may well use English sentence structure in Arabic for quite a while. DS is only now getting English sentence structure down.

 

Hope this helps and good luck!

 

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#3 of 35 Old 08-08-2011, 12:08 PM
 
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Hey, I would consider myself a bilingual success story. :)  Raised in the US with one European-born and one American-born parent (who learned the minority language but only used it when necessary to function, never with us).  I'm fluently bilingual (and literate) although English is my dominant (I have a lot of graduate education in English but my minority language literacy is more like a high school or early uni level).

 

Honestly I think the biggest factor for us was regular, prolonged visits to the home country.  We were there for 4-6 weeks most summers of my childhood, also moved there for a period when I was in high school and then I lived and worked there independently for a time in my early 20s.

 

Secondary things that I think are really helpful:

 

- The more exposure, the better.  I think it's really helpful if the nonfluent parent at least understands so that conversations don't have to be translated.  It sounds like your husband is actually speaking Arabic with your LO so that is even better.

 

- Some kind of community exposure is really important.  Visits to the home country are best; other possibilities would be a bilingual school or after-school program.  The problem is when the kid gets a little older, if they don't see a community of speakers they don't have any motivation to learn or use the language.  It just turns into something that is not-cool since it isn't present in the peer group.

 

- I think it really helps if you maintain an expectation that the child will speak to you in the minority language.  My family did not do this (and there were definitely periods where we just answered in English) but I do think it is really helpful.  I think the passive-understanding situation can easily develop if you fall into the habit of speaking Arabic while your child answers in English.  I think we spent so much time in the home country that we were able to get by without this method, but (based on my observations of other multilingual families) I do think it is really helpful in general.

 

- Books and videos in the minority language are great because they create motivation to understand, and the books promote literacy.  I'm not sure what your plans are about that, eg how you feel about the verbally-fluent-but-illiterate outcome which is also common in bilingual speakers whose minority languages, like Arabic, use a different alphabet from the one they learn in school.  It's worth thinking about that because, if you decide you care, literacy really does have to be actively taught in a way that verbal communication does not.  If you wait too long (after the child is already comfortable reading in English) it gets more frustrating for the child to have to go back to A-B-C level and they will be more likely to resist learning the minority script.  My anecdotal experience is that I and one of my siblings were taught to read in formalized weekly lessons at home.  The other sibling went to an after-school program.  I think the home lessons worked a lot better but they required a *lot* of discipline and effort on the part of the parent.

 

 


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#4 of 35 Old 08-09-2011, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks to you both! This helps a great deal.  My husband and I do speak to each other in English because his Arabic, while good enough for a 26 month old, is not really good for adult conversations. I speak to him more and more in Arabic and whatever he knows in Arabic he always uses. I'm hoping this doesn't mean that we'll end up being one of the failures given that we do speak to each other in the majority language :(

 

The other problem I think is that Arabic is not a "prestigious" language. I grew up in Jordan. No one spoke English at home, so I learned it in school and from T.V.  Because it was (still very much is) considered cool to speak English, I was motivated to speak it.  I have to make Arabic cool I guess :)

 

Also, I am very interested in teaching DD to write and read.  We try to make this fun, but it makes it hard that dialect is so different from standard Arabic (used in books and TV programs). The alphabet is the same, by the way, but much of the vocabulary and the pronunciation are not.

 

Again, many thanks and keep those success stories coming. They've made me much more optimistic.

 

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#5 of 35 Old 08-09-2011, 01:31 PM
 
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Thanks for starting this threat, and to everyone who has responded so positively so far. I'm in a similar situation: DS is 27 months and we're speaking German to him at home. So far, he's doing very well even though he has been in daycare since he was 4 mos old. He has recently begun to differentiate between languages depending on whom he speaks to which is pretty cool. However, we live an area that is so thinly populated that it will be very difficult to find other kids who speak German with whom he could practice. 


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#6 of 35 Old 08-09-2011, 02:15 PM
 
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so far it is going well... we live close to my in laws and their english is very limited (getting better! esp, the younger generation). my kids know they have to speak spanish to MIL to get anything they need/want. but with dh they know he speaks english so they don't speak spanish to him often. we do spanish books, visit mexico (the immersion helps the most!), hang out with family a lot etc.


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#7 of 35 Old 08-09-2011, 03:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for sharing your stories.

 

Lookatreestar, does your DH speak with the kids exclusively in Spanish and they respond in English or does he mix Spanish and English with them?

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#8 of 35 Old 08-10-2011, 04:20 AM
 
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No, of course not! I think it is important, though, that your DH keeps working on his arabic and that your DD continues to hear you all speaking arabic at home as much as possible. Speaking from my own experiences here . . . the biggest single thing that helped DS' proficiency was making English our home language. Just hearing English from me wasn't enough for DS' use of the language to be much more than passive. However, different children acquire language differently. While working on making Arabic as much of a "home" language as possible, I'd also really try to to make as much contact as possible with other Arabic speaking families (saw on another thread that you were looking for a local playgroup. Great way to start!) + keep contact with your family as much as possible and really really don't let your DD speak with you in English!


 

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Thanks to you both! This helps a great deal.  My husband and I do speak to each other in English because his Arabic, while good enough for a 26 month old, is not really good for adult conversations. I speak to him more and more in Arabic and whatever he knows in Arabic he always uses. I'm hoping this doesn't mean that we'll end up being one of the failures given that we do speak to each other in the majority language :(

 

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#9 of 35 Old 08-10-2011, 10:45 AM
 
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Thanks for sharing your stories.

 

Lookatreestar, does your DH speak with the kids exclusively in Spanish and they respond in English or does he mix Spanish and English with them?



he was really bad about speaking spanish in our home period (he was still learning english so i understand).. he now speaks both languages to them and they respond in english and spanish or spanglish lol.gif


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#10 of 35 Old 08-10-2011, 10:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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 and really really don't let your DD speak with you in English!


 


I completely agree! So let me change the direction of the thread for a second and ask everyone's advice on how to implement this. There is the one extreme: not answer when she addresses me in English and insist that she speak to me in Arabic. I have read that this, while effective, can be damaging to the child who might feel frustrated and stifled. On the other end is translating what she says into Arabic and asking her if that's what she means. And of course there are other ways. 

 

What do you all think is the best way to get DD to speak in Arabic to me? What has worked for you or others you know?

 

Thanks so much!

 

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#11 of 35 Old 08-10-2011, 11:42 AM
 
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I completely agree! So let me change the direction of the thread for a second and ask everyone's advice on how to implement this. There is the one extreme: not answer when she addresses me in English and insist that she speak to me in Arabic. I have read that this, while effective, can be damaging to the child who might feel frustrated and stifled. On the other end is translating what she says into Arabic and asking her if that's what she means. And of course there are other ways. 

 

What do you all think is the best way to get DD to speak in Arabic to me? What has worked for you or others you know?

 

Thanks so much!

 


Mm, I haven't any real-life experience to share (my DD is the same age as yours and I respond to any language she cares to use right now, although if she uses her other two I translate back to her before I answer) but I'm guessing this may depend on your kid.  Some kids very easily accept the need to use a particular language with a particular person, others may be really wedded to the majority language and need a clear message that it won't be 'understood' when used at home.

 

Btw I do not think it is harmful in any way to 'pretend' you don't understand English.  It's a house rule, use Arabic with Mama, just like any other house rule you choose to implement.  Would it be 'damaging' if you really didn't understand English?

 


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#12 of 35 Old 08-10-2011, 01:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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That's what I do now.  This will be hard to pull off once she finally figures out what it really means that I speak English to everyone else. I guess I am really asking for those instances when she's stubborn and when those instances become more of a sustained pattern. The very rare times that she says something in English to me (she understand that she needs to speak to me in Arabic), I'll just say that I don't understand her and that she needs to say it in Arabic. She always does...until yesterday when a funny thing happened. DD always says "go home" in Arabic..always, always always. Yesterday, we were out and she said it in English. So I said, in Arabic of course, "Huh? I don't understand? What does that mean?" So, she said it again in English and raising her voice every time until she was virtually screaming: "Go home, go home, go home, GO HOME." Now, it's not like I've ever forced her so this kind of frustration is not a result of build up. I imagine that this insistence on speaking English will only increase once English becomes more of a dominant language for her.  How do you advise me to respond on those occasions? It's a toughie, so I am really thankful for any advice.

 

 

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#13 of 35 Old 08-11-2011, 11:06 PM
 
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If she gets what she wants by speaking English, she will continue to speak English to you. 

 

I live in France. My husband can't speak English. I lived and worked in France before meeting him. Our kids all are fluent in English. My son didn't speak till his was 2 1/2 so it was soooooo tempting to speak to him or hear him saying ANYTHING in ANY language! 

 

My son tried answering in French to my English. Here are some of the ways I stopped it.

 

-All requests made in French were not ignored but very slow, or "forgotten" ;)

-All requests made in English were responded to right away. 

-All requests made in French had to be repeated, not in English but said twice. English requests were granted after one try. 

-I didn't ignore but I made no attempt to clarify or hear anything I missed, in another room, over the T.V. etc. 

 

I remember a German woman asking me how I got my kids to respond to me in English. She went on about how her kids "just wouldn't". Before I could answer, her dd interrupted us and asked her for an orange juice. The woman jumped up to meet her dd's request. 

 

"Well, for starters, I don't do that" I quipped...

 

My two daughters followed their brother's lead and never used French with me. I wasn't even sure one of them spoke French yet. 

 

The children speak French with each other and I speak French with my dh (and of course, they do with their dad). Their only English is from and to me. My dh can now understand about 80% of what we say (and he can usually guess what we're saying anyway). Only my son has had English in school and it was for French kids, so he learned numbers and colors... He did pass a test for native speakers for another program but we opted to keep him in the bilingual French-German class he's in now, since we don't speak German at home and it's useful where we live. 

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#14 of 35 Old 08-12-2011, 01:02 AM
 
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I never pretended I didn't speak or understand Dutch. I just said to DS, "How do you say that in English?". It was always in a very firm but kind tone of voice. Every once in a while I'd say, "You speak English with me." if he began in Dutch.

 

Sometimes I'd have to help him if he stumbled over a word or didn't know how to say something, but that was fine. As I mentioned up thread, he "Dutchified" his English sentence structure for a long while, so I would sometimes repeat the sentence he'd just said in English to correct the grammar/structure. So, he'd say things like, "Mama, I want it not." And I'd repeat, "So you don't want it?" and so forth.

 

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That's what I do now.  This will be hard to pull off once she finally figures out what it really means that I speak English to everyone else. I guess I am really asking for those instances when she's stubborn and when those instances become more of a sustained pattern. The very rare times that she says something in English to me (she understand that she needs to speak to me in Arabic), I'll just say that I don't understand her and that she needs to say it in Arabic. She always does...until yesterday when a funny thing happened. DD always says "go home" in Arabic..always, always always. Yesterday, we were out and she said it in English. So I said, in Arabic of course, "Huh? I don't understand? What does that mean?" So, she said it again in English and raising her voice every time until she was virtually screaming: "Go home, go home, go home, GO HOME." Now, it's not like I've ever forced her so this kind of frustration is not a result of build up. I imagine that this insistence on speaking English will only increase once English becomes more of a dominant language for her.  How do you advise me to respond on those occasions? It's a toughie, so I am really thankful for any advice.

 

 



 

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#15 of 35 Old 08-12-2011, 01:06 AM
 
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I remember a German woman asking me how I got my kids to respond to me in English. She went on about how her kids "just wouldn't". Before I could answer, her dd interrupted us and asked her for an orange juice. The woman jumped up to meet her dd's request. 

 

"Well, for starters, I don't do that" I quipped...

 



Exactly! I have a French friend who is in exactly the same boat. She's also married to a Dutchman (who doesn't really speak French, which exacerbates the problem. They speak to each other in English). She speaks Dutch pretty well and her daughters go to the normal Dutch schools. Anyway, their French is completely passive and they don't speak it really at all. She feels horrible about it and it has caused tons of friction in her marriage. But it all really came down to responding to the children in Dutch. Had she ignored requests in Dutch and firmly and consistently required that her DDs talk to her in French from the time they were learning to speak, I believe (and she does too, btw) that they wouldn't be in this situation. Now the girls are 7 and 8 and have an active dislike for French.

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Quote:

-All requests made in French were not ignored but very slow, or "forgotten" ;)

-All requests made in English were responded to right away. 

-All requests made in French had to be repeated, not in English but said twice. English requests were granted after one try. 

-I didn't ignore but I made no attempt to clarify or hear anything I missed, in another room, over the T.V. etc. 

 


Thanks Eclipsepearl! This is wonderful advice! I am so heartened by your success story :)

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"Mama, I want it not." And I'd repeat, "So you don't want it?" and so forth.

 



 



He sounds positively Shakespearean to me :) Actually, DD did something similar the other day: "Mango Ice cream" (correct in English) but incorrect in Arabic (should be Ice cream Mango).

 

 

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#18 of 35 Old 08-12-2011, 07:35 PM
 
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that is how my kids learned that MIL doesn't understand english, they would request water and she would just look at them w/ a blank look. she really had no clue, so dh or i would say "you need to ask for agua" then she started picking it up. MIL understands a little bit of english now but the kids still know they are far more likely to get what they want/need if they say it in spanish. ds is just following dd so it works well.


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#19 of 35 Old 08-12-2011, 11:41 PM
 
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He sounds positively Shakespearean to me :) Actually, DD did something similar the other day: "Mango Ice cream" (correct in English) but incorrect in Arabic (should be Ice cream Mango).


smile.gif I used to think he sounded like Yoda!

 

Anyway, it sounds like you are so on top of things and really thinking this through and reaching out for an Arabic-speaking community that your DD is gonna' be fine (and kudos, btw, to your DH. It's great that he's working so hard on his Arabic and really willing to speak a language not his own to his child)

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#20 of 35 Old 08-13-2011, 03:26 PM
 
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-All requests made in French were not ignored but very slow, or "forgotten" ;)

-All requests made in English were responded to right away. 

-All requests made in French had to be repeated, not in English but said twice. English requests were granted after one try. 

-I didn't ignore but I made no attempt to clarify or hear anything I missed, in another room, over the T.V. etc. . 


So after reading this thread, I've been experimenting with this kind of strategy for my 26 m/o in the past few days, and I realize I have some questions for anyone who cares to answer. :)

 

1) What do you do about communication that is not a request?  Most of the things DD says are statements about the world, like "It's a big cup!" or "Teddy is sleeping," or "Mama and (DD) are here, Papa is at work," or whatever.  Normally, I instinctively reflect that stuff back to her, always in my language regardless of the language she used to say it.  Am I supposed to be ignoring these statements if she doesn't say them in my language?  I notice this strategy decreases her overall exposure to my language because I don't talk to her as much when I stop reflecting half of the things she says (and also she doesn't get to hear how those things are said in my language).

 

2) What about code-switching?  Do I ignore the whole sentence if a couple of the words are in the 'wrong' language?  What if half of them are?  Etc.

 

3) What should I do when she uses DH's language?  We want to reinforce that one also, my grasp of  it isn't enough for me to feel comfortable speaking it back to her but I definitely understand everything she says in it.  Do you think I should insist that she speak only my language to me or is either non-community language OK?

 

TIA for your input!


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#21 of 35 Old 08-13-2011, 05:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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So after reading this thread, I've been experimenting with this kind of strategy for my 26 m/o in the past few days, and I realize I have some questions for anyone who cares to answer. :)

 

1) What do you do about communication that is not a request?  Most of the things DD says are statements about the world, like "It's a big cup!" or "Teddy is sleeping," or "Mama and (DD) are here, Papa is at work," or whatever.  Normally, I instinctively reflect that stuff back to her, always in my language regardless of the language she used to say it.  Am I supposed to be ignoring these statements if she doesn't say them in my language?  I notice this strategy decreases her overall exposure to my language because I don't talk to her as much when I stop reflecting half of the things she says (and also she doesn't get to hear how those things are said in my language).

 

2) What about code-switching?  Do I ignore the whole sentence if a couple of the words are in the 'wrong' language?  What if half of them are?  Etc.

 

3) What should I do when she uses DH's language?  We want to reinforce that one also, my grasp of  it isn't enough for me to feel comfortable speaking it back to her but I definitely understand everything she says in it.  Do you think I should insist that she speak only my language to me or is either non-community language OK?

 

TIA for your input!


 

Those are really great questions. I am eager to her others' input, but here's my experience. So far, DD has been talking to me 99% in Arabic. When she says a word that she only knows in English, I get excited with her and then tell her what it's called in Arabic. After a few times, I say: "What's that in Arabic please"? And then after that she uses the Arabic. The one time where she refused, as I described above, was a request, so I just ignored it and DH responded to her.

 

DD does do some code-switching, but honestly, I code-switch when I talk to my English speaking Arab family members and friends too :) In those cases where she code-switches, I just reflect the sentence back fully in Arabic.

 

I can't help you with personal experience with question 3 because we're not in a trilingual environment which I am sure is a much bigger challenge. But if you wanted my advice I would reinforce your minority language while DH reinforces his.

 

Thanks!

 

 

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#22 of 35 Old 08-14-2011, 07:31 PM
 
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So after reading this thread, I've been experimenting with this kind of strategy for my 26 m/o in the past few days, and I realize I have some questions for anyone who cares to answer. :)

 

1) What do you do about communication that is not a request?  Most of the things DD says are statements about the world, like "It's a big cup!" or "Teddy is sleeping," or "Mama and (DD) are here, Papa is at work," or whatever.  Normally, I instinctively reflect that stuff back to her, always in my language regardless of the language she used to say it.  Am I supposed to be ignoring these statements if she doesn't say them in my language?  I notice this strategy decreases her overall exposure to my language because I don't talk to her as much when I stop reflecting half of the things she says (and also she doesn't get to hear how those things are said in my language).

 

2) What about code-switching?  Do I ignore the whole sentence if a couple of the words are in the 'wrong' language?  What if half of them are?  Etc.

 

3) What should I do when she uses DH's language?  We want to reinforce that one also, my grasp of  it isn't enough for me to feel comfortable speaking it back to her but I definitely understand everything she says in it.  Do you think I should insist that she speak only my language to me or is either non-community language OK?

 

TIA for your input!



With DS1 (27 mos), I only ask him to repeat if he's telling me something and if he can't do it in the home language I help him out with the correct words. If he's talking to himself, which he does all the time now, I let him speak whatever he wants, and that is also when he's most likely to code-switch; however, I want him to experiment with language independently, and while I would prefer him to think in his home language, I don't think we're quite there yet, and I'm also not sure if that might go to far. 

 

The only repeated phrase that he uses in English instead of German is "Thank you." He knows the German word, but he doesn't use it unless prompted ("What did you say?", "How do we say that at home?"). I believe it is because his daycare does not take it too kindly if he does not say "Thank you" and they do not accept the German form instead. We had the same problem with "please" a couple of months ago, and he finally began being consistent in using the German word instead.

 

COncerning your third question, I'm sure there are people who have experience with trilingualism. I would think that you should keep very clear boundaries between the languages and expect your daughter to speak to you in your language even if you can understand what she says. I believe that kids will eventually get the idea that there are different languages for different people and that they can only get what they want - and if it is to get a point across - if they speak in the right language.


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#23 of 35 Old 08-15-2011, 08:57 AM
 
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1) What do you do about communication that is not a request?  Most of the things DD says are statements about the world, like "It's a big cup!" or "Teddy is sleeping," or "Mama and (DD) are here, Papa is at work," or whatever.  Normally, I instinctively reflect that stuff back to her, always in my language regardless of the language she used to say it.  Am I supposed to be ignoring these statements if she doesn't say them in my language?  I notice this strategy decreases her overall exposure to my language because I don't talk to her as much when I stop reflecting half of the things she says (and also she doesn't get to hear how those things are said in my language).

 

Just keep doing that. Is she says it in the "wrong" language, say "Yes it IS a ball". It might be her way of asking what it is in your language. She just needs to be shown which language is to be used when.

 

2) What about code-switching?  Do I ignore the whole sentence if a couple of the words are in the 'wrong' language?  What if half of them are?  Etc.

 

Same as above. Repeat the sentence correctly and say it back to her. This is exactly what you would do in only one language with a child anyway.

 

3) What should I do when she uses DH's language?  We want to reinforce that one also, my grasp of  it isn't enough for me to feel comfortable speaking it back to her but I definitely understand everything she says in it.  Do you think I should insist that she speak only my language to me or is either non-community language OK?

  

Let your dh reinforce his language himself. Your relationship with your dd is in your language, not his. This also might be her way of asking what it is in your language so if you just repeat back to her in her father's language, she'll think that's what it is in yours'. Confusing! She needs to separate her languages and mixing them up with her will only muddle her up.

 

My kids quickly learned that when they didn't know an English word, to try to say the French one with an American accent. It often worked but let her figure this game out herself!

 

Please note that in some families, they do go back and forth but that's usually once the children speak both/all the languages with confidence.  

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#24 of 35 Old 08-17-2011, 08:21 AM
 
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I completely agree! So let me change the direction of the thread for a second and ask everyone's advice on how to implement this. There is the one extreme: not answer when she addresses me in English and insist that she speak to me in Arabic. I have read that this, while effective, can be damaging to the child who might feel frustrated and stifled. On the other end is translating what she says into Arabic and asking her if that's what she means. And of course there are other ways. 

 

What do you all think is the best way to get DD to speak in Arabic to me? What has worked for you or others you know?

 

Thanks so much!

 



English is my language and our minority language.  I can't imagine pretending to my kids that I don't understand when they address me in Catalan or Spanish.... they are just acquiring language, why would I thwart them?  I have consistently parroted back what they say in English while following through on their request/observation/question.  They (ages 5 and 2) are both highly verbal in all their languages and have never been required to use any particular one.  They both choose to almost use English exclusively to communicate with me.  They have spent very little time in the US but have had extensive visits with US relatives who have been here and do most of their screen time in English.

 

One observation is that they tend to speak a sort of Cat-angles to my husband who doesn't bother to feed them back the correct words in Catalan. They are a bit lazy using a pure Catalanwith him, which initially worried me, but I've observed that they "click in" with the rest of the world which surrounds them because their mix doesn't work.  I would be careful about this with minority languages and if we were living in an English speaking region, would really push DH to self correct.

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#25 of 35 Old 09-07-2011, 10:24 AM
 
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I'm coming back to this thread for a little more discussion about the approach of responding preferentially to one language.

 

I have been trying to do this with my 2 y/o for nearly a month now, and I find it is much much more difficult than I expected.

 

The problem is that I realize I actually do not register very well which language she is speaking.  I am more naturally focused on the content of her speech and the tone of the delivery, and I have to think very specifically about the language issue in order to register that information.  By the time I've reminded myself to think about whether she asked in my language or not, I've usually already responded.

 

I thought this would go away in a few days but it really hasn't changed at all.  Is this something others have encountered, or do you find it is usually obvious to you which language you/others are speaking?  Is it something I can expect to get used to over a longer span of time?  Is there any kind of method or trick to bringing the language issue to the forefront of my own consciousness?


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#26 of 35 Old 09-07-2011, 05:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by mambera View Post

I'm coming back to this thread for a little more discussion about the approach of responding preferentially to one language.

 

I have been trying to do this with my 2 y/o for nearly a month now, and I find it is much much more difficult than I expected.

 

The problem is that I realize I actually do not register very well which language she is speaking.  I am more naturally focused on the content of her speech and the tone of the delivery, and I have to think very specifically about the language issue in order to register that information.  By the time I've reminded myself to think about whether she asked in my language or not, I've usually already responded.

 

I thought this would go away in a few days but it really hasn't changed at all.  Is this something others have encountered, or do you find it is usually obvious to you which language you/others are speaking?  Is it something I can expect to get used to over a longer span of time?  Is there any kind of method or trick to bringing the language issue to the forefront of my own consciousness?


That's a dilemma! In my case, English and Arabic are SO different, so it immediately registers that DD is speaking in English rather than Arabic. DD immediately senses my knee-jerk physical reaction (my face probably tenses up poor thing) and she immediately switches to Arabic.  Of course it helps that at 27 months old, DD is not making statements deep enough in content which I have to focus on to the exclusion of language. I am sure this might change as she grows up and begins talking about more abstract things.

 

I guess I would recommend taking your time in responding while the language registers.

 

By the way, DD started preschool a couple of days ago. So far so good. Her preschool is on board with nurturing her Arabic (by using some Arabic words with her and trying to learn some of the words she uses).  Wish us luck!

 

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#27 of 35 Old 09-16-2011, 12:55 AM
 
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I'm coming back to this thread for a little more discussion about the approach of responding preferentially to one language.

 

I have been trying to do this with my 2 y/o for nearly a month now, and I find it is much much more difficult than I expected.

 

The problem is that I realize I actually do not register very well which language she is speaking.  I am more naturally focused on the content of her speech and the tone of the delivery, and I have to think very specifically about the language issue in order to register that information.  By the time I've reminded myself to think about whether she asked in my language or not, I've usually already responded.

 

I thought this would go away in a few days but it really hasn't changed at all.  Is this something others have encountered, or do you find it is usually obvious to you which language you/others are speaking?  Is it something I can expect to get used to over a longer span of time?  Is there any kind of method or trick to bringing the language issue to the forefront of my own consciousness?


Just wondering, is she speaking to you in your language at all? 

 

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#28 of 35 Old 09-16-2011, 12:47 PM
 
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Just wondering, is she speaking to you in your language at all?

 


Yes.  I would say she uses about 50% my language, 25% English and 25% DH's language when she speaks to me.  She almost never uses it with anyone else though because she knows that nobody but Mama is going to understand.  She is pretty good at figuring out which language to use with whom, although she does try to use DH's language with English speakers a fair amount because there are a lot more people in her life who speak it to her (SIL and her kids who are local, as well as one of her preschool teachers) so she has the idea that it is a more generally useful language.

 

And I am actually amazed that she is getting a lot of the grammar down - I posted a while ago about issues with person and gender - she is getting much better about using the correct person (I/you) and is starting to get a clue about gender as well.  I'm not even sure how she did it since I am functionally the only person who ever speaks to her in this language (occasionally she gets it from my dad and a friend of mine but the opportunities are limited).  She had an enormous, grammatically correct tantrum in my language yesterday and I was about as happy about the language development as I was irritated about the tantrum, lol.

 

 

 


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#29 of 35 Old 09-20-2011, 10:35 AM
 
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Just keep speaking to her in Arabic--whether she speaks to you or not.  You can always say that you don't understand, but I'd probably wait until she was a bit older for that.

 

Do you live near a large Arabic-speaking community? It's rare, but in some areas (Dearborn, Brooklyn, ???) you can find Arabic-speaking schools.

 

Noorart.com is a great resource for Arabic-language books.  You can even buy a bunch of Scholastic readers in Arabic.  Of course, Amazon carries some as well.  Some libraries do too (surprisingly).  Youtube is a godsend. 


Mom to DS(8), DS(6), DD(4), and DS(1).  "Kids do as well as they can."

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#30 of 35 Old 09-25-2011, 02:36 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi all,

 

I've got an update and seeking some advice.

 

DD has been going to pre-school for 3 weeks now. Her English has improved considerably, but her Arabic has too (probably because I have redoubled my already herculean efforts in the language department :)

 

Anyway, there's been an interesting shift in her language use. Arabic used to be DD's dominant language. She spoke it with everybody, even people who do NOT speak Arabic. Now, she seems to be using mostly English with those people she used to speak to in Arabic before. For example, MIL knows some of the the Arabic words DD used, so when DD said "mai" to MIL, MIL knew DD meant "water." Now DD is speaking almost exclusively in English to MIL. She continues to speak both with DH though now she seems to be using more and more English with him; remember, he uses both with her. She continues to speak to me only in Arabic.  In fact, today she said something to me in Arabic and then translated it in English to MIL who was on Skype.  Is this shift a good thing you think? I am sad that Arabic is not her dominant go-to language anymore, but I guess it's a positive move that she is sorting things out? Should I be worried that she will stop speaking Arabic to me if English becomes her sole language with others? Did any of you experience a similar shift in your children's language use as they grew up?

 

I hope these questions make sense.

 

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