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#1 of 18 Old 05-14-2012, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DD, 2.5, is trilingual; she understands pretty much everything in all three languages, but mostly only speaks french.

Recently, she`s started to use alot more words in english, which is great, but when she used english words with me, I`ve been correcting her, and telling her the french word (which she knows; she has no english words that she doesn`t know in french).  My concern was that she would confuse and mix up the two languages.

 

But, yesterday, I was reading on the early intervention website that you shouldn`t correct toddlers as to not discourage or frustrate them.  This was not specific to bilingual kids, it mostly refered to language clarity and pronounciation.

 

So now I`m a bit confused as to what the best thing is to do when DD mixes up languages....do I correct her? Do I let it go and eventually she`ll sort things out???

 

Any advice?

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#2 of 18 Old 05-14-2012, 10:41 AM
 
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My teacher DH always told me not to correct, let them hear the correct version, but as they got older, I just found they would repeat the incorrect version over and over. So, I mainly try to do the "happy medium" - here's an example:

 

Child pointing: "Epple."

You: "Yes, that's an apple."

 

You get the idea. I still use this approach although my kids are no longer toddlers, but now that they understand the concept of grammar I do correct outright & explain in some cases.


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#3 of 18 Old 05-14-2012, 04:45 PM
 
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I don't correct, except very rarely, and only when it is an actual grammatical error, not just using a different language.  (I tried it when DD1 was mixing up 'you' and 'me' for a while - correcting didn't work and she eventually figured it out... Also I have occasionally corrected gender errors when they are extreme and I can't stop myself - eg referring to Dad with the feminine pronoun.)

I definitely don't 'correct' to another language.  I don't encourage use of any particular language even - I respond the same to all 3 (community, dad's language (which I understand pretty well but don't speak much of), and my language).

I briefly tried to 'enhance' my response rate when she used my language vs others but it felt very unnatural and awkward for me and I was unable to keep it up.  Anyway it proved unnecessary.  She now, at almost 3, uses my language almost exclusively when she speaks to me.  (Adorably, when she talks in her sleep it is always in one of the two home languages, never the community language.)

YMMV and who knows what different stages we may pass through in the future.  For now this has worked for us.  If things were working out less well I would be exploring other options. 

 

But FWIW there have already been other stages.  Eg she picked up my language the last of all her 3 - I think this may be because it is more complex grammatically than the community language (I'm not sure about DH's) and definitely harder to pronounce than either of the other two.  Also I was her only exposure to it (she has several other people who speak DH's language to her).  So there was a period when she barely spoke it at all and I got kinda worried.  But eventually that ironed itself out with no particular effort on my part other than continuing to speak it exclusively when I spoke to her.


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#4 of 18 Old 05-15-2012, 07:18 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mambera View Post

I don't correct, except very rarely, and only when it is an actual grammatical error, not just using a different language.  (I tried it when DD1 was mixing up 'you' and 'me' for a while - correcting didn't work and she eventually figured it out... Also I have occasionally corrected gender errors when they are extreme and I can't stop myself - eg referring to Dad with the feminine pronoun.)

I also tried to limit my corrections to grammatical errors of the type you refer to - where they would be likely to be misunderstood if they said it their way.

 

That said, my kids did/do not prefer to speak my language to me despite my best efforts and as much community exposure as possible. I do try to remind them, but frankly after 10+ years of effort, I have to accept that I've done my best and may never achieve the result I was hoping for. So, to the OP, I guess you have to see how things play out - your child is unlikely to confuse the two languages, but preference for speaking one or the other can be another matter, particularly if one language ends up much stronger than the other.


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#5 of 18 Old 05-15-2012, 04:45 PM
 
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I think this is SO dependent on the individual child, and also changes over time.  As a child in a bilingual home I definitely went through long periods of exclusively speaking the community language back to my dad even while he spoke to me exclusively in the home language.  We used to get a 'reset' every summer when we visited the motherland, and would use the home language for a while after we returned but then 'relax' back to the community language until by the following spring we were barely speaking the home language at all.  (Ultimately we moved to the motherland for a period of time when I was in high school, which effectively 'switched' the home and community languages and I think that is what solidified the home language for me.)

 

Personally my goals for my kid are pretty flexible - given she is already the third generation down, my DH is teaching her another language, and my main motivation for teaching her our language is to facilitate continued vacations to the sunny motherland - I would feel that any degree of understanding and communication would be a success.  As of now she has already surpassed my reasonably modest expectations.


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#6 of 18 Old 05-16-2012, 11:16 AM
 
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We do the "model the correct" version most of the time, too. However, DD is now almost 6 and is finishing up kindy; so her speech at home started drifting more and more into lazy Spanglish, BAD English she picks up from other kids (e.g., "I hided it"), or baby-talk she gets from her little sister. Ohmigosh it's so annoying!

We've started insisting more on pure Spanish at home, except if it's something we don't have a good translation for or in situations where it just won't work (e.g., when friends are over). We have also started correcting some elements directly, usually because of repeatedly getting it wrong; though to be fair it's sorta a family discussion since the corrections are frequently directed at DD and myself (Spanish isn't my first language). My husband is a chronic correcter, and it drives me insane, so I'm not sure our approach is something I'd recommend to others.

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#7 of 18 Old 05-16-2012, 11:39 AM
 
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It's tough to find the happy medium, both with grammatical/vocabulary correction and language-choice correction, especially when at some point you know that what is said could be misunderstood. I'm always looking for a better way!


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#8 of 18 Old 05-17-2012, 04:02 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Ragana View Post

My teacher DH always told me not to correct, let them hear the correct version, but as they got older, I just found they would repeat the incorrect version over and over. So, I mainly try to do the "happy medium" - here's an example:

 

Child pointing: "Epple."

You: "Yes, that's an apple."

 

You get the idea. I still use this approach although my kids are no longer toddlers, but now that they understand the concept of grammar I do correct outright & explain in some cases.


Agree with this.

 

I've been criticized here before, but if you want your dd to keep her French, I would correct. Not to the point of being annoying, but as PP suggested. Are you in Canada? I've been working here as a French teacher in adult education for many years, and you won't believe how many students coming from Francophone families I've had who have lost their French because they were immersed in an English environment.

 

HTH


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#9 of 18 Old 05-18-2012, 11:53 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Mosaic View Post
My husband is a chronic correcter, and it drives me insane

 

Annoying isn't it?  My dad used to do this as well and it drove me up the wall - I was trying to get something across to him and there he was focusing on my grammar.  It was beyond irritating and is a big reason I try to avoid correction as much as possible.

 

By the way, I would not worry at all about usage like "I hided it."  That is a perfectly rational application of a general rule about forming the past tense - 'hide' just happens to be irregular, which she will learn over time and with exposure.  It is totally normal and your DD will not be saying "hided" when she is 16 whether you correct her right now or not.

 

There are isolated circumstances when correction can be useful but it is no substitute for plain old exposure.  And if it is annoying enough it can backfire by causing the child to be reluctant to use the language in which he is constantly being corrected, which will reduce his practice time and have a detrimental effect on his language acquisition.


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#10 of 18 Old 06-05-2012, 06:40 AM
 
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Two of mine mixed for ages. I didn't correct. I just repeated the correct "version" of what they wanted to say and moved on.

 

I only corrected in the language he or she used with me (English). I didn't let them answer in French but sometimes they did mix it up or that was their way of asking for the word. Again, I gave them the English and didn't correct their French at all. 

 

She needs to hear the right version and also to figure out which words to use with which people. The goal now is to get her to answer in the "correct" language, not necessarily correctly! 

 

Warning; you will hear errors for ages and ages. I still correct my 12 year old. They will continue to make mistakes, especially in their weaker (usually non-community) language. Correcting is just part of our lives. With three and a half languages, they're always learning.

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#11 of 18 Old 06-05-2012, 06:31 PM
 
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I keep rereading your OP to be sure I'm interpreting the situation correctly. I am concluding that you want her to speak to you in French exclusively. Are you doing OPOL and then majority language out in town?

If that is the case, then I think the way you are handling it is best. If she speaks a single word in English, as an identification, as kids do when pointing things out, you could validate her saying in French, "Yes, that is an "apple". We say pomme." So, you're repeating the word apple in English and then providing the translation. On the other hand, if she is making conversation in English, I would just repeat her entire sentence in French.

I don't view this as correcting in the same vein as harping on pronunciation or incorrect grammar. I think this is helping her brain lay the appropriate pathways to separate the languages. We have had success without unnecessary frustration employing this method. But then, as with all things, each child is different, so if you find her expressing frustration, maybe rethink...
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#12 of 18 Old 01-15-2013, 05:20 PM
 
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So good to find discussions about this! I've been worrying about this too with our 2.5 year old ds. I speak French to him, my dh speaks English mostly, but some French. Ds hears French and English from his grandparents, depending on which household he's in ( they are his caregivers when we are at work) so he probably hears 50% French and 50% English in the run of a week. He seemed to use both languages equally up until 3-4 months ago when he's reverted mostly English. He also has been speaking in full sentences more in this same time, so I've been thinking he was just trying to figure out sentence structure/grammar of one language. It concerns me that he hasn't been picking up French the same way. He clearly nderstands it all but isn't using it aside from a word here and there. I have been doing as others mention - repeating back what he says but in French. I probably do this 70% of the time.
So it's helpful to hear that others have had success with this approach. I was thinking I maybe needed to be a bit more aggressive in expecting him to repeat what he's saying in French. I may end up doing this eventually but we will try this for now. Sometimes I wonder if this will just become a habit and it would just stay this way - ds would just stick to English. I'll be home on maternity leave for a year as of May so I'm hoping the increased exposure to French will help.
I guess there is no clear cut way to do this but good to know I'm not alone in worrying about this

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#13 of 18 Old 01-16-2013, 08:36 PM
 
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When they are super little, it is about word economy. Grammatical errors are common at this age as is mixing the languages. Some words are more fun to say. Others are hard on the tongue. There is also the word smushing. My son says sombrella instead of umbrella. Then there is the cognitive schema of a word.

I still think of a silla and a chair as very different things even though they translate the same. Consider the neuro development, then follow your gut.

I only speak Spanish to my children and it is their first language. But when out in the community my kids only speak English to me. And I continue in Spanish. Their friends know I will say things twice, once in each language. They see me as long winded as I repeat everything.
"apple" "ah, la mazana, si"

Once they are old enough to understand the corrections are valid, they are required to speak to me in Spanish. But not if they are frustrated, angry or trying to express difficult thought.

At this age their are so many battles, I'm not sure this is one of them but please disagree if it is that important. However, consider that the corrections, if pervasive, may look like you aren't listening and cause frustration.

Please post what you decide, as I would find that interesting. Good luck and steady on.

As a non sequitur, I once said one sentence in English (something like...do you want a bagel?) and my son burst out crying because it was...cold or something. Never again ^_^

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#14 of 18 Old 01-21-2013, 01:35 AM
 
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My children are stronger in French but never use it with me. My dh doesn't speak English and I lived and worked in France before meeting him. Our kids only use English with me. 

 

If they are frustrated, mad or whatever, they speak to me in English. 

 

Out in the community, I use English with my kids. It's not rude. It's not awkward. Sometimes we're mistaken for tourists but at the school, with friends, family, etc. they're used to hearing our exchanges in English. We never hold big conversations with others present who don't understand and most of the time, people can tell that our exchanges are super-banal and/or obvious (chasing a toddler on a cold day with a winter coat, who needs a translation??) 

 

Once, my son came up to me at a music show his sister was participating in and protested "I'm BORED!" Everyone around us broke up laughing. The woman next to me who doesn't speak English quipped that no translation was needed that time.

 

Your child will quickly figure out which language she can use with you. If you use the excuse that you're "in public" or let them recount entire sentences to you in the community language, you're on a slippery slope towards the child only understanding the language. If she can get her needs met with only one language, why should she bother? This is the moment to hop on this and to make sure that the way to communicate with you is in French.

 

Understanding, but not speaking, French wont do her much good in the future. She can't participate in family functions. She can't put it on a resume. She wont feel a part of the culture. Speaking is the difficult part, but is far easier as a child who can pick up the accent than attempting this as an adult. Anyone can understand a language. It's speaking which is the "real" skill.

 

Don't make it a battle. There are some norms that she's getting to know, including using the potty and not hitting on the playground. Just make this a standard, not a debate.  

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#15 of 18 Old 01-21-2013, 06:37 PM
 
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I've been giving this a lot of thought lately and it's so interesting how approaches can vary so greatly. It's nice to hear how you all decided to approach the situation with your kids, and good to know how kids deal with how languages are handled in your homes.
Eclipsepearl, your comments about the distinction between understanding and speaking a language rang true for me. I see this so often in our community and its my fear for my children. I had hoped it would just come for our ds, but I think for us, it's time to nudge things along a bit more. Otherwise, I can see we'd be right where we are now as well in two, three years. Baby #2 arrives in May and I started thinking as well that if ds gets in the habit of speaking English to his sibling, that pattern will stick. S I've started talking to him about the fact that its important that he help us teach each to the baby which means he needs to talk French around him/her. So we have been practicing in the last few days, where I prompt him a bit to say what he wants to say in French. He has a lot of vocabulary but its evident he doesn't know how to string the words together. We will go gently with this, but I think for us, this nudge will mean the difference between staying stuck on the English and making French the household language.
For the record, I always speak to ds in French, regardless of who is present or where we are. The English speaking people in our lives are respectful about this and have encouraged me to do it as they see the value in bilingualism.
Also, I will say that growing up, I knew only French until I was five, at which time I learned English. During my elementary school years, if my mother heard my friends and I who all spoke French chatting in English, because it was the cool thing to do, she would push us to speak French and would even go as far as to tell me these friends couldn't come over again if we kept speaking English. Sounds harsh when I think about it, but I appreciate now her persistence to keep French as our first language. Don't think I'll take it that far, but I now appreciate how much you have to actively engage kids to keep a two languages alive when they can function in the predominant language.
Thanks for the conversation!

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#16 of 18 Old 04-15-2013, 01:32 PM
 
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I let grammar slide but words I correct.  When DD1 started talking she started with Finnish (community language).  It was bit hard for me because I wanted to validate her speech but at the same time didnt want her to be speaking Finnish to me. As her speech took off I started to translate/correct her more.  For example she might have said: "saanko maito" so I asked in my mother tongue "do you want milk?" which most of the time led her to ask me again  using the words I had just given her.  This was really draining on me as some times I'd spend couple of hours interacting and speaking with her all the time translating her lines for her to build from and see her slowly start speaking to me spontaneously.  Then the following morning we had lost all the progress and had to start over.  This went on for weeks but it finally paid off. 

 

Now I've been trying to tell her that she needs to help little sister learn minority language as well so thankfully most of their interactions are in that. I'm expecting that that may change though. 


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#17 of 18 Old 04-16-2013, 05:08 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

 

Your child will quickly figure out which language she can use with you. If you use the excuse that you're "in public" or let them recount entire sentences to you in the community language, you're on a slippery slope towards the child only understanding the language. If she can get her needs met with only one language, why should she bother? This is the moment to hop on this and to make sure that the way to communicate with you is in French.

 

Understanding, but not speaking, French wont do her much good in the future. She can't participate in family functions. She can't put it on a resume. She wont feel a part of the culture. Speaking is the difficult part, but is far easier as a child who can pick up the accent than attempting this as an adult. Anyone can understand a language. It's speaking which is the "real" skill.

 

Don't make it a battle. There are some norms that she's getting to know, including using the potty and not hitting on the playground. Just make this a standard, not a debate.  

I agree with this, but I am curious what you would have done in my situation. My DH was the stay-at-home parent, not me, so their minority lang. skills have always been weaker. Even when they were much younger (3-4 years old), when I would insist on them telling me something in my language, they would either clam up and not say it, or turn and say it in English to their father (I do continue speaking my language to them with DH in the conversation unless I am directly addressing him). There was essentially always a way out of saying it in my language. In order to not make it a battle and allow them to have a relationship with me where they could confide in me and tell me longer stories (shorter stuff they will say in my language), I let them speak to me in English, although I stick with my language consistently (at home, in public, etc.) I also grew up in a house where we were not *allowed* to speak English, so maybe that is in play as well. When they go to their cultural school on Saturdays, their teachers report that they do speak the language there, although even the kids who speak perfectly speak English to each other when they are away from the teachers. I have never found a satisfactory solution other than spending time in my country, where they would be forced to speak the language, which is not in the cards right now.


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#18 of 18 Old 05-13-2013, 05:13 AM
 
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They recount stories in English, even when their English isn't as good. I want to hear what they have to say. I'm not out to correct every word. In fact, one of my problems is that the older ones will jump in with corrections every five seconds when the youngest is trying to tell a story. Or worse, they giggle when she says "eated" instead of "ate". If she doesn't know the word in English, she can describe it or use the French but if she speaks French, she says "What is X in English?" or can insert it if it's a title, label, etc. "Mommy, do we have any more XYZ (French product)?" but she doesn't ever recount the whole story in French. 

 

Once my son said to me "Oh look, there's Paul Verlaine. We learned about him. He's an ecrivain de poesie". Honey, pick a language! I do hear that. 

 

If you let your child actually recount entire stories in English, that will really slow down his learning French because it's expressing himself that is more of a skill than just simple exchanges. That's when you can really zero in on communication. Vocabulary, grammar, etc. comes out when they are really relating something, less so when they ask to pass the salt. Otherwise, they will just be able to say small things in French. It's having the child be really able to express himself in conversation is when the child becomes truly bilingual. And the older the child gets, the more complicated it becomes! 

 

It's really unlikely that a child who can't recount a simple story to their parent in preschool or elementary can magically do it later on as a young adult. They need to start young. They need to always do it. If I had let my children blabber on to me in French, I doubt they'd be as bilingual as they are today. They still make mistakes and say funny things. My 13 year old says some really creative things now but it's specialized vocabulary, like some weapon used in WWII or something from Greek mythology (words he doesn't run into in normal conversation) but the process has never stopped, and probably won't. He's still trying! He's still talking and expressing himself. He's still making mistakes and mispronouncing words... Growing up bilingually is an on-going project for them. 

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