Teaching a RARE MINORITY LANGUAGE with very limited exposure and resources - Page 2 - Mothering Forums
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Multicultural Families > Teaching a RARE MINORITY LANGUAGE with very limited exposure and resources
Ragana's Avatar Ragana 11:32 AM 09-13-2012

I think in retrospect I should have been a bit more relaxed about language acquisition, but I am a translator, so really expected myself to be able to teach my kids to be perfectly fluent in both languages. Translators view fluency very differently than the average person - professional hazard. Due to the circumstances described above, that wasn't a realistic goal, and I needed to adjust my thinking and put less pressure on my kids and myself. There is also a trend in our community toward judging people based on our kids' language competence, which is wrong, but there you have it. Being active in the community made me feel that pressure as well, although I have tried to work on having more events and activities that all language levels can participate in.

 

I agree that we should be happy about those perks of bilingualism whatever level our kids end up achieving! smile.gif



tiqa's Avatar tiqa 11:35 AM 09-13-2012

ITA with the point that different children just respond differently.  My son is not very verbally advanced at all.  I mean, he's not behind, he has a large vocabulary, but he is much more of a physical guy.  He was way late on his language milestones (even needed speech therapy) but way, way early on physical things.  Even now - even though he talks nonstop all day long, he is much more of a physical thinker than verbal or even artistic.  He can take things apart and put them together, he can figure out complicated gears, etc.  He did not and does not pick up at all on Hungarian.  Maybe a few words here and there, but he just gets frustrated when asked to even repeat simple words or try to listen.  He could if he wanted to I think, he has a steel trap of a memory (he's 5 now and can easily remember back to when he was 2) but he just doesn't use it for words.

 

My daughter on the other hand is average on physical milestones, very much ahead on drawing and puzzles, way behind on letter recognition (she's almost 5 and can't even come close to writing letters or even her name)... but she is much better with picking up language acquisition, can mimic the words flawlessly, has a pretty good vocabulary for not being used to it all the time... And she hears the nuances of the letters, picks up when others aren't using it right.  My son on the other hand doesn't even hear half the more unusual sounds, can't distinguish them, can't pronounce them.

 

Same family, almost same age (10 months apart), same environment... totally different kids.


transylvania_mom's Avatar transylvania_mom 11:54 AM 09-13-2012
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

 

So I agree that 'giving the child no other option' (eg by refusing to respond to majority-language requests) is more likely to produce expressive capacity than not doing so


That's the whole point, and I think it answers OP's question. This is the extent of "control" we can have over our children's language, and it can go a long way imo. And in my experience, as long as you you can keep the language until you go past the toddler and preschool years, you can explain the importance of the minority language to your dk and they may choose to use it on their own. Now my ds wants to learn to read and write in Romanian and refuses to answer me in English (even when I talk to him in English when he has friends over).

 

We are all born with the capacity of learning language; the proof is that we all learn at least one. Agree, some people are more proficient with words, even in our mother tongue. But language is just a tool for communication, if we don't have to use it, we will forget it. My father had to learn German at 50, when he went to work in another country. I've seen so many examples of families who maintain their minority language, and some who don't. The key is, does the child need to speak it, or he doesn't.


Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl 12:03 PM 09-13-2012

My three kids learned at totally different paces. My oldest didn't talk till 2 1/2 then mixed endlessly. My two girls never tried to speak to me in French. One was very advanced and one, more like her brother but not as behind. She made all sorts of pronunciation errors in both languages. 

 

But none of these held them back from speaking both languages. They just learned them at different paces. 

 

I don't switch to French ever. The kids at school are very cool about it. They were blase about it until they found out they'd actually have to take it as a language in middle school. Then we had an audience lol! But that was a separate issue. We never hold conversations in front of non-English speakers or I "cue in" ("he hates it when..." kind of comments, less patronizing than translating). It's like X's Mommy speaks Y to her kids, and she also has blond hair. It just is and they're fine with it.

 

Now they notice that the middle one is more advanced. Yes, she is. You sing better. You build stuff better. Everyone is not equal. Get over it and move on. But I would never compromise their language skills based on their abilities and hope no one reading does. Even a slower learner needs to keep up at family events, interact in the same way with the same parent, etc. So what if there are more mistakes? A slight accent? I wouldn't speak less English to any of them, just because they weren't picking it up fast enough. I know two children who are bi (one's tri) lingual here with Downs. Didn't keep them from learning! Sure, I bet they have less vocabulary and make more mistakes but they speak both (all three) languages fluently.


Erin77's Avatar Erin77 12:04 AM 09-21-2012

I wanted to post a link to a US site called Mantra Lingua that has books and materials in some really rare minority languages: https://www.mantralingua.com/usa/home.php

I have a few of their books in Russian and they're quite good quality. 


Tynka's Avatar Tynka 07:54 PM 01-22-2013
Thank you everyone for your answers, and I am sorry for dissapearing like that! I completely forgot about my post here. I am trying and trying hard every day and each day is a struggle for me. I have no doubt that he could learn if i was strictly using Lithuanian only and requested being talked to in Lithuanian only as well. But the problem is.. Me! It is hard for me to not speak English. I do use Lithuanian every day talking to my friends online, in forums, i read books... But it's just hard, i simply fell into a bad habit and now i feel like i am on a strict diet and keep cheating.
One more thing- what is the best way to handle situation when i tell him something and i see that he just doesn't know what that means.. He even asks- what does that mean? Do i have to resist telling him what 's the English word for it ? If so, how do i help him understand what i'm saying? It's not always something that i can show or explain in other words.. I feel like i am teaching a student a second language at beginners level without being able to use his first language for that teaching. I have been doing a lot of translating for him lately. I introduce a new word by telling him an English one for it if i see that just doesn't get it. I probably shouldn't be doing that.. Also, when he says something in English, i would say in Lithuanian "yes, that's a X" .. Or " we call it X in Lithuanian"
Tynka's Avatar Tynka 11:03 PM 01-22-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Erin77 View Post

I wanted to post a link to a US site called Mantra Lingua that has books and materials in some really rare minority languages: https://www.mantralingua.com/usa/home.php
I have a few of their books in Russian and they're quite good quality. 

Whoa, thanks! They do have some Lithuanian books! I wonder about the quality of translations and who actually translated them. I am surprised i haven't heard of this before! Really cool.. I would really like to try the books with TalkingPEN.
They should sell this stuff in Lithuania too, not just at this American website.. They would make a really good business because emigrants are desperate for materials like this and they do shop at Lithuanian bookstores either when visiting or online. Could also be used for learning English smile.gif
Ragana's Avatar Ragana 10:32 AM 01-23-2013

Tynka - I have also noticed that the quality of the translations in Latvian kids' books is sometimes pretty bad.
 


Ragana's Avatar Ragana 10:33 AM 01-23-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tynka View Post

I introduce a new word by telling him an English one for it if i see that just doesn't get it. I probably shouldn't be doing that.. Also, when he says something in English, i would say in Lithuanian "yes, that's a X" .. Or " we call it X in Lithuanian"

That's what I do a lot.


Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl 12:54 AM 02-13-2013
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tynka View Post

Thank you everyone for your answers, and I am sorry for dissapearing like that! I completely forgot about my post here. I am trying and trying hard every day and each day is a struggle for me. I have no doubt that he could learn if i was strictly using Lithuanian only and requested being talked to in Lithuanian only as well. But the problem is.. Me! It is hard for me to not speak English. I do use Lithuanian every day talking to my friends online, in forums, i read books... But it's just hard, i simply fell into a bad habit and now i feel like i am on a strict diet and keep cheating.
One more thing- what is the best way to handle situation when i tell him something and i see that he just doesn't know what that means.. He even asks- what does that mean? Do i have to resist telling him what 's the English word for it ? If so, how do i help him understand what i'm saying? It's not always something that i can show or explain in other words.. I feel like i am teaching a student a second language at beginners level without being able to use his first language for that teaching. I have been doing a lot of translating for him lately. I introduce a new word by telling him an English one for it if i see that just doesn't get it. I probably shouldn't be doing that.. Also, when he says something in English, i would say in Lithuanian "yes, that's a X" .. Or " we call it X in Lithuanian"

 

You need to put yourself on a three-week Lithuanian "diet". This is simply habit. I know. My dh can't speak English and I live in a part of France where English is rarely heard. I was living and working in France before and I had to really think about it. But once the habit is set, there's no looking back. 

 

Give yourself the goal of three weeks so that you're not beating yourself up or feel pressurized. 

 

Vocabulary building is your long-term challenge. It doesn't stop. Not a day goes by when at least one child does't know a word. They usually ask for it in English. My YDD once said "I need a pen, not blue but the darker color". There was a fish net next to the fish bowl and she asked what it was yesterday. The only difference over the years is that the vocabulary becomes more remote and specialized. 

 

Try to insert vocabulary "lessons" in your normal lives. Instead of just handing him a drink, say "Orange juice" in Lithuanian to him as you pass it to him. I didn't do this with my son and didn't make the same mistake with my two dd's. Just keep "feeding" him vocabulary. Grammar is a different story. I just got a paper marked "List Birthday" on it. She isn't aware that it's wrong but when she doesn't have a word she needs, she IS aware of it. Lacking vocabulary equals lacking confidence. A child who is missing words can't express themselves. 

 

Instead of asking him what he's doing, ask him "Are you playing with your...?" Point out objects as you drive around or when you're just hanging out. He'll remember "dog" when he hears the dog bark, for example. 

 

It will also help you crack the English habit. 


hope81's Avatar hope81 01:57 AM 02-13-2013
Hey, we are raising a trilingual baby. Greek, Norwegian and English. We talk English to each other, I talk to her Greek but mostly English and she will learn norwegian at school.
We got the approach of talking to her whatever feels right.
I mostly talk English though is not my maternal language but I do say phrases in Greek language to her, also use Skype with my parents, Greek cartoons, the fisher price puppy like you do.
I took the advice from a friend that specializes in multilingual kids.
The approach a parent speaks exclusively one language works best if you have great everyday exposure to this language. As we don't have that we use all three languages at home and eventually everything will click in place when she is older and we go for vacations in Greece etc etc.
I think you should relax and explain when your Little one asks what that means in whatever way you can. After all they have to make the connection that dog is dog in whatever language and he will eventually speak them both when he chooses too, line when you go back home for a trip and he speaks to other kids in Lithuanian.
Good luck it's hard work but it will all worth it the trouble.
Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl 10:18 AM 02-17-2013

How old is your baby? 

 

It's great that you communicate in "whatever feels right" but you might find that means that Greek is not getting a lot of exposure. 

 

It can be hard to be the only one speaking the language with a child. I'm my children's only consistent source of English. I spoke French and lived in France before meeting my French hubby. Sometimes I have to force myself to speak English, especially in the beginning. It's not just what I feel like speaking. I had to set in place the habit. 

 

The approach a parent speaks exclusively one language works best if you have great everyday exposure to this language

 

That's true but not an absolute. Not all of us can get "everyday" exposure. Remember that many children, including mine in German, are fluent even if they don't use it everyday. My kids only had German twice a week in elementary school, but it was full immersion, all day. It still worked, albeit slower. 

 

Every word of English you use with your child is one less word of Greek she's getting. 

 


Fluga's Avatar Fluga 02:25 PM 04-15-2013

I have an almost 5 year old and an almost 2 year old.  I'm their only exposure to Icelandi language (spoken by ~300.000) as we live in Finland.  In a way it is easy for me, Finnish is hard to speak so trying to speak that to them would feel unnatural. I managed to get the older one to speak to me only in Icelandic, she struggles but manages fairly well. It took a lot of work when she was younger.  

 

Like I said I only ever speak to them in Icelandic and wont speak in other languages to them to be polite to those around me.  Politeness is nice but I am their only exposure to an entire language so me muddling with other languages weakens the minority language's position, or so I feel. 


Tynka's Avatar Tynka 09:59 PM 05-14-2013
Oh man... Time goes and i keep failing. Doing pretty good some days and awful the others.. I really do need to put myself on a Lithuanian diet. But now the thought of "and why exactly does he need this" keeps sneaking to my head. If we live here, there is nobody else who speaks the language here, we can't go visit relatives in LT often due insane costs.. PLUS, it's hard even for me. Sometimes i cant think of how to say this or that in Lithuanian. i got used to English too much. And What happens when he starts school and i have to help him with homework? His favorite books are in English , his favorite cartoons are in English.. Everything he does is in English. I just getting depressed really bad over this. I seriously envy those whose "other" languages are popular languages, like spanish, french, etc.. With plenty of materials, big (or even small) communities.. I get jealous hearing/reading how somebody sends babes to a french daycare, a spanish playgroup or german school. I even get jealous hearing about Lithuanian communities having saturday schools and all kind of events in, say, new york, chicago or seattle. But here, i am stuck in this deep hole with no help. Not fair..
Ragana's Avatar Ragana 08:24 AM 05-15-2013

Tynka - No advice, just sympathy. Do the best you can. I know several Latvians who have learned the language as teens/adults because they developed an interest. I completely understand how intimately linked our languages are with our culture and identity. It's hard, no doubt about it. Just keep plugging away. You'll be surprised what gets into their little heads! And someday, when your son wants/needs it, it will come back out. Don't lose hope!
 


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