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#1 of 66 Old 05-02-2013, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I've posted previously on raising my daughter as a bilingual, and I am coming across a relatively new issue and was wondering if any of you have experienced it and/or if you have any advice.

 

DD is almost 4.  We live in the U.S., dad is American (minimal Arabic) and I'm a native speaker. I speak to DD in Arabic exclusively (regardless of who is around or what the situation is). Result= DD is fluent in Arabic (at 6 year old level really in terms of vocabulary and maybe even sentence structure). DD knows I speak English. I speak it with her dad and others. I am a college professor of English. She's visited my classes and seen me teach. Once, when she and her dad dropped me off at work, she said  "Mama is at the college now. She's going to speak English." 

 

A few months ago I guess it must have dawned on her that I speak English to her dad and not to her. I think this upset her. So she asked me to say something in English to her. When I refused and explained that we speak Arabic with each other, that this is our language, our special bond, a reflection of our heritage and identity etc., she was still very adamant and said "Just Say "I love you." She knew what sentence to pick I guess. I said it and we moved on. Several weeks later, she asked me to say "hello" to her in English. Again, I refused, and she almost threw a fit. Months went by without issue, and then again a few days ago she said "right?" to me and wanted me to say "right!" back to her.  This time, I redirected and distracted her with something else, and the situation was averted. Sometimes, although I speak to her dad in English often, she will tell me to stop speaking to him in English and speak in Arabic. I think what's bothering her is that I am differentiating between her and her dad. It doesn't bother her that I speak English with others (friends, colleagues etc.) in her presence.  Obviously, she does not yet understand that my speaking Arabic with her exclusively is a privilege and not a punishment; to her mind, dad gets two languages and she gets only one! 

 

DD is a questioner and will likely less and less accept the fact that this is a given, a rule, just the way it is. She will continue to resist and question, and I will continue to explain it as best as I know how until she can understand it more fully on an intellectual/abstract level. In the meantime, do you have any strategies for dealing with those intense moments where she wants me to speak to her in English? My husband, who is super supportive, thinks that if I make a big deal of out of this, it will get worse. If I just say the word she wants me to say, she'll move on. But I'm a "purist" in this regard and think that the only way of sustaining her Arabic is complete and unadulterated monolingualism with each other.  I can't help but think that it's a slippery slope. If I start giving in, that it will be the beginning of the end.

 

Thanks for any help!

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#2 of 66 Old 05-02-2013, 12:42 PM
 
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From her perspective it could be that you love him more than her. Is the language more important than your relationship with your daughter? She could be going through a phase where she feels her English needs some work. If it was math, would you refuse to help her?

The only one who knows why this is so important to her is your daughter. Talk with her. Listen, really listen, to what she says. You may understand her motivations. But maybe not. At that age, she may not be able to express her feelings. Even if she knows the words, they may not come to her. Be patient. Love her. Love her enough to respect her choices, as long as they don't hurt herself or anyone else. That's my advice. Remember, she may decide to avoid English for a while, if it's not the forbidden fruit.
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#3 of 66 Old 05-02-2013, 12:47 PM
 
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I would tend to indulge her desire for you to say something in English once in a while.  Why make a power struggle out of it?

 

I would not move beyond "once in a while" as you really do have the right to speak to her in any language you choose.  I think she has the same right - to speak back to you in any language she chooses.

 

I lived in Montreal until I was about 24.  There are so many bilingual familes there - including my husbands family of origin.  Many of them move seemlessly in and out of French and English. It is pretty cool to watch, actually.

 

Have you thought of schooling, yet?  Is she going to go to an English or Arabic school?


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#4 of 66 Old 05-03-2013, 04:14 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pek64 View Post

From her perspective it could be that you love him more than her. Is the language more important than your relationship with your daughter?

That's a silly question. As far as I understand, OP holds onto the language because of her daughter, not for the sake of the language.


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#5 of 66 Old 05-04-2013, 05:37 AM
 
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i don't find it a silly question AT ALL, on the other hand i find your statement ... a bit jugemental  ...

 

i have one child who's been more or less refusing to speak two languages at the same time (became monolingual in his second language for 3 years when we lived in the "right" environment for it, forgetting totally his mother tongue in the process and having to re-learn his mother tongue 'from scratch" when we switched countries again).

 

i now see that .... it's all very well for a parent to want/wish/hope for a child to be or become bilingual .... it's excellent to provide such an environment that will facilitate the process etc ... BUT by leaving no choice to the child, i now think .... that this is over-stepping the boundary a bit ....

analogy = you don't force feed you kids with a funnel, do you ? you offer food on a plate or in a bowl or on a tray & the child decides what goes in his mouth & at which rate & how much of it ....

well, same for languages ....

as long as communication is possible between parents and child, in whatever language is possible .... then, fine ....

 

i must say that the first time i started having these line of thaughts was ... many years before we had children when my MIL sort of "ordered" me about concerning which language i "should" talk to her son so that said son could learn better ..... i found it SO rude from my mother in law to presume it was her business to decide FOR ME which language i "should" speak ....

 

i have been sort of grieving to what has NOT happened -DS is NOT in the international program in middle school & only DD1 is bilingual -

and yet, i cannot do to my son what my MIL tried doing to me ....

now, everybody's situation is different .... the goal is to find a way of doing things that is comfortable for all the family members ...

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#6 of 66 Old 05-04-2013, 06:37 AM
 
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Another point is that some people are more lingual than others. My father's parents never learned English after moving to the US. Actually, his mother learned a smattering. The children had to speak two languages, one in the home, English outside the home. Now there were eleven children. Only one was totally fluent in both languages. The others favored one language over the other, generally English, since that's what they needed at school. There were, naturally, degrees of fluency. But only one could translate for my mother and converse with the family, at the same time.

I am saying this mostly for IsaFrench. It could be that your son is simply not as language oriented as his sister. It is a shame, but what can be done. We are who we are. Thanks for understanding my point!
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#7 of 66 Old 05-05-2013, 04:50 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the feedback! Please keep the advice coming. I am particularly interested in any Mamas out there who might have encountered a similar issue and how they handled it.

 

To clarify a few points:

 

DD gets to practice her English a lot. We do live in the southern U.S. after all where English is the majority/community language. She speaks it with her father and with others. She is as fluent in English as she is in Arabic.

 

DD does not currently go to school; she stays home with DH who is SAHD. When she does go, there is no option for Arabic schooling or for significant Arabic exposure where I am, hence my insistence on the monolingual approach with her which is working like a charm. DD speaks to me only in Arabic; even the 3 examples of her asking me to say something to her in English were asked in Arabic. So she would say in Arabic: "say 'I love you' to me in English." In that instance, as I said in my original post, I did indeed say it.

 

Which brings me to my last point: I do love my daughter very much. As transylvania_mom said, I do this for my daughter.  To me, a Palestinian (Arab) woman, language is ethnicity, it's identity, it's a consciousness, a way of existence -- it's a mode of being in the world that I want to impart to my daughter as much as I want other fundamental things for her: to feel empowered as a woman and empathic as a global citizen. For me, language is not simply a tool for communication: it is who we are; it shapes our very core.

 

I have done my research and have been around many Arabs who began (and it all begins with "every once in a while") speaking with their children in the community language (English) to know that once you start doing that, the child begins, as is normal, to speak the community language with you because it's easier and less socially awkward to do so.  Many Arab children, now adults or teenagers, mourn deeply the loss of their language and wish they can go back to heed their parents' insistence. Arabic, in the U.S. or anywhere, is not a prestige language; it's not "cool" to speak it, so I need to be extra vigilant in my approach.

 

Anyway, I just wanted to make sure that it was understood that there is much more at stake than merely speaking another language and that all of this has been done with extreme care and attention to my daughter who is very much loved and feels very secure in that love.
 

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#8 of 66 Old 05-05-2013, 05:22 AM
 
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Nevermind.
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#9 of 66 Old 05-05-2013, 12:12 PM
 
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That's interesting. My oldest tried this when he was younger and couldn't speak my language (English) very well. But now, none can imagine speaking to me in anything else. I would take it lightly, even question it. "Why are you using English with me?" and see what she says. She might get tired of talking about why you want to know why she wants to speak English, give up and just speak Arabic lol! About this comment; "Love her enough to respect her choices, as long as they don't hurt herself or anyone else." It's not about "love" but about guiding our children down the path we want them to take. Just like religious parents who take their child to church/synagogue/mosque, etc. or musical parents to insist on lessons, even not letting our children eat at the table as they want! We want our children to speak our language. We love our children enough to encourage them to keep the link with our culture and heritage. I have older kids who jump into the arms of my parents and babble away as if they never stepped foot outside the U.S. I don't have to translate or push them to use English. They have real relationships, albeit the distance, that they couldn't if I had "let" them use French with me. My husband doesn't speak English and we live in a part of France where it's seldom heard. Caving into what is probably a temporary childhood stubborness is not proof of our "love". While speaking the community language may not be "forbidden fruit", it can become a slippery slope. Every word in the community language is one less word they're learning in their heritage language! I love my children enough that I want to share my family, my culture and communicate now, with older kids, on a much deeper level than I ever could in French.
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#10 of 66 Old 05-05-2013, 05:48 PM
 
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I do not wish to be argumentative, but I see this from the perspective of someone whose father grew up in a family where English was not spoken in the home. My father learned English when he was three or four, and was interacting with people outside of his home. He was one of eleven children. Of those eleven, all of whom had to speak the parents' native tongue at home, only one was really bilingual. So, there is no guarantee that this child will be bilingual, no matter what is done. Some people have a natural ability with language, just as others have a natural ability for music. I would argue the same point with a musician insisting upon music lessons for a reluctant child. It just doesn't make sense to me. The child will remember these battles. It may or may not impact the relationship with your daughter as a teen or adult. Obviously you will make your choices based on what you believe to be important. I will stay out of this after this post, but I ask you this : if your daughter ends up terminating her relationship with you as an adult, will Arabic still be important?
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#11 of 66 Old 05-05-2013, 06:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by pek64 View Post
 if your daughter ends up terminating her relationship with you as an adult, will Arabic still be important?

 

It's a good thing you weren't trying to be argumentative; I wonder what else you might have said had you been trying. Something even more hurtful perhaps?

 

Honestly, I don't know how to answer your question seeing how I have no idea how you got from what I was describing in my original post to my daughter terminating her relationship with me. Clearly, you are a much better/loving parent than I am; perhaps we should leave it at that.

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#12 of 66 Old 05-06-2013, 12:29 AM
 
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Diyabolo, am sorry to see that you feel that pek64 is argumentative ....since i have more or less the same line of thinking

the key sentence in her post seems to me :

"there's no guarantee that child will be bilingual,no matter was is done."

please, just use our shared experience as a gentle warning = since it doesn't work with every child in a set of sibling, it's common sense that it "could" happen with your child.

 

I am  not saying you should not be trying your best, clearly Eclipsepearl has been succeeding with her children ....just remember that it's not because you do A and B that C will automatically happen, if you see what i mean.

 

I didn't want my son to forget his/my mother tongue whilst we were in the US, yet i was able to recognise that the way his brain is wired ... he did the best he could ... i tried hard enough, even asking him when i was quite frustrated why he wouldn't speak our mother tongue with me any more ... he genuinely said and seemed to be struggling with the mental process involved with using both languages concurrently (and then 3 years later, i spent 18 months trying to re-instate english after he had spent about 2 years re-learning his mother tongue "from scratch").

 

In some instances, it IS a question of relationship ... i go to a parenting discussion group chaired by a psychologist, have had the opportunity to discuss the very issue when my son was eventualy (a month after school started) offered a spot on the bilingual program but was wishing to NOT take up the offer in favor of the section he had started the previous month, which he prefered ...... so the question really was 

- do i favor my wish that my son becomes bi-lingual by forcing him to accept the place ?

- or do i respect his wish to get to choose which language he speaks when & with whom ? (am not the native speaker of english in our family, so, now that he's no longer mono-lingual english, he's not speaking english with me ... "ideally" i would like him to be bilingual, it becomes embarassing when we visit the UK and with various relatives who have other problems to start with, so it adds one layer to the difficulties of the situation ...)

 

as for a child terminating a relationship with a parent when becoming adult .... it does happen to "nice "parents who parented well/were loving etc .... you don't know how succeptible to drugs or bad choices or bad influence from other people your child will be when an adult ... it didn't seem to me to be a factual question trying to pin down your present parenting practice ... rather a rethorical question, something to think of "in the grander scheme of things happening over a lifetime" ....

 

Have you read Agassi biography ? Do you see the analogy with parents who insist and want their kids to be world champions in such or such sport ?

Of course you want to try & you feel isolated in your efforts, so it's hard & you probably feel that if you let it slip a little, then all of the situation is going to escape your control ..... just try keeping in mind that in some instances (luckily it won't be the case for you and your daughter ....) it CAN become a struggle where the relationship CAN be damaged in the process ....

wishing you the best in your efforts ...

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#13 of 66 Old 05-06-2013, 02:49 AM
 
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Our situation is a bit different, so I don't have any direct advice for the OP... but I did want to offer a few words of encouragement.

 

I'm not going to argue that every child is a natural bilingual, or that forcing bilingualism is never harmful for the child. Obviously, there are a lot of different families with different experiences out there... But from what you've written here, your DD *does* seem to have a natural talent for languages. The fact that she speaks pure, fluent Arabic with you at almost 4, even though you live in an English speaking country and your husband is an English speaking SAHD, is pretty amazing... I think this speaks a lot for your DD's talent for languages, as well as your approach.

 

I also understand a lot of your reasons for wanting your daughter to speak Arabic. As I said, our situation is a little different. In many ways, it is easier... I'm Australian and my husband is Swedish. We live in Sweden with our four year old son. We use the "minority language at home" approach, including my husband (all of us switch to Swedish in the presence of Swedish speakers - hence we haven't come up against the same issue you've had  with your DD). There are a few other differences too - English is a prestige language here, we have a lot of English speaking friends, I have been home with DS a lot and we even have English language schooling available. Our son is currently a very balanced bilingual - equally happy in either Swedish or English. So far, we have not felt the need to be particularly strict re. which language is spoken - actually, our son is the strictest one ("Mamma, we're alone now, we have to speak English!")  but I understand that your case is different... and that being consistent has been a very important part of your approach.

 

IMO my son and I have a stronger relationship because we communicate in English (of course, it could also be argued the other way - that my son is so willing to speak English because of our close relationship). Speaking English with my son really allows me to express myself at a much deeper level with him - and I appreciate that immensely. It also allows him to have relationships with my family members which would be so much harder without a common language. Of course, language isn't everything and, yes, ultimately the relationship is the most important... but I see huge benefits of my son's bilingualism and am willing to go to a lot of effort to support his continued use of English.

 

I really hope you and your daughter can find a way to work through this issue together. Wishing you the best!

 

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#14 of 66 Old 05-08-2013, 02:29 PM
 
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I feel your anxiety OP. That "slipping away" is really scary and yes as a purist I totally get you.

 

I can't offer advice, just my own thoughts. My son is 3 years old, growing up with 4 languages, is a quiet slow speaker by nature and can only speak my native language at his age in short sentences. I speak to him ONLY in my native, like you, even during playdates which we have many of, in front of his English speaking friend and mom. I am very happy that he can speak, however little, my language. I feel very sad that "native" language is considered "not cool" by OUR own people. Americans are in fact more supportive than our own ethnic community who want to "blend in". 

 

Your daughter is very smart. You have done a commendable job!

 

I grew up in India, where each state (26) have different language. My Dad was in army, we moved every year, and every time I was surrounded by a new language. So that's my personal history. I am married to a man whose language I don't understand and he doesn't mine. Not due to lack of effort! We are just not good at learning new language systems. So, with my own personal experience of growing up with friends speaking different language ( my parents spoke our native language at home , never anything else, and my sister and I are trilingual as a result of their effort). But having both parents speak the SAME language is different than each speaking separately. I felt "at home" because at home there was only one language. Outside languages were easily distinguishable. So, with my son, I started with the grand wish that I will speak to him forever in my native but I can see how it's leading to fragmentation in MY family. I speak with my son in a language, dad in another, dad and mom in third, rest of world in fourth. He hasn't yet reached a point of your daughter. If he does, I will ( sadly, very sadly) not stick to my puritian stand. I will speak in BOTH English and native. I no longer think its important for my son to learn my native completely. His basic knowledge is enough. He has too many hats I expect him to wear.

 

So, your daughter is really doing great! I wish you luck and the strength to raise children while living in a foreign country. Whatever you do, if it's causing you "stress" do give it a second thought.


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#15 of 66 Old 05-10-2013, 01:07 AM
 
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Unlike many of the previous posters, I'm not going to comment on the existential angst of losing a language or connection with a child... I'm thinking, maybe try a compromise? Tell her that you'll say it in English but she has to say it back in Arabic? I have a 2.5 year old and we speak Russian to each other, and English to dad and everyone else, pretty much. He knows I speak and understand English,  I can't get away from that, ha! As long as he maintains his Russian, there will be times we speak English for sure. I would love to be a purist, but it's more important that he feel that we find common ground, at least to me. Think about your long term goal: you want her to speak and understand Arabic, and feel that it's an important part of her life, right? So do what you have to and make sure that's upheld in the long run. I think there's room for a few minutes of English. 

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#16 of 66 Old 05-10-2013, 12:45 PM
 
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Our son is bilingual too :). I think it's great. I'm Spanish and my husband is from the U.S. We are trying to keep both languages going and I think that eventually kids will keep speaking both smile.gif
 

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#17 of 66 Old 05-11-2013, 10:26 PM
 
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I would suggest to OP to be slightly less "a purist".  If she says "Say [desired word or phrase] in  English" - maybe just say it in English, then say it again in Arabic and add something like " English is OK, but I really enjoy speaking to you in my mother-tongue!".  (or our mother tongue). Have you asked her "Why do you want me to say it?".

 

Also, be patient and remember this is for the long haul. Also, life is long. Kids can really enjoy knowing which of their parents' buttons to push. If she knows this is a way to get you up-tight,  do what you can to short-circuit it.

 

It also sounds like you could do w/ some reinforcement. I have a friend who has successfully raised her kids to be very bilingual in their mother tongue and father tongue, plus almost as fluent in English (school language). She was having some issues and feeling a bit forlorn when the eldest was about 3 (he's now 16).  Visits to her home country  REALLY helped. If you can visit your home country, or a place where your type of Arabic is widely spoken, say once every year or so for a sustained period (at least 2 weeks) - that will really help a lot. When your daughter is older - summer camp or visits in that language area will also help. My friend's mother tongue is German and once the two older ones were in their teens, she sent them to summer camp in a German language area, where they could work on their redaing and writing, but also do hiking, swimming, and other activities. If there are no camps or things like that, visits and stays w/ your side of the family during the summer vacations could really do a lot.

 

Good luck.

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#18 of 66 Old 05-13-2013, 05:00 AM
 
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For the record, I've never forced my children to speak English. I did have to prod my son to speak it when he was a toddler. He tried answering me in French. I'd do things like pay less attention to him (or "not hear" him if I were in a different room). I would ask him why he was speaking French or simply to repeat it. Not even in English but if he said something in English, it was only once. All French had to be repeated. 

 

This wasn't a game or forcing him. I don't think it's a sin to show a child what you would like him or her to do. I don't understand just throwing your hands up and giving up on a toddler because of a game or when he or she is trying something out on you. I don't like games and won't put up with it and this getting you to say something in Arabic smacks of a game. 

 

It's okay to set standards for a child. I resent anyone attacking me as to "forcing" anything. If that's true, accuse me of "forcing" my kids to use a fork or keep their clothes on because I don't see language as any different, as far as parenting issues go. Potty training is basically "forcing" them to use a toilet, if you define it that way.

 

Toddlers are curious creatures. They'll try stuff, ask things and explore. Sometimes, you do have to reign them in and sometimes, it's not really fun. Caving into every toddler whim to me, is not the definition of being a "loving" parent. 

 

In the big scheme of things, language has been one of the lesser issues I've run into as a parent. My kids speak to me in English but still forget to flush the toilet. Let's not even talk about homework... 

 

Language for us, is a habit. It's how we communicate and it would be weird to speak anything else together. Once you set the pattern, the habit, there's no looking back. As a toddler, my son was late speaking (2 1/2) and the French came easier. I did have to prod him but it wasn't for very long or very much. After that, his sisters just followed his lead and they never tried using French with me. It's help solidify our relationship. When they get older, it's so nice to explain the really sticky stuff to them in my native language; birds and bees, how a car engine works, the Holocaust, etc.

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#19 of 66 Old 05-13-2013, 08:07 AM
 
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thanks for mentionning the toilet, i now feel less alone ....

(our own issue is switching off the light and closing the door afterwards with our now 6 years old

.... sometimes we have a non flushed toilet too .... but am not sure who it is ....

& one of my children stays in there for AGES & we no longer live in a house with 3 toilets like we did in the US ..... so i get to use my double joke "on n'est pas en Amérique, ici ....." but it can be a strain ....)

 

yes,i think it's a good idea for you to replace this language issue in "the big scheme of things"

when it's your mother tongue that is at stake & you are not in your environment of origin, the odds might seem to add against you

& it's easy to have moments of near panic & or to focus on some very specific points, forgetting the whole picture ...

 

am glad this sub forum exist because in real life, the parents i get to talk with regarding multi-culturalism, more or less all seem to have slightly different conditions regarding languages, so we CAN exchange views about it .... but not always as deeply or on all aspects that interest me .....

when i get to MDC, my default page is the multicultural families sub forum, it's so comforting to read about other parents "on the same boat" even if i don't post or the situation is very different from mine ....

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#20 of 66 Old 05-17-2013, 01:42 PM
 
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I have some reassuring things to say.

 

I remember when my dd was 4.  At that time, everything that I read was adamant that rigidly sticking to OPOL (One person one language) is the only way to raise your child to become bilingual, and that even the slightest deviation would doom my child to speaking only English for the rest of her life. When my child was that little, it seemed like there were so many decisions that were so important that in retrospect aren't.  At such a young age, I thought that if I didn't get this bilingual stuff exactly correct right at four years of age, then my daughter's destiny for the rest of her life would be irrevocably damaged. 

 

Now my situation was a little bit challenging than yours.  I speak very limited Mandarin Chinese, and my husband none at all.  Our primary language is English.  When my daughter was 4 years old, I asked my mother (who lived next door) to only speak Chinese to my daughter.  For reasons that are more complicated than you want to know, my mother and I ended up in such a conflict that she ended up refusing for several years.

 

So for three years, all my daughter had was me with my limited grasp of the Chinese language, speaking to her with Chinese sentences whenever I could manage it, and English when I couldn't.  My thought was that if I could at least make sure that she could develop the ear of the tone inflections of Chinese speech, then my daughter would be able to pick things up quickly when she was just a little bit older.

 

And indeed, she has.  She is now 9 years old, but starting at 7 years old, she finally became interested in speaking Chinese. And she is very good, better in many respects than many children who speak Chinese at home.

 

So I have some thoughts in retrospect.

 

1.  Relax.  If you do anything wrong (if there is indeed a wrong way to do it), will be easy to fix because children will learn fast.

 

2.  Do as much in Arabic as you can, but bend just a TINY little bit so that it does not become a power struggle.  In the case of your child, I think I would make it a game. Perhaps say that I will be willing to say up to 3 (you pick the number) sentences in English in one day, but your child gets to pick which sentences. Perhaps it is just a phase that your child will lose interest after a few days.  But I wouldn't allow it to go down the slippery slope.  If my child were insisting on more and more English, I think I would try something else.  Maybe say the response in Arabic, and followed by saying it in English.  Or something different, and after a couple days seeing if it will steer back to just Arabic.

 

3.  I have a friend that is my age, and we are both second generation Chinese.  She is very good with speaking Chinese, and I am better with writing.  She attributes this due to the fact that her family lived in China during the summer when she was 9 years old.  That's just one summer, and yet it cemented things for her.  My daughter has friends in her Chinese school class that speak Chinese at home, but the parents feel that the number one thing that helps their child be successfully bilingual is extended trips (five weeks or the summer) back to their home country to visit family.  One parent even enrolled her preschoolers in regular preschool while she was there.  This is a long-shot, but as a professor, perhaps you can be on the look out for exchange teaching opportunities to an Arabic-speaking country, not right now but maybe in a future year in the distance.  At my university, there are lots of opportunities to teach abroad for the summer or for a semester.  (This is not an option for me, so I have a few other suggestions.)

 

4. I would suggest cultivating playmates whose families speak Arabic in the home.  Once my child entered kindergarten, and she found that some of her friends spoke Chinese, she was much more interested in speaking Chinese.  Peer pressure really worked to my advantage.

 

5.  I once met a mother who got her children to be bilingual in Spanish and I asked her for suggestions.  Her suggestion was excellent.  She said that she formed a playgroup of other Spanish-speaking families and together they pooled their money and hired a teacher to essentially play with their children.  So the teacher brought playdough, formed a little playdough house, and taught the children the words "inside" and "outside" in Spanish.  It doesn't work to have the mother do this.  My daughter's friend's mother tried to teach her two daughters Chinese herself and they rebelled.  So the mother gave up in frustration and asked me to sign up my daughter for Chinese school with her daughters.  So we essentially did the same thing.  The teacher they found was amazing.  She taught the class like you would want a Chinese nursery school to be, changing up fun activities every 10 minutes.  The children never realized that they were learning, and just ate it all up.  They thought they were playing Chinese bingo, singing songs, writing with finger paints, etc.   You don't necessarily need a credentialed teacher.  The Spanish teacher was apparently a high school teacher in her home country, but my daughter's Chinese school teacher was simply a very creative and innovative person who loves children.  She didn't even have children!

 

6.  In the three years before my daughter was able to have this wonderful Chinese teacher, I tried to hire Chinese students (at my university) to babysit for me occasionally for a couple hours each week.  My hope was that my daughter would speak Chinese with the babysitter.  Unfortunately, my daughter figured out that if she kept her mouth shut, the Chinese students would assume that she didn't understand any Chinese and end up speaking with my daughter in English.  So for me, that was a waste of money.  But maybe you would have better luck.

 

Now, some words of reassurance.

 

What made me less tense about this OPOL thing was an interview that I heard on NPR about a myth-busting book written by an author (Naomi Steiner) who seems to have impeccable credentials. She comes right out and says that OPOL is the best way, but unlike other people, she doesn't just leave it at that.  She says that if OPOL is not possible, then there are variations that can be effective. Also, I think one of the myths that she busted was that you have to have your child bilingual by the age of 4, or it's all over.  At the time, I was really worried about it, but now that my daughter is the ripe age of 9, I see that my daughter very easily learns Chinese. And honestly, in retrospect, I have many friends who immigrated to the US as preteens and teens and they picked up English just fine. 

 

You may find her book reassuring, especially starting on page 58. Here is an excerpt.

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=VEMxVTchk-wC&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=Naomi+Steiner+interview&source=bl&ots=wh31nApQvp&sig=Ypj0aJVPl-m8DPP6_c7sAcB_D3g&hl=en&sa=X&ei=v4SWUZSBMpHj4AOIxIC4Dg&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBjgK#v=onepage&q=Naomi%20Steiner%20interview&f=false

 

You will definitely find page 172-173 of this excerpt reassuring:

 

http://www.amazon.com/7-Steps-Raising-Bilingual-Child/dp/0814400469#reader_0814400469

 

 

These are her credentials.  I don't think they can get any better than this:

 

http://www.drnaomisteiner.com/

 

In summary, I think that if you try to get as many Arabic inputs into your child as you can, being very careful not to spiral into more and more English, and make adjustments that your intuition thinks might work, you will be fine.  You are not running a sprint, you are running a marathon.  If you keep at it, with the occasional break and then ramping back up that your intuition sees is necessary, then in ten or twenty years you will find that it all comes back to your child.

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#21 of 66 Old 05-17-2013, 02:15 PM
 
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I have done my research and have been around many Arabs who began (and it all begins with "every once in a while") speaking with their children in the community language (English) to know that once you start doing that, the child begins, as is normal, to speak the community language with you because it's easier and less socially awkward to do so.  Many Arab children, now adults or teenagers, mourn deeply the loss of their language and wish they can go back to heed their parents' insistence. Arabic, in the U.S. or anywhere, is not a prestige language; it's not "cool" to speak it, so I need to be extra vigilant in my approach.

When I was a little girl, I was where your daughter is now.  Back then, it was very uncool to speak Chinese (or any non-European language) out of the home, and I am one of those who mourn my loss of not being comfortable to speak Chinese.  So I, too, work really hard to teach my dd to be bilingual.  So yes, you have to be extra vigilant.  And yes, it all begins with every once in a while. So when I can, I do tell my daughter to pick up the toys or go to the bathroom in Chinese, even when the other people in the room don't know any Chinese, and those parents are very encouraging about it. So yes, I agree with you that you should speak only Arabic, and I definitely don't think you should revert to English just because it's easier or less socially awkward.  But, I do think that a VERY brief rare relenting of the "I love you" stuff will not sabotage what you are doing if are VERY careful, especially if you work to steer it back to all Arabic.  But I think it is even more important to keep this from becoming a power struggle.  You want her to associate speaking Arabic with fun.  Parents will always lose a power struggle, because what comes out of the mouth is the one thing that the child can control, and even if you win the struggle the child will just become silent.   So I suggest, loosen up a VERY tiny bit for just a couple days, but be very careful and be ready to try something different if it doesn't change within a couple days.

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#22 of 66 Old 05-17-2013, 03:15 PM
 
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Diyabolo, am sorry to see that you feel that pek64 is argumentative ....since i have more or less the same line of thinking

the key sentence in her post seems to me :

"there's no guarantee that child will be bilingual,no matter was is done."

please, just use our shared experience as a gentle warning = since it doesn't work with every child in a set of sibling, it's common sense that it "could" happen with your child.

This is a very interesting discussion. First of all, OP, you are doing a great job. I hope this urge to have you speak English is temporary, just a small bump in the road! I guess I agree with both you and your DH. Purism is definitely important, and I understand and agree with the slippery slope argument. On the other hand, maybe not making a big deal of it and just saying a few words now and then (maybe a special loving phrase you only say in English?) would resolve the issue for your daughter. It will be interesting to hear your updates and how this plays out.

 

I just also wanted to agree with IsaFrench and a few others about the inevitability of bilinguality - there is this idea that you do X and Y will happen. Sometimes whether due to personality, ability or circumstances, our kids may not reach the language milestones we wished for them. For years I beat myself up about this because I am a translator - and therefore have very high standards for language ability. All I heard from people was that we would just have to do OPOL and our kids would magically be bilingual. We did that and more. My DH was also an English-speaking SAHD, but I have spoken my language to my kids since birth (in public, in private), I send them to Saturday school, we attend community events, some other family members speak the language with them. Are they perfectly bilingual? No. My language is much weaker. They speak to me in English frequently, something I tried to avoid from an early age. I tried ignoring them, repeating in my language and asking them to repeat, repeating in my language and hoping they would repeat, flat out asking them to say it again in my language, being slightly more subtle and giving them a "look." I even resorted to speaking to them in German - a language they don't know - if they spoke to me in English. That sometimes shocked them into speaking a few sentences of my language ;-) But ultimately, this was turning into a battle we were having every day. A certain ease of speaking was simply not there, as much as I wished it to be. I have had to be satisfied with the level we have achieved and be thankful they understand the language and can hold simpler conversations. If they wish to build on that foundation, it will be there. What I couldn't continue doing was having them not speak to me at all or speak to someone else in the room instead if I tried to hold them to speaking my language. I am just putting that out there to counter the idea that there is a simple formula to follow - it's fantastic if it works for you! Sometimes, though, it doesn't, and that's OK.


Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#23 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 04:06 AM - Thread Starter
 
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This is a very interesting discussion. First of all, OP, you are doing a great job. I hope this urge to have you speak English is temporary, just a small bump in the road! I guess I agree with both you and your DH. Purism is definitely important, and I understand and agree with the slippery slope argument. On the other hand, maybe not making a big deal of it and just saying a few words now and then (maybe a special loving phrase you only say in English?) would resolve the issue for your daughter. It will be interesting to hear your updates and how this plays out.

 

I just also wanted to agree with IsaFrench and a few others about the inevitability of bilinguality - there is this idea that you do X and Y will happen. Sometimes whether due to personality, ability or circumstances, our kids may not reach the language milestones we wished for them. For years I beat myself up about this because I am a translator - and therefore have very high standards for language ability. All I heard from people was that we would just have to do OPOL and our kids would magically be bilingual. We did that and more. My DH was also an English-speaking SAHD, but I have spoken my language to my kids since birth (in public, in private), I send them to Saturday school, we attend community events, some other family members speak the language with them. Are they perfectly bilingual? No. My language is much weaker. They speak to me in English frequently, something I tried to avoid from an early age. I tried ignoring them, repeating in my language and asking them to repeat, repeating in my language and hoping they would repeat, flat out asking them to say it again in my language, being slightly more subtle and giving them a "look." I even resorted to speaking to them in German - a language they don't know - if they spoke to me in English. That sometimes shocked them into speaking a few sentences of my language ;-) But ultimately, this was turning into a battle we were having every day. A certain ease of speaking was simply not there, as much as I wished it to be. I have had to be satisfied with the level we have achieved and be thankful they understand the language and can hold simpler conversations. If they wish to build on that foundation, it will be there. What I couldn't continue doing was having them not speak to me at all or speak to someone else in the room instead if I tried to hold them to speaking my language. I am just putting that out there to counter the idea that there is a simple formula to follow - it's fantastic if it works for you! Sometimes, though, it doesn't, and that's OK.

 

Thanks Ragana! I certainly do agree with you and others that bilingualism varies across children. My siblings and I went to the same school, we grew up in the same country and in the same household. My English is markedly different from theirs, especially in terms of accent (I have an "American/Californian" accent and they have "Arabic" accents).

 

I am expecting my second child, another girl, in August, and I wonder how things will play out with her, especially how this new addition will change the dynamic of language use in the family for DD. 

 

I'm curious, at what age did your children begin to resist?  DD is almost 4 and she does not go to school yet. Do you think I can expect more resistance as she grows up or when she enters school?

 

Again, thank you for sharing your experience. It is immensely helpful!

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#24 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 04:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you emilysmama for this incredibly thoughtful and comprehensive post! And on a completely unrelated note, I really like your narrative voice :)

 

I really like this idea of making it a game. I had toyed with using a puppet. When she wants me to speak in English (so far this has been 3 times in the past 6 months, so very rare), I could use a doll or a hand puppet that would be a stand in for me.  It would turn it into a game and associate English speaking mom with the doll only. Too silly?

 

Also, it's definitely not a long shot about teaching in the Arab world. I am from there, so I still have contacts and a house to stay in my country of origin (Jordan). I could easily spend my sabbatical there (coming up soon since I just got tenured and promoted, wahoo!), and there are indeed plenty of opportunities for study-abroad teaching during the summer or regular semesters. DD has already been to Jordan twice, and both trips have been excellent for her Arabic development.  The only issue there, like for many of us, is the insane cost of airfare! The college will cover mine, but not spouses or children, and that will amount to thousands of dollars easily. Still, I intend on making it work somehow so that we make a trip back home every few years or so for sure.

 

Also, you and I think alike :) I've been doing the playgroups, the babysitter (a Palestinian student from my college) and the Arabic teacher. All of this reinforces the Arabic, as you say, but it's getting so hard to find Arabic children who actually speak Arabic. Almost all of them speak English, and once we get together, DD speaks English with them because they speak English with her! Lots of Arab parents, while avowing love for the Arabic language and saying they want their kids to speak Arabic, speak English with their kids. There are many reasons for this, but it sets a bad example for DD.

 

And thank you for the resources. All of this (as well as your own experience) has been very reassuring.

 

Finally, I love your sentence: "You are not running a sprint, you are running a marathon."  This (as well as "work smarter, not harder") is my mantra at the college; I never thought of making it my mantra at home as well :) Unfortunately, I don't walk the walk, so I inevitably collapse at the end of the semester. I definitely don't want that to happen at home -- no breaks here!

 

Again, many thanks.

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#25 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 06:43 AM
 
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The word "purist" has been used in a couple of posts, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

 

I think we have to be careful not to give out the message that other languages( and it is not a big jump form "language" to "culture" ) are less.  


There is a battle of two wolves inside us.  One is good and the other is evil.  The wolf that wins is the one you feed.

 

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#26 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 11:34 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The word "purist" has been used in a couple of posts, and it makes me feel uncomfortable.

 

I think we have to be careful not to give out the message that other languages( and it is not a big jump form "language" to "culture" ) are less.  

 

I certainly agree that the term is problematic. The way I'm using it, and others I think, is as a substitute for exclusive monolingualism. Having said that, I do feel that since English (and by extension "Americanness" whatever that means) is, at least in the many contexts I have experienced it, promoted as "better," there certainly is an element of trying to reinforce the value of Arabic and Arab culture in the face of such prevalent attitudes.

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#27 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 12:07 PM
 
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When she does go, there is no option for Arabic schooling or for significant Arabic exposure where I am, ....

 

To me, a Palestinian (Arab) woman, language is ethnicity, it's identity, it's a consciousness, a way of existence -- it's a mode of being in the world that I want to impart to my daughter as much as I want other fundamental things for her: to feel empowered as a woman and empathic as a global citizen. For me, language is not simply a tool for communication: it is who we are; it shapes our very core.

 

...Many Arab children, now adults or teenagers, mourn deeply the loss of their language and wish they can go back to heed their parents' insistence. Arabic, in the U.S. or anywhere, is not a prestige language; it's not "cool" to speak it, so I need to be extra vigilant in my approach.

 

Have you checked into the schools in your area and found if any have a larger percentage of Arabic speakers than others? I ask because I work at a school with a good English Language Learners program, and while the majority of our students are Latino, we have several families that speak Arabic at home. They are the minority, but being on the playground with 4 others kids who speak Arabic, and on parents nights those 4 kids are speaking to their parents in Arabic, is very different from being in a school where no one speaks Arabic.

 

Have you explained to her your reasons for your stance? Does she seem to understand at all?

 

If it were me, I would most likely say the concessional phrase for her, but I do understand why you feel the way you do.


but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#28 of 66 Old 05-18-2013, 02:29 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Have you checked into the schools in your area and found if any have a larger percentage of Arabic speakers than others? I ask because I work at a school with a good English Language Learners program, and while the majority of our students are Latino, we have several families that speak Arabic at home. They are the minority, but being on the playground with 4 others kids who speak Arabic, and on parents nights those 4 kids are speaking to their parents in Arabic, is very different from being in a school where no one speaks Arabic.

 

Have you explained to her your reasons for your stance? Does she seem to understand at all?

 

If it were me, I would most likely say the concessional phrase for her, but I do understand why you feel the way you do.


There are quite a few Arabs where I am, but I haven't met a single family where the kids speak Arabic. It's very disheartening, and the phenomenon merits further study, I think :) I don't see nearly the same thing happening with Latino or Hispanic communities in our area.

 

As for my stance, I think she understands. I have explained to her in multiple ways (hopefully age-appropriately), and she seems to have internalized the significance of the language. For example, the other day I was buying some stuff from a Palestinian restaurant; the owner (a Palestinian) was at the cash register, and I was speaking to her in Arabic (she was responding to me in English and speaking to DD in English).  When I asked for a receipt and used the word "reimbursement" in English, DD told me to speak in Arabic.  When my mother speaks with her and uses the word "OK," DD tells her to use the Arabic equivalent instead. So I think she understands it's important, but I can't really tell for sure if she knows why it's important. 

 

Thanks for your feedback!

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#29 of 66 Old 05-20-2013, 09:01 AM
 
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I'm curious, at what age did your children begin to resist?  DD is almost 4 and she does not go to school yet. Do you think I can expect more resistance as she grows up or when she enters school?

Well, my DD1 wasted no time redface.gif She was no more than two when she said, "I don't speak XXX" (XXX being my language). She now speaks to me more than DD2, though. Hanging out with the kids at Saturday school was good for her, and they did speak the language together frequently, but DD2's class just reverts to English if an adult is not there (or just turns around LOL). I don't "police" the kids' language choice when they are amongst themselves, but some of the parents do.

 

I guess I see my kids' "resistance" more as taking the easier road - it's easier for them to express themselves in English, so they do. They do both understand well, though, since I have not given up speaking to them in my language. It's a marathon for sure! Usually school brings more English (and my kids are learning Spanish, too), so that's hard, but funnily enough, they like to "show off" in front of their classmates and speak in my language to me!

 

That would be great if you could take your DD (and new baby?) to Jordan! I hear you about the plane tickets, though. That is our problem, to.o.

 

Re: purism. All I meant by that was the OP speaking to her daughter only in Arabic. It's important to try to stick to this when you are teaching your kids a language of limited diffusion or not-so-prestigious language, I think. I have had several people tell me how pointless it is to teach my kids my language because we only have 2.5 million speakers & it's not an "important" language. But you're right, I do know some people take this pretty far & they essentially imply a superiority of one language over the other.


Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (14) and DD2 "I" (11) DH "M"

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#30 of 66 Old 05-20-2013, 02:22 PM
 
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I used Purist in my post and absolutely did not mean to imply our native languages are in any way superior to English. I have nothing but respect for USA, English, the culture and its people. I only meant it in the context of teaching a child a minority language while being surrounded by English in every form and media.


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