Learning to read bilingually. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 07-21-2013, 05:01 PM - Thread Starter
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I have two children, DD is 5 and DS is 3. We raise them bilingually. I'm SAHM and speaking exclusively German with them. DH speaks English. We live in the US. Both children are fluent in both languages and are very aware and outspoken about the fact that they are bilingual.
Now, Kindergarten is coming up for DD, and upon enrolling her, I was told I really had to work on her knowing the alphabet. So I started drawing her pictures and writing words (in German, because that's the language we use together) and she copied the words and colored in the drawings. She already knew all the letters from nursery school as I found out, she just considered writing pretty boring and preferred other activities (quite according to her age in my opinion.) Anyways, we are making some progress and I told my SIL who is an English teacher living in Germany. And SIL recommended not to go on teaching her any writing and reading in German, because that would confuse her, since even though both languages use the same alphabet some letters are pronounced differently. And I should wait, until her English writing/reading skills are reasonably good, before introducing German writing. So I'm wondering, if SIL's advice is a good one. How do other bilingual families go about introducing written language skills in the language that is not taught in school?
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#2 of 5 Old 07-21-2013, 05:45 PM
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Honestly? I would ignore S.I.L. While I am sure she has good intentions, all evidence shows that children who are biligual do really well long term, that any differences between the languages in how long people take to learn is evened out by the age of five or six all other things being equal. I think you are giving d.c. an advantage in language by teaching her at home two languages. Keep on the track you are on!

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#3 of 5 Old 07-22-2013, 07:22 AM
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I was the child in that situation, and I know it's only anecdotal, but my sister, brother and I learned to read and write in our other language first (even though we were here in the US), then English. It was a matter of transferring our existing skills to English, not learning to read and write twice.

Mom "D" to DD1 "Z" (15) and DD2 "I" (12) DH "M"

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#4 of 5 Old 08-21-2013, 09:16 AM
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I didn't teach my children anything at home. They started pre-school here in France at age 3. They're in a French-German program and learned those two writing systems first. Then they got interested in English and asked me questions. They knew the alphabet song in French and were curious as to the English version. They seemed to read effortlessly in English, without any intervention on my behaf. The only English they got in school started at age 10 and it was basic (like nothing for my children to learn and they got A's). 


There's no race and really, no purpose in teaching your language unless she's interested. It won't have any impact on her long-term development. I know that mistakes can be made by parents teaching their children at home. The children learn it as a monkey-trick, just imitate, don't really understand what they're spitting out, etc. That's what you want to avoid and perhaps what you're SIL is warning you off doing. 


I did have confirmation that my "method" worked when my son passed a test for native English speakers for another school, at age 10. He had learned age-level English, basically on his own! He reads for pleasure in English, the third language he learned to read...


There were a few times that they mixed up their three alphabets but those quirks were few and quickly corrected. They also play this fun game of reading something in one of their languages, in another language. They'll read something in French like a German speaker (who didn't know French) would. I was surprised how quickly they adapted each pronunciation system. 


BTW, my step dad and brother-in-law are English teachers and a good friend teaches kindergarten. They approved of this method and I'm happy to say that my laid-back, wait till they know the other languages approach worked like a charm! 

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#5 of 5 Old 09-04-2013, 04:40 AM
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we are a one-person one-language house. russian from me and arabic from DH, and community is English and French.

kids didn,t go to any daycare or preschool program, so they don't speek the community languages yet (DS1 is only 4, but he seems to understand english).


I wondered a lot about the same issue as OP. I decided to teach russian alphabet before english, because this  is what is happening naturally. It would be strange for me to teach english to him if I never spoke a word of english at home.


my ''teaching'' at his age means just answerring his questions about letters etc. I don't want him to learn to read at 4.

but since I won't send him to school in teh next 2-3 years,( as we want to just ''unschool'' for early years,) I suspect that just by answering his alphabet related questions and reading to him, he will know how to read in russian before he learns in english. 

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