"Sorry, I don't speak English!" - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 07:11 AM - Thread Starter
 
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As some of you know, my children all became fluent in Swedish in the last year. Tieren, 5, loves to talk, and is thrilled to have mastered the language. Recently, he was hitting his brother over the head with something light---it wasn't painful, but was annoying, and I asked him to refrain. He said something quickly in Swedish, and did it again. I started to speak--he spouted rapid Swedish, and he did it again. My nine-year old, overhearing, told me: "Mom, he says he doesn't understand English, so he doesn't know what you mean."

At that, Tieren stopped hitting his brother, told me brightly (in Swedish) that his name is Phillipe, he is a little Swedish boy, and he's not very good at English, although he can count to ten. So I have been practicing my Swedish. Frowning at my accent, my oldest finally said to me last night, "I think you might be better at Chinese."

I love that my kids are bilingual, but am wondering if anyone else has ever had their offspring's non-English speaking alter-ego join their family?

And should I keep working on the Swedish, or should I take ds' advice and take up Chinese?
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#2 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 07:37 AM
 
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That's hilarious, Britt! It's amazing how fast kids learn languages. We are living in New Zealand right now and my best friend here is Swedish. Her kids are the same ages as mine and the yooungest two are in preschool together. My youngest can already speak a bit just from being around them. I'm totally envious. The kids also learn Maori in school and it just rolls off their tongue, while I struggle to pronounce each word correctly.

Are you in Sweden permanantly? I would love to live there!

No foreign speaking alter egos in our house yet!!

Alison
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#3 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 07:58 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I can barely keep a straight face these days. It's amazing how long "Phillipe" can go without speaking English!

I too am really envious of kids---I don't actually think my Swedish sounds like Chinese, but it doesn't sound like Swedish, either! And I'm surrounded by Swedes who speak English in the loveliest clipped British accents!

We haven't decided how long we will be here. We're visiting the US this summer, and it'll be interesting to see if we've missed anything without noticing. For the most part we have noticed what we *don't* miss--hormones in our foods, GMOs, marketing to children, lack of conscience about the environment....

I have a good friend who lived in New Zealand for years. She loved it. One of these days, I'll make it over to that part of the world. Are you enjoying it?
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#4 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 04:17 PM
 
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Britt-

We lived in Stavanger, Norway for four year when my now 7 year old son Sam was ages 2-6. He spoke Norwegian fluently, but ONLY EVER spoke English at home with us. His big challenge since moving here to Zurich is to forget his norsk and learn Swiss & High German. He pretty regularly tells me that he doesn't know German. The other night on the way back from his soccer match, another Mom and I were talking in German (she is from Kosova) about various things. Sam was really irritable and began to have a cow about his window not being all the way down. I said to her, "Er ist sehr mude." He yelled at me from the backseat in English, "I AM NOT TIRED! DON'T TELL HER THAT!" I turned around and said, "I thought you didn't know German."
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#5 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 06:05 PM
 
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My ds is 4 and can speak English and German well. I worried when I was pregnant about how that was going to work - teaching im German - but he just magically picked it up and can keep the difference clear. Lately, though, he's been wanting to be called "Rudolph". I don't really know why but I suspect it has to do with the "misfit" (he is a bit bifferent here) Reindeer who is a great hero inside. Anyway, it is really frustrating to me that he knows the language - because now we have to spell everything we don't nec. want him to understand!
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#6 of 16 Old 05-21-2002, 07:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Anyway, it is really frustrating to me that he knows the language - because now we have to spell everything we don't nec. want him to understand!
revmami-- Imagine the situation was reversed, and *he* had a secret language that you only understood marginally.... My kids don't have to spell anything, and they don't have to leave the room. If they talk fast, I can't understand!

You can imagine what a tricky situation this is. We want to 1) encourage them 2) avoid having them laugh at our pitiful efforts (maintain their respect) and 3) still have some idea what they are conspiring about. Mostly we fail at at least one of the above.

Carmen, what a cute story! My littlest wouldn't admit that he knew Swedish either, until the other two started speaking it at home. Now he prattles away. Do you speak Norwegian, high German, and Swiss fluently? I think I'm going to have to buckle down.

Brittany
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#7 of 16 Old 05-22-2002, 04:17 AM
 
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Brittany-

I studied Norwegian when we lived in Stavanger. When we went abroad it was because we really wanted to experience whatever country we were living in. Since my husband is an international school teacher and the environment there is in Englsih, my main jobs have been homemaking and language learning

When we moved there my son Sam was just over 2. Language classes for immigrants are free in Norway so I used up all my 850 hours while I was there. Sam went to a Barnehage when I was in class, and he learned norsk there. Stavanger has a very strong dialect and my husband learned some proper Norwegian, but could never understand Sam and his friends. I learned the proper norsk at school, and the dialect in our neighborhood. It made such a difference to our experience there that Sam and I could speak norsk because we were able to be involved in the local community.

We moved here in August and I waited until January to begin any German classes. Sam is in 1st grade in the local Swiss school and has the challenge of learning both High German and Swiss German at the same time. I wanted to be home while he adjusted. Now I go two mornings a week into Zurich for 3 hours each time of High German classes. Aleksander goes to a day mother then and Sam meets him there at lunch time then I pick them both up. One morning a week I go to a class specifically for mothers who have kids in the local school suystem, and there is free childcare in the room next door for the little ones.

German is SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT than norsk. There is just so much grammar!!! And I can't keep up with my homework, plus I miss class when the kids are sick (like right now I am home because Sam is covered with red dots, some sort of mystery virus that the doctor assures me isn't chicken pox but doesn't know what it is).
Next school year Aleksander will go every morning to the international school pre-school (it is free for us since my husband teaches in the international school) andt will be my year to focus on my German learning. After that he enters the Swiss system then I have to juggle two kids with a few hours here in school, and a few hours there.

So the short answer is, I'm learning High German. Swiss German will come later
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#8 of 16 Old 05-22-2002, 06:23 AM
 
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Britt,

Yes, I love it here. In fact, I would do just about anything to stay. We are leaving in a month and it's going to be very hard to go back. All of the same things you mentioned about Sweden are things that I like so much about NZ. People are so aware here and it is so progressive as a country. The schools are excellent, etc. etc. My Swedish friend here says that NZ is the southern hemisphere equivelant of Sweden. She finds them similar in many ways. My dh wants to go to Sweden for his next sabbitical which I would love, although right now I'm scheming of ways we can come back here on a more permanent basis. I just click with this place.

Alison
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#9 of 16 Old 05-22-2002, 08:34 AM
 
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DD1 is 6 and could not really care less about speaking Japanese. So it is like listening to a 3 yo :blussh:

The little one (DD2 2.9) pickes up anything and everything, nearly perfectly. We are holding out with "only English" before the tidle-wave of Japanese washes over our family.

a

The anti-Ezzo king
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#10 of 16 Old 05-22-2002, 11:15 AM
 
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I hate to say this - but TV was what taught me German. When we first came to Germany in 1993 I could say very little. But watching the childrens programs (the place we first rented had a TV - now we only have one for videos) helped - and then the soap operas - they are so innane and they do so try to add expression to the words so one can guess better - and then when it was 1995 I was so good I could see all the good documentaries about 50 past WW2 and 5 years fall of the wall. I was getting coached from dh in pronounciation, but still made big mistakes! Like the time I pronounced Busse "Boesse" in the church - which is the difference from "Go out and repent" and "Go out and do bad things".

You have to have a very good sense of humor to learn a new language. But I had to learn as quickly as possible because I was expected to preach, etc. and I also wanted to be able to ask for the cheeses at the grocery store. I also am terribly nosey and wanted to know what people were saying about me - no I'm not paranoid!

I took a Goethe Institute course for 8 weeks and that helped force me to try to only think in the language and to use the vocabulary and gestures I had - mixing the language slowed me down because I was actually thinking in English first and placing German on top of it. Training yourself only to use German was the key to my transition. I learned much faster after that. BUT I do not know squat about grammer. I stink - I suck big red tomatoes - I have no idea about it - but people understand me and even say I speak it well - much to the chagrin of my dh the German teacher.

It may have been easier for me because I had no children at the time so I could obsess with the language and wig out in front of the TV.

So, Britt - you are right - it would be so upsetting for me not to know what my ds is saying!!! My FIL doesn't speak German and so when my MIL & DH & SIL would speak he would think they were talking about him and flip out! So German was not allowed at home.:

It reminds me of the time my sister and I went to Washington DC on vacation with my parents (who were so uncool when we were teenagers) and I had just learned sign language. I taught my sister the alphabet and we talked about them all the time - driving them crazy and making strangers think one of us was deaf. .: Now I sort of feel sorry about how we treated them. Can I apologize to you now for your kids as a sort of replacement?
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#11 of 16 Old 05-23-2002, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello again, all. I've been itching to get back to this thread, but have had a couple of deadlines that I only just hit. Yeah!

It's interesting to hear about all of your experiences with multiple languages. I can read Swedish pretty well now, but only understand about 60% of what I hear, and my accent is truly terrible. I haven't really had classes, it's been hard to find any that it my schedule. I'm learning more quickly now that my kids are speaking all the time. (That's the upside of "I don't speak English.")

Revmami--The majority of TV here is in English or some other language. They don't dub anything, so when you turn on the TV, it's almost like being in the US except for the less obtrusive advertising and those funny subtitles. No wonder Swedes speak English so well.

Carmen, with your norsk you'd probably get by beautifully here in Sweden. How nice to take the time to learn so many languages. Because I was raised bilingual (I also speak Farsi) I took a really casual approach when we moved here, and assumed that I'd "pick it up." That might have been easier someplace where they didn't switch to English at parent meetings because of us! We protest, but after struggling with Swedish, people often end up speaking English anyway. I think my Swedish will have to be a little better before that changes. I'm thinking I may try to find a tutor.

Alexander--Are you fluent in Japanese?

mom at home-- Come to Sweden! What field is your husband in? My dh works at a University here, so maybe we can help hook you up with the right people!

Also, revmami-- thanks for the apology on my children's behalf! I'm starting to feel bad though, because I tend to speak Farsi with my mom and Aunt a lot, and now I finally understand how poor dh feels!

Brittany
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#12 of 16 Old 05-23-2002, 03:01 PM
 
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In Norway too they don't dubb the TV shows but use subtitles instead. We really do miss that!!! We had our weekly shows (The Practice, Sopranos, West Wing) that we would record because they came on too late for us and then watch at a later time. My husband's brother in the States tapes West Wing for us as we are hooked on that show, and mails them to us when he finishes a tape. Here everything is dubbed, but on some of the Swiss channels they broadcast some movies and shows in the original version as well and if you have the right kind of TV thenyou can change the language. I just recently bought a DVD player from a family who moved and have been enjoying getting DVD's free from our local library. Today Sam (who is home with the Chicken Pox) watched our Harry Potter DVD in German and I set it with German subtitles as well so I could understand it better. My written comprehension is better than my oral comprehension. It was great to do it that way. I learned some new expressions! But "Muggles" is still "Muggles" in German:
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#13 of 16 Old 05-23-2002, 03:40 PM
 
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I just thought I'd let you know of a discussion list called AP-Expat-Moms that some of you might not know about. Some of you I have "talked" to there. Here is the URL:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/AP-Expat-Moms/

It hasn't been very active lately, but hopefully things will liven up
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#14 of 16 Old 05-25-2002, 10:19 AM
 
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Britt, I know how you feel, to a certain extent anyway. I can understand everything my daughter and her friends say in Polish, thank god! but when she has friends over I am embarassed by my own grammar and pronounciation - I have the same problem as revmami, I speak Polish pretty naturally, vocab and intonation etc but my grammar is lamentable - I learnt Polish by reading magazine problem pages!!!!! (they are the same all round the world so it's easy to pick up what people are talking about!) I then graduated to magazines for mums, then newspapers!
Anyway, to get back to the point, I feel like a bumbling idiot when addressing kids in my house and I hate it. My dd has also started correcting me loudly and publically on my grammar and pronounciation. It's a reminder for me to speak to her in English! But then again I don't like speaking to her in English when there are other people in my house who don't understand what I'm saying, doesn't seem respectful.
Revmami - do you actually preach fluently in german without knowing "a squat" about grammar???? You are an INSPIRATION!! I've recently done a couple of radio interviews and I found it really a nightmare, I started actually thinking about what I was saying
carmen, sorry for my abandonment of the ex pat list - just no time - I abandoned mothering too, and now I'm back I only have time for one....
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#15 of 16 Old 05-25-2002, 10:29 AM
 
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Sarenka & others...

I just started a new thread under "Finding Your Tribe" called "Expats Roll Call". Why don't you check in on that one so we can see who all is where:
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#16 of 16 Old 06-10-2002, 03:38 PM
 
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In response to Serenka's question about my preaching - I READ fluently in German!!! Once, after a service, a man came up to talk to me, and after a bit he asked me about how I preached so well, and I explained that my husband corrects my sermons after I write in "my" German - and then the man said he was surprised to hear me talk afterwards because during my sermon he thought I spoke better German than most Germans - and now he knows better!:LOL :LOL
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