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  Topic Review (Newest First)
05-15-2013 07:24 AM
Ragana

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!
 

05-14-2013 08:59 PM
Tynka 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..
04-15-2013 01:25 PM
Fluga

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. 

02-17-2013 09:18 AM
Eclipsepearl

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. 

 

02-13-2013 12:57 AM
hope81 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.
02-12-2013 11:54 PM
Eclipsepearl
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. 

01-23-2013 09:33 AM
Ragana
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.

01-23-2013 09:32 AM
Ragana

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

01-22-2013 10:03 PM
Tynka
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
01-22-2013 06:54 PM
Tynka 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"
09-20-2012 11:04 PM
Erin77

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. 

09-13-2012 11:03 AM
Eclipsepearl

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.

09-13-2012 10:54 AM
transylvania_mom
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.

09-13-2012 10:35 AM
tiqa

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.

09-13-2012 10:32 AM
Ragana

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

09-13-2012 09:20 AM
Eclipsepearl

I guess I feel strongly about having the differences between children acknowledged because I think it's easy for parents to think, "Well that approach worked for this other person's child so it will definitely work for mine!" and then be unpleasantly surprised when their results are different from those of the parent next door.  Also I think it's helpful to be prepared for the possibility of large differences in language acquisition between siblings despite exposure to the exact same language environment.

 

Yes, this was my experience too. 

 

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 (eg simply using the minority language when speaking to the child).  But it will not *necessarily* result in native or near-native fluency in all cases (some children will acquire only basic home-environment competence, perhaps with a notable accent), and it is not a *necessary* component for all children either (some children will more easily choose to use the minority language without the need for such strong inducements).

This is true. Also, I didn't force my oldest, just to set the record straight. I got the apple juice half an hour later in French but immediately in English. Worked like a charm! 

 

My kids speak three languages but they don't know all the words a child in America would have in English and they don't really have "emotional" vocabulary in German. Each language is used in a different context. The point is that they're TRI-lingual. I would, honestly, have to put my kids in ESL if we returned to the States (on short notice, like if my dh died or were thrown in jail, neither which seem likely). They don't have the academic knowledge to just jump into classes at their age level (yet, and chances are, they wouldn't spend a lot of time in it). So even speaking a "common" language with lots of resources, my kids have limits, at least for now... 

 

People can split hairs if they want but these gaps are really just details. A child with very limited vocabulary, who only uses the language with one parent at home, still has a solid base to grow from if they ever got the opportunity to use it further. Throw that child in a different situation and they will learn what they need fast! For example, if one of my kids fell in love with a German speaker or went to the U.S. to study. A child speaking a language on a limited basis also still has the other "perks" like the advantages bilingualism gives him or her in math and music and whatever other studies you read about. The fact that child doesn't know banking terms or car parts or doesn't have a current, exact local accent become easily rectified footnotes.

09-12-2012 04:16 PM
mambera
Quote:
Originally Posted by transylvania_mom View Post

As far as I understand from Eclipsepearl's post, she was saying that you need to speak to a child in the minority language, and the child will acquire it if you give him/her no other option. Her child wasn't simply "spoken to exclusively" in that language, but actually asked to use it to respond. I'm going to quote from her post, because she explains it so much better than me:

 

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 (eg simply using the minority language when speaking to the child).  But it will not *necessarily* result in native or near-native fluency in all cases (some children will acquire only basic home-environment competence, perhaps with a notable accent), and it is not a *necessary* component for all children either (some children will more easily choose to use the minority language without the need for such strong inducements).

09-12-2012 03:44 PM
Ragana
Quote:
I agree with that also, although the constraints that define whether a child 'has to' use a language will differ.  One child may perceive that he 'has to' use a language simply by being spoken to exclusively in that language by one parent (as in EclipsePearl's experience).  Another child (eg your child) may not perceive that situation as sufficient pressure and may need stronger inducements (eg interactions with other relatives who do not speak the majority language, or visits to the minority-language country).

 

I guess I feel strongly about having the differences between children acknowledged because I think it's easy for parents to think, "Well that approach worked for this other person's child so it will definitely work for mine!" and then be unpleasantly surprised when their results are different from those of the parent next door.  Also I think it's helpful to be prepared for the possibility of large differences in language acquisition between siblings despite exposure to the exact same language environment.

Yes, I feel strongly about this, too. On a board for translators (I am one), all I hear is about how every kid picked up 3 languages effortlessly - there people lean heavily toward OPOL (one parent one language) as THE solution. It's not that way for everyone for a variety of reasons, not all of which are under the parent's control, and it's nice to have that acknowledged as well.

09-12-2012 03:39 PM
Ragana

I wasn't able to create a situation where my kids had no option but to speak Latvian. There WAS another option - refusing to speak to me if I requested an answer in Latvian and instead turning to their dad. Especially easy since he was actually the main caregiver. If he wasn't around, they sometimes simply refused to speak with me. That part I mainly attribute to their English being more fluent, so it was just easier to speak in English - they could actually say what they wanted to say without thinking about it. This usually happened when they were tired, just came home from school, etc. It still happens sometimes now that they are older.

 

That said, I think the main thing with rarer languages is to get as much exposure as possible. With our languages, you can't just pick up and take a class anywhere like with Spanish or French. The more exposure the kids get early, the better chance they will be able to build on that or pick it up again later, like Transylvania_mom's example.
 

09-12-2012 02:26 PM
transylvania_mom
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

 


 

 

I agree with that also, although the constraints that define whether a child 'has to' use a language will differ.  One child may perceive that he 'has to' use a language simply by being spoken to exclusively in that language by one parent (as in EclipsePearl's experience).  Another child (eg your child) may not perceive that situation as sufficient pressure and may need stronger inducements (eg interactions with other relatives who do not speak the majority language, or visits to the minority-language country).

 

 

As far as I understand from Eclipsepearl's post, she was saying that you need to speak to a child in the minority language, and the child will acquire it if you give him/her no other option. Her child wasn't simply "spoken to exclusively" in that language, but actually asked to use it to respond. I'm going to quote from her post, because she explains it so much better than me:

 

 

"Mine tried that with French. If your child can get all of his needs met by just using English, he wont use Lithuanian. It's that simple. Since there are no other speakers and you don't have a lot of resources, 99% of his Lithuanian has to come from YOU. Your relationship will have to be conducted entirely in Lithuanian to get the maximum exposure you can in your home. If you slide into English, it simply wont happen. You said "He doesn't NEED to speak it". Well, make him "need" to speak it to communicate with him. You, the mother are the most important person in his life. Don't be afraid to set the rules!

...

 

Don't be intimidated by his level of English or the fact that English is all around you. Let him progress in English. Let him play and do everything else in English. But if he wants a glass of orange juice or for you to tie his shoes, he needs to ask you in Lithuanian. I didn't ignore my son but any requests made in French got "forgotten", took ages or were just plain wrong (i.e. apple juice instead of orange). I also asked him to repeat all requests in French, not necessarily in English, but he had to say everything twice. So I made the "easier" language more difficult. Guess who started just repeating in English?!? 

...

 

Once you get into the habit, there's no looking back. It'll be easy and natural. Now, my son laughs at this story and can't believe he ever spoke to me in French. Using French together, even though I spoke it and lived in France before meeting my husband, would be weird and unnatural. 

 

...

 

So just get talking with him. Don't let English be a part of your relationship. Talk to him in your own language and don't be afraid to set the standard. Don't look for him to be "inspired" or "motivated". Just make it necessary for him to speak to you in it. "

 

...all bolding mine. Eclipsepearl, I hope you don't mind.

09-12-2012 01:08 PM
mambera
Quote:
Originally Posted by transylvania_mom View Post

Let's agree to disagree. I believe you CAN have some degree of control over your child's language acquisition, at least until a certain age, when external influences become more important.

 

Absolutely, a great degree of control for sure (I think we *do* agree about that!)  Just not *total* control.  I'd say that by maintaining constant exposure you can pretty much guarantee the acquisition of passive understanding (which is a lot IMO!), and possibly the acquisition of some degree of expressive capacity (by requiring that the child speak the language in order to function at home).  I think the difference between basic expressive capacity and native or near-native fluency is where the individuality of the child comes in.

 

Quote:
I COULD have changed the outcome when my ds was 3 y/o, by refusing to answer when he spoke English to me, but instead I took the more mellow approach, responding at his requests in English, translating the sentences in Romanian for him (although he refused to repeat them). The result was that he lost his ability to speak Romanian at 3.

 

Sure, it's possible things would have been different if you had taken a different approach.  A different child might have responded to the approach you did take though.  I think it's helpful to be a little zen about this stuff.

 

Quote:

The problem was not that he wasn't able to learn it, but my inability to maintain my communication with him exclusively in Romanian.

 

Of course he was able to learn it, but evidently his individual exposure requirement was greater than simply being spoken to in Romanian by one parent.  It was fulfilled by exposure to grandparents and travel to Romania.

 

Quote:

 

My point is, if the child does not HAVE to use a language, he will lose it. It depends on us as parents how important that particular language is.

 

I agree with that also, although the constraints that define whether a child 'has to' use a language will differ.  One child may perceive that he 'has to' use a language simply by being spoken to exclusively in that language by one parent (as in EclipsePearl's experience).  Another child (eg your child) may not perceive that situation as sufficient pressure and may need stronger inducements (eg interactions with other relatives who do not speak the majority language, or visits to the minority-language country).

 

I guess I feel strongly about having the differences between children acknowledged because I think it's easy for parents to think, "Well that approach worked for this other person's child so it will definitely work for mine!" and then be unpleasantly surprised when their results are different from those of the parent next door.  Also I think it's helpful to be prepared for the possibility of large differences in language acquisition between siblings despite exposure to the exact same language environment.

09-12-2012 11:42 AM
transylvania_mom
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

 

Examples like this one are why I think there is such a large component of the child's intrinsic personality.  My DD1 has been in English-speaking daycare since 18 months and still (at 3 years) speaks DH's language to him and my language to me.  (We don't differentiate our responses to her based on the language she used.)

 

Why does one child respond like transylvania_mom's DS and another like my DD?  Who knows?  I don't think you can exercise total control over your child's linguistic outcome.

Let's agree to disagree. I believe you CAN have some degree of control over your child's language acquisition, at least until a certain age, when external influences become more important. I COULD have changed the outcome when my ds was 3 y/o, by refusing to answer when he spoke English to me, but instead I took the more mellow approach, responding at his requests in English, translating the sentences in Romanian for him (although he refused to repeat them). The result was that he lost his ability to speak Romanian at 3.

 

Yet, he speaks it now just fine, thanks to his grandparents visiting us for more than a year and his extended visits to Romania, when he had no choice but to use the language. The problem was not that he wasn't able to learn it, but my inability to maintain my communication with him exclusively in Romanian. And in the meantime, he learned another language as he goes to French school, where no English is allowed.

 

My point is, if the child does not HAVE to use a language, he will lose it. It depends on us as parents how important that particular language is. There is no good or bad answer imo.

I've read somewhere that the first thing immigrants' children lose is the language, and the last thing is traditional food, which stays in the family for generations. I have no doubt that my ds will gradually lose his Romanian when he becomes an adult, but I believe that knowing your roots and being able to speak to your elders is important.

09-12-2012 10:13 AM
mambera
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ragana View Post
BUT speaking to them consistently and participating in as many events as we can has resulted in kids that do understand and speak my language OK/pretty well, if not perfectly. I can only be happy about that since even I am a heritage speaker (have never lived in Latvia). It also means that they can travel there and communicate with people and pick up the language more intensively later if they choose, which would be pretty difficult had they not learned as children.

 

If we end up with this degree of language acquisition (basic expressive competence) I will be thrilled.  All I really want to do is be able to go on family vacations to Greece without having my kids need me to translate for them when they want to order a soda or find the restroom.  :)  

09-12-2012 08:51 AM
Ragana

Yes, I agree. My kids speak my language to me *sometimes* even though I have spoken it to them exclusively since birth. The catch is that their dad speaks English to them (and was a stay-at-home dad in their early years - so his linguistic influence was greater than mine), their dad and I speak English to each other, and we live in an English-speaking environment. Plus they are also taking Spanish at school; the younger one is still in immersion (at least 1/2 the day is in Spanish). So they have a lot going on. By the time we get to speaking my language, it's not the easiest for them to speak (I hear you about Lithuanian! Latvian is pretty complicated as well) and sometimes they simply find it easier to communicate in English. To some extent it is personality, too. So, my language ends up on the "bottom of the pile" despite us doing language/cultural school on Saturdays, participating in community events, family camp in the summer, etc. BUT speaking to them consistently and participating in as many events as we can has resulted in kids that do understand and speak my language OK/pretty well, if not perfectly. I can only be happy about that since even I am a heritage speaker (have never lived in Latvia). It also means that they can travel there and communicate with people and pick up the language more intensively later if they choose, which would be pretty difficult had they not learned as children.

09-12-2012 07:13 AM
mambera
Quote:
Originally Posted by transylvania_mom View Post

Same experience here. We speak only Romanian at home, but when ds went to daycare at 3y/o it took just a couple of months for him to start speaking only English at home, even if we continued to answer in Romanian and spoke only Romanian at home. A year later, when his grandma came to visit he wasn't able to speak to her, even if he understood everything she was saying. He had to relearn Romanian.

 

Examples like this one are why I think there is such a large component of the child's intrinsic personality.  My DD1 has been in English-speaking daycare since 18 months and still (at 3 years) speaks DH's language to him and my language to me.  (We don't differentiate our responses to her based on the language she used.)

 

Why does one child respond like transylvania_mom's DS and another like my DD?  Who knows?  I don't think you can exercise total control over your child's linguistic outcome.

 

But ITA with EclipsePearl's point that the key is for the chlld to *speak* the language, not just hear it.  Now the question of what language environment is required for your particular child to choose to speak the minority language is where it gets complicated.

09-11-2012 04:36 PM
tiqa

Well, if we ever go to Japan I'll have to invite myself to see you guys, then you can teach my kids Hungarian too.  ;)

 

Seriously, I need to get on it.  Although just today my daughter corrected DH's pronunciation of her Hungarian nickname.  My son has a very distinct accent and can't "hear" or say the different sounds that don't exist in English (like gy or ty) but DD has no accent on the couple of words she does use.  She does prefer to listen to Hungarian songs though and has some story tapes that she insists on listening to.  I'm not sure what, if anything, she gets out of them, but maybe she understands more than I give her credit for.

 

I guess one funny-ish thing that happened was that DD keeps saying "igen" for yes lately.  When DH asked her to do something the other day, she yelled "igen" and ran off to complete the task.  He turns to me and asks me, all upset, "what is this "igen" sh** she's saying, that's not right, I don't like her talking back..."  After I start laughing and telling him what she actually said, he got all embarrased.  Seriously, we've been together for like... nearly a decade, and you haven't picked up that "igen" means yes?  ;)  Silly DH.  (ETA:  OK, so technically I suppose the normal reply would be "jo" instead of "igen", so maybe that's what I normally reply - but igen does technically mean yes... Shrug. Now I'm just rambling.)

09-11-2012 05:55 AM
Katica

We are quite a mix here as well. We live in Japan. My husband is Japanese, I am Hungarian and we speak a mix of three languages : English, (I don`t know Japanese well enough), Japanese and Hungarian. Needless to say, I am the only one who even speaks to my kids in Hungarian. I`m very strict about it though: with momma only Hungarian. If my son (he is 6 yrs) answers in Japanese and ask him to repeat the same thing in Hungarian (and help him if he doesn`t remember the words). He is doing pretty well with it, although his Japanese is much more fluent.

All of that to say is that perseverance is the key. Don`t give up, it`s worth the effort.

09-10-2012 11:07 AM
transylvania_mom
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

 

I know lots of these various stories too, especially since I both live in, and come from, bilingual communities with large immigrant and international communities. 

 

What is key is usage. You can have two minority speakers at home but if the kids are answering in the community language, they probably will never be fluent. I see this a lot. Many parents come up to me and say "My child understands everything!" but I remind them that understanding and speaking is NOT the same thing. The "real" skill is speaking. That's what's tough. Understanding is easy! Getting the mouth to form those sounds and getting your brain to form those sentences... can't be done with just listening! 

Same experience here. We speak only Romanian at home, but when ds went to daycare at 3y/o it took just a couple of months for him to start speaking only English at home, even if we continued to answer in Romanian and spoke only Romanian at home. A year later, when his grandma came to visit he wasn't able to speak to her, even if he understood everything she was saying. He had to relearn Romanian.

09-10-2012 04:34 AM
Eclipsepearl
Quote:
Originally Posted by mambera View Post

 

Hm, I think accentless fluency is one outcome of this situation but not necessarily the most common one.  Most of the people I know who grew up with one (or even two) Greek-speaking parents at home ended up with obviously accented and imperfect Greek in adulthood.  I know of at least two people who grew up in the US with two Greek parents who spoke the language at home (but did not demand that the children reply in Greek) but never acquired expressive capacity to any significant degree and do not speak the language as adults (although both have siblings who range from competent to fluent). 

 

A friend of mine who immigrated from Iran as a toddler is fluent and accentless in Farsi (two Farsi-speaking parents at home) while her brother is less fluent and accented.

 

Another friend of mine who immigrated from Hungary to the US at age 10 and continues to visit the country frequently reports to me that he has actually acquired something of a mild foreign accent over his many years living in the US. 

 

I know a number of children of Spanish-speaking immigrants and their fluency and accent in Spanish is generally much better than I see among the children of Greek expats - I attribute this to a number of things including: a) Spanish is ubiquitous, even though it is a minority language in the US there are scads of native speakers, Spanish-speaking communities, and reading/multimedia material available, b) Spanish is a more simply constructed language than Greek, c) there is an enormous variety in accent among native speakers of Spanish so variations are less detectable as non-native (vs Greek which is extremely homogeneous so even minor variations are quite obvious)

 

Basically I'd say the development of fluency, competency, and accentless speech in a minority language depends on a complex of factors including the specific language spoken, the child's aptitude and motivation for language acquisition in general, and the degree and type of exposure.

 

I know lots of these various stories too, especially since I both live in, and come from, bilingual communities with large immigrant and international communities. 

 

What is key is usage. You can have two minority speakers at home but if the kids are answering in the community language, they probably will never be fluent. I see this a lot. Many parents come up to me and say "My child understands everything!" but I remind them that understanding and speaking is NOT the same thing. The "real" skill is speaking. That's what's tough. Understanding is easy! Getting the mouth to form those sounds and getting your brain to form those sentences... can't be done with just listening! 

 

Remember too, I'm saying "fluent", which doesn't include kids who go off, live their own lives and never use the minority language. They get rusty! But they do retain the ability to "relearn" or remember that language. The fun part is that they can get it back without the accent. That seems to stick... 

 

You also don't want to dive into all the details. Retaining a small accent could "protect" the person from saying something odd. I've actually blurted out 1980's slang on trips to the U.S. by accident (one guy's comment "Been awhile since I hear THAT one!" lol!) I've been gone since 1989. Someone speaking something more remote, and more isolated could do this more often, especially since, as the OP pointed out, there are few resources to keep it up.

 

Also, when I say "fluent", that means completely functional. They could have some glitches and no slang. They could also be missing vocabulary and/or use words out of context (like my son saying something is "interesting" instead of a good deed, since that's how it's used in French). Some languages change more than others so even a one-generation gap can cause a communication gap. Once, amusingly, my Hong Kong coworkers got me to "translate" for a Chinese-American woman who had lived most of her life in California. They were too timid to tell the woman they didn't understand her Cantonese so they got me, blond, blue-eyed and fellow Californian, to talk to her in English. I've heard stories about Japanese too. 

 

Luckily, most European languages are less likely to change so drastically so quickly and quite frankly, our own families wont care! 

09-05-2012 02:40 PM
tiqa

FWIW - I moved to the US for the first time when I was 5 and moved back and forth from here to Hungary as a kid.  We spoke Hungarian at home, English in school.  I am fluent in English and have no accent.  I also was really quick with picking up other languages as a kid - at one point I spoke intermediate Spanish and conversational in German, Dutch, and French, and a bit of Italian thrown in as well.  Now?  Yeah, uh, I've forgotten most of those, heh.

 

My father had a really strong accent in Hungarian - and a really strong accent in English as well.  He moved out when he was in his late 20's, I think?  My mother was in her early 30's and she has a strong accent in English (and still isn't really 100% fluent, although she understands it well enough) but has no accent in Hungarian.

 

I don't have an accent in Hungarian, but I admit that most of the time I think in English and when I don't have anyone to speak it with for a while, it takes a few days/weeks for me to adjust back and remember all the vocab etc, despite it being my first language.  But a few nights of journalling in Hungarian, watching TV, reading etc will get me back up to par pretty quickly.  When I talk to my mom on the phone I usually speak English and she speaks Hungarian and we get along just fine.  (Same with some of my friends from Hungary - we have bilingual conversations with no harm to anyone.)  I just wish I had more discipline to speak it at home with the kids instead of lapsing into English because it's easier.  =/

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