Language Learning: Non-native raising bilingual children

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by charmedboi82, May 28, 2005.

  1. charmedboi82 Senior Member

    USA, English
    Hello all,

    For the last year or so, I've been thinking about the challenges and rewards of rearing children bilingually (English/Spanish). Even though I'm not a native speaker of Spanish, I feel that I have enough competency in the language to provide children with a strong foundation in Spanish. Has anyone else tried such a concept? What problems have you faced or do you foresee with this method? Any suggestions? Anything at all from anyone will be welcome. ;), I'm just planning for the future, which is years in the future.
  2. ILT

    ILT Senior Member

    México - Español/Castellano
    Hi charmedboy:

    I have first hand information on the matter, since ever since I was pregnant I began speaking English to my baby, and my husband, who's English is good but not as proficient, would speak to him in Spanish, our mother tongue.

    Once he was born, I continued speaking only English to him. It took him about a month or two more than it took my nieces and nephews to begin repeating words; as a first-time mother, of course I asked the pediatrician in one of our monthly check-ups. He mentioned that besides still being on time, my baby would take a little bit longer because he was processing two languages simultaneously.

    Wow! No wonder he spent so many years at school! Of course my baby uttered his first words, and incredible as it may seem, he spoke Spanish words to his dad and English words to me.

    By the time he was 18 months he was able to ask dad for mano but mom for hand; ask dad for pelota but ask mom for ball, etc.

    When he turned 3 we registered him at a bilingual school in town, where one of his kindergarden teachers speaks and teaches in Spanish for 2 hours and then another one teaches the same things but speaking only English for another 90 minutes (after a 30 minute break - of course).

    As of today, he is almost five, and he understands everything he hears in both languages. We can go to English-only movies and he will understand what's happening, same with the tv and same with other persons speaking English to him. Whenever he does not understand a specific word, he asks about it, and then I explain it to him and then give him the equivalent in Spanish. If he asks his dad, my husband will explain the word to him in Spanish and then provide the equivalent in English.

    I have to mention that he is NOT speaking English, just a few short phrases (may I go to the restroom, please? may I have some chocolate milk, please? I am 4; my name is xxx; and the such). Of course he speaks Spanish with everybody, so I believe that's the reason he really doesn't speak English, but he still has a lot of time ahead, and I think that the foundation has been set.

    I've read that this has to start within the first six months, I don't know how true this is but I think it is never too late.

    I also relied in some DVDs that present items to babies in different languages. They claim that they "open" the "threads" of brain cells in charge of these type of skills. I think they helped, they sure didn't hurt ;)

    Maybe you can try this with some nephews or small children close to you :)


  3. Jana337

    Jana337 Senior Member

    Just curious: Do you think that speaking English to an unborn baby matters? I have heard about pregnant women playing the piano in the hope of raising a new Mozart.

  4. ILT

    ILT Senior Member

    México - Español/Castellano
    Well, I don't know about creating a Mozart, I don't think it works that way. But, since I was talking to my baby telling him how cherished he was, how happy we were that he was on his way, etc., I might as well do it in English.

    We Mexican moms are very expressive, and we talk and sing to our babies long before they are born (and not for brain-cell development purposes). In fact, the first year of their life it is common (but not a rule), to celebrate each month with a little cake and the presence of the closest family and maybe a couple of friends. Corny to some cultures, I know, but that's the way we are :)


  5. Magg Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    Hi Jana,

    I think something of the matter may be true.
    I recently watched on TV a piece of news concerning this. It dealt with a new research where doctors had reached the conclusion that unborn babies are sensitive to what´s happening around them, even in a sense that they feel uncorfortable with stron light.

    They also showed images taken with the baby inside and how it reacted to outer stimulus.
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hola Charmedboi82,

    My experience was very similar to ILT's. English is my native language. I raised both my sons in Spanish. I spoke absolutely nothing but Spanish to them from the day they were born, and their mother spoke to them in English. Here are a few of the results--

    -my eldest spoke his first words in Spanish...he sat in the dining room, dropped some food on the floor, and as I bent over to pick it up, he pointed up at the chandelier, and yelled, with glee, "¡la luz! (The light!). He was 10 months old. He was speaking baby Spanish fairly well by 1yr of age, and English began a few months later.
    -Son #2 barely spoke at all until about 2 1/2 yrs. old, and then burst into sentences and paragraphs in both languages!

    Both boys were happy to speak and read in both English and Spanish at home, but once they began school, and noticed that the other children didn't speak Spanish, they began to suppress it in public, and were even embarrassed when spoken to in anything other than English.

    Their mother learned Spanish from hearing the boys and I speak it!

    The older son had a good friend whose mother is from Brasil. He learned some Portuguese from him, but made fun of him, because he thought the Brasilian boy was speaking faulty Spanish!:eek:

    Go for it!!!

    un saludo,
  7. Magg Senior Member

    Spain / Spanish
    And what happened to your sons´s Spanish? Did they lose it in favour of English, or are they fluent in both languages now?

    I´m just curious.
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hola Magg,

    My older son has lost most of it from lack of use. My younger son continues to speak it fairly well. He just returned home from a few months of study in Madrid, where he studied grammar for the first time! Both can understand it quite well, but only the younger speaks it.

    Un abrazo,
  9. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    Charmed: That's a good question. I, too, plan on (in the future) raising my children on at least two languages. I often wish my parents had done the same with me, perhaps my present endeavors wouldn't be as taxing as they are. Nontheless, I still adore languages, I want the same for my future children.

    I have heard that separating the languages is important for children. One parent speaks only one language to the child, the other parent, a different language. Or, speak one language in the home, the other in the school, yet another in another (church for example).

    I know of so many Spanish-speaking children living here (in MD / in the USA) who have such an advantage. They speak Spanish in their homes, and become fluent this way. Then, begin school and learn English (although I agree that a bigger effort should be put forth regarding assimilation. Many children are simply thrown into the school system, without introduction or warning).

    I know one such little girl. Her family speaks Spanish in the home. They actually don't speak English very well at all. Her brother is 9 and speaks English perfectly. Afterall, he's been going to school here for 5 years. She recently began kindergarten. As of now, she's only been going for about 6 months. It's really amazing how children learn so quickly! I don't think her grammar is good, but she understands everything I and her brother say to her in English. And, she manages to say some things, as well. It's unbelievable.
  10. CLEMENTINE Senior Member


    What an interesting thread!

    Event hough I am not a mummy yet, I have so many examples showing that children can understand very easily many languages at the same time.
    I've grown up near Geneva, by the International Organisations such as the UN and of course, I went to school with kids of different countries. It was great. I have a couple of examples : a Pakistanian friend - Her parents spoke Hurdu and English but could barely understand French, and their daughter was in a French school. Just because she was surrounded by French speaking kids, she followed her lessons very easily and had excellent marks (without any help). It was the same for Japanese friends!
    An good friend of mine who spent 4 years in the US talks in English to her 2 y.o. daughter; she understand simple words or sentence (baby English - but even for a native child you would not talk to him/her with an English adult level). Many of my friends are doing the same with Spanish, English or German.

    From my experience (as a witness), I saw that there is no need to start with complicated vocabulary - use the same words as we would use in our mother tongue. Cartoons, songs, tales are excellent means for starting, kids memorize it much more easily.

    I hope that I could use French as well as English (and mybe Spanish) with my future children. A great experience I think.
  11. mirandolina

    mirandolina Senior Member

    Padua, Italy
    Scotland - English
    My children were both raised in Italy but from the start I spoke only English to them. Even their father made an effort to speak mostly English, but there were a few Italian moments too. Also they heard Italian from other family members, but they didn't really start to pick it up until they went to kindergarten (age 4). They had no problem learning to speak Italian, it took them about a month to get acclimatised. They had lots of children's books in English, so there was never any chance of them losing English in favour of Italian. They both speak perfect English, with a genuine Scottish accent.
  12. QUIJOTE Senior Member

    Hats off to all of you, I have to tell you my experience, I have two kids (boy and girl) both speak english german and spanish, before you say how great this is, let me tell you, is sure not easy, and many times can be frustrating having to constantly correct them in how to say this and that, my wife reads to them in german and spanish and I reenforce english, anybody who wants to teach their children more than one language I am with you, I know how hard it is.
  13. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    I'm quite glad this thread was started since I have this dilemma as well. More than likely my kids will be born in the US from an English speaking father, who’s learning Spanish as we speak. Now, my native language is Spanish and as much as I feel very comfortable in English I want my children to learn my language, and the language of my family (who lives in Argentina). So my children will have a non-English speaking side of the family as well as a non-Spanish speaking side. Although this seems to be the ideal situation to raise bilingual children, some people have warned me. They believe that teaching both languages at once will slow down their learning process of English and other cognitive abilities. I’m not so sure about this, but it does make sense that it may be some sort of a strain for them. What do you think about this?

    saludos :)
  14. ILT

    ILT Senior Member

    México - Español/Castellano
    I frankly believe that the sooner we start teaching them the easier it will be for them. About slowing down their learning process, I can tell you that my son is already reading and writing (short words) and adding and substracting (small amounts) already, and he's 4. He has more problems with writing in English because it is not as phonetical as Spanish, but he's getting there.

    Also, I see this other advantage: the sooner he learns his second language it will be easier for him to take on other endeavours when he's older; let me explain myself, if he want's to go into the BoyScouts, he will have the time, or maybe a third language, or maybe a sport, of music/art classes.

    Because of the world today, it is more necessary than convenient for everybody to be bilingual to have better opportunities, and instead of taking after-school classes of English, he can make use of that time to pursue other interests.

  15. jacinta Senior Member

    USA English
    I whole-heartedly agree with you ILT. I believe that I has instilled the interest in my children even though I haven't raised them bilingually. They have heard me use Spanish their entire lives and know many words. It has made it easier for them in school to study and my younger wants to give up other subjects to take Spanish in school. He tells me he wants to learn it which is music to my ears. Raising a child to be bilingual is giving them a gift.
  16. CBFelix

    CBFelix Senior Member

    Maybe many times I wrote but again here I am..

    I have a daughter who is 5 years old , she speaks Dutch because her father is Flemish, she speaks Turkish because of me, she speaks Portuguese because we live in Brazil and everybody around her speaks Portuguese , she speaks English because it is common language between me and my husband and she always watch tv in English, she speaks little bit French because she is going to French school and her first word was in Urdu because we were in Pakistan then… moreover, she will learn Cantonese because in 6 months we will move to Guangzhou.. Imagine! What a change she has from the beginning of her life.

    One thing is very very important.. You have to be constant in language you are using. If you start to talk with your child in Spanish you have to continue, don’t ever mix with other languages. Your baby shouldn’t know that you can speak and understand English.. It happens to me.. My daughter knows I can speak and understand Dutch, Portuguese and English so when she talks to me she mix them all .. Turkish seems to a little difficult for her and she quickly replace it with other languages.

    One more thing, it is true that so many languages can prevent them to speak fluently any of them unless they are always in an environment of these languages.. I mean, my daughter’s Portuguese is much more fluent than her Dutch and English.. Her Dutch is better than her Turkish because we have Dutch speaking friends and I do speak Dutch with her sometimes. She has cartoons in Dutch etc.

    By definition of our job.. expats.. we have so many friends in same situation. Some keep only one language at home, some do like us.. Some kids don’t say a word until they are 3 because they are so confused.. some talks two, tree languages straight away without a problem.. Some mix languages up , some not.. I know a boy 16 years old who talks strange accent of German , supposed to be Swiss German but sounded Asian-French accent German because his mother was Pakistani and father was French and he went to Swiss School. My daughter, except Turkish, she doesn't mix them..

    Let’s hope you will manage as much the way Cuchuflete did and I did.
  17. mirandolina

    mirandolina Senior Member

    Padua, Italy
    Scotland - English
    As linguists we really have to make the effort to ensure our children have the benefit of speaking more than one language from an early age. It's not true that it makes them slow in starting to speak, as a nun at kindergarten told a German friend of mine who wanted her son to speak both languages. With the result that she stopped using German with him.....
    It's also easy for them to pick up another language, because they are open-minded in that sense. My two did German at school while most of their school mates chose English, a language which is not always well taught here in Italy.
    Now my son has a Romanian girl friend, so he is learning her language too (though she speaks perfect English). :)

  18. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    I can't help because I have never done this, but I had a friend who moved here from Canada (spoke French), and then married a Spanish man. Their common language was English, but they tried to raise their child trilingually. At one point the poor kid began mixing up his languages, and then he would only talk to his dad in Spanish and his mom in French. It was interesting to say the least, and I think he is well on his way to becomming trilingual. (he's only six)
  19. QUIJOTE Senior Member

    Why do you say "poor kid"? I find it very fortunate for any family who can teach their children a second, third and so on language, I was concerned about my kids learning development at first, but after a talk with a pediatrician I was surprised as how wrong I was, kids absorve so much information that made me feel jelous that I did not have that quality anymore, from then on there was no holding back.

    Forgive me if I sounded too harsh, just telling from experience.
  20. vachecow Senior Member

    USA English
    You are right. However, when I said poor kid, I didn't mean unlucky, (i don't really know how to say it) I meant that he was a little confused. One time he said, "Momma, I want le lait, por favor"
  21. charmedboi82 Senior Member

    USA, English
    Haha, I know a child that does something similar, but it's very normal to do that for a while even when parents don't mix the languages. It really shows that they know what the words mean. Also, I think that the poster was just showing how 'rich' these children really are for the abilities and knowledge they possess. It's quite a contrast to the 'poor' child that 'struggles' at first. Don't worry. It's how I would have most likely put it as well.
  22. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    To Phryne's concern, I offer this...both of my kids are bright (Remember, this is a parent describing his children!). One has had lots of problems in academic settings, but is a voracious reader and a superb writer. The other excels in academic environments.
    Both learned to read and play with languages before they were four. I suspect the bi-lingual household helped them substantially, and it was not 'extra work' or overload, as they learned to speak by listening and repeating, and by being read to and reading.

    Go for it!

    un saludo,
  23. Kelly B

    Kelly B Senior Member

    USA English
    Even if a child's speech is delayed somewhat by being raised bilingually, is this so terrible? Perhaps the child speaks clearly at age 3 instead of 2. A year's delay, compared to many years of study to achieve fluency later in life, seems like a good bargain.
  24. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    I was raised with one language and two dialects, does that count? :D

    Seriously, don't think dialects are easy to learn in that they are similar to the main language, not only they have their own words, but also their own rules (grammar, pronunciation, conjugations, idioms etc.)

    It is very likely that those who were not raised with a dialect won't be able to speak it as a "native", and hearing this person speak, you can tell right away ;)

    Anyway, what worries me most about a non native speaker teaching a foreign language is the level of competence. When I teach my own language, it's a natural process, but if I teach a language that is not my own, the risk is high, in terms of giving wrong info at an early age as a wrong imprinting... but if we don't mind approximation...

    I know of Italians - whose English level is less than elementary - teaching English at primary school. Though I find it wrong, maybe it won't do too much damage, for a class lasting 1 hour once a week, but what about a parent speaking a foreign language all the time?
  25. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    ILT, jacinta, CBFelix, mirandolina, vachecow, cuchuflete, Kelly B and Silvia (I hope I'm not forgeting anybody! )

    Many thanks to all of you who shared your experiences with me. I'll go for it! ;)

    saludos! :)

    PD: Silvia, I have two American friends whose father is Argentine and talked to them in his horrible, horrible (I can’t emphasize it enough) English and whose American mother taught them Spanish! :D Poor kids!
  26. Dulcinea Senior Member

    Italy Italian
    I would say go ahead.
    My mother is British and my father's Italian, and my mum didn't teach us english, if I knew why, I'd be much happier.. This is the worst thing she did to the four children she's had.
    So I would say, go ahead.. a language is the best gift you can ever give to your children.
  27. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    Silvia, yes it is not always a bed of roses. I agree with you that the mother (at any rate the dominant carer) should always speak her native language to her children not only for the risks you mention, but for the sake of the relationship - if there is hesitancy or a restricted vocabulary in the language between them the whole point and sophistication of language is jeopardised perhaps fatally. In the forum surely we agree that language is more than a learned skill like typing ?
    It is a received idea that the young learn easily - look at little so-and-so, he speaks seven languages fluently - but I know of several cases of quite upsetting trauma among young children who have been plunged into a foreign language - it depends on the child's personality. A sensitive child, say a four-year-old who has already learned and enjoyed real communication can be terrified by the wall of unintelligble sound. In the long run they do tend to adapt, they usually have to, but the suffering can be intense.
    I dont want to be a wet blanket. I do believe wholeheartedly in the benefits of knowing more than one language, and agree with the majority, the younger the better.
  28. gliamo Senior Member

    France, French
    When I have kids, I am planning to raise them in a (sort of) bilingual environment. Not being a native speaker of English shouldn't be a problem I think. If they can in a few years achieve the same level of fluency as me after many years abroad, I'll be happy!

    Just found a good website on the subject:

  29. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    Good for you, gliamo - you are the best judge of the adequacy of your language and if you have spent many years abroad perhaps you are now more comfortable with you adopted language than your native one ? I was thinking of consciousness, poetry, little nursery rhymes and word games/jokes - have you made that register your own ?
  30. gliamo Senior Member

    France, French
    Hi Amityville,

    French is clearly my dominant language in terms of knowledge and fluency. However I do think mostly in English. Humour is often based on culture rather than just language, so I will miss the odd joke that refers to, say, old TV programs or celebrities.

    From what I've read, it doesn't really matter whether the parents speak their second language with a native accent or not, as long as the child is exposed to it through other sources (CDs, tapes, videos, etc.). So even if we move back to France and I lose some fluency, overall it will be beneficial.

  31. Philippa

    Philippa Senior Member

    Britain - English
    Hi Silvia
    I read a book about this (I'll put the name in when I get home) and it referred to research on children learning languages. I think I'm right that the research, especially with sign language, showed that even if the parents weren't fluent (especially if they weren't deaf themselves) the children could still become completely fluent themselves, constructing the grammar correctly from the limited input of their parents.
    Philippa :)

    Edit: It's called Language - the Basics (2nd edition) by R.L.Trask published by Routledge. I thought it was a really interesting and nice and easy to read. Maybe you know all about language, psychology, grammars of different languages and stuff, but I didn't know most of it and I thought it was fascinating! Sorry to be so late with putting the name in here, Silvia :eek: Take care!
  32. Silvia

    Silvia Senior Member

    Thanks, Philippa, I'll wait for the name of the book :)
  33. Manuela Senior Member

    Italy -Italian/English
    here are my two bits: I believe it's wonderful that kids can communicate in many has been studied that kids who speak a second language do better in all the other subjects at school.
    Personally I speak Italian to my son, my husband speaks English to him and when we listen to music I play Spanish music and sing along..he loves it!
    I'm not sure of the results, my little guy hasn't spoken yet..but I'm sure he'll love being able to speak more than one language
  34. la grive solitaire

    la grive solitaire Senior Member

    United States, English
    I still find this story amazing and although I've shared it before, I think those who don't know it might enjoy it: When I was at university, I had a professor who spoke English, Italian, French, German, and Spanish, and whose husband was also fluent in these languages. Her mother-in-law spoke German, French, and English, and they had an au pair who was Spanish and spoke English. When my professor's daughter was about two and had not yet begun to speak, there was much concern, but her mother-in-law suggested that they give the little girl a bit more time before taking her to a doctor to be examined. A few months later, she did began to speak--in all five languages! Apparently, she had been listening closely to the different languages around her and just needed time to put it all together. :)
  35. rayb Senior Member

    Chile - Spanish
    This is really a very interesting thread.

    Let me share with you my experience at this regard. I had to raise my daughter in France, where she arrived at the age of four. At that time, I was able to speak and write French farly well, even if I am not native from a fracophone country (what a funny name, by the way). As this was a new experience for me, I asked the advice of a specialist. His advice, which I followed even if sometimes it wasn't so easy, was to observe allways one simple rule: "the sake of the relationship", as Amitville said earlier. Which means, in practice, that if a child wants to communicate something to his parents he has allways the right to say it in the laguage of his choice and, counterclockwise, if the parents want to communicate something to their child they have also the same right. Beleive me, this simple rule really works. The essence of this rule is to avoid to the child the hard experiece of beeing shared between two worlds with their respective languages: on one hand, a development language for learning at school or playing at the square and, on the other, a discipline langauge at home. Multilinguism is then the natural bridge for the sake of relationships. Unbalance in the level of fluency in a particular language at one or the other side is not really a big deal. Effectively in the global world in which we live, we have all of us to learn how to communicate with people with a higher or a lower level of knowledge of a given language. In fact, the respect of each other's level of knowledge is also a significant part of the sake of a relationship.

    The end of the story is that my daughter is fluent in French and Spanish, we speak each other almost all the time in French and I improved a lot my own French speakimg with her.....Even more, the simple rule worked also in cases where at first the parents weren´t able to speak in French.
  36. gliamo Senior Member

    France, French
  37. QUIJOTE Senior Member

    I am going to use "quote" to make sure your link doesn't fall thru the crack gliamo, but I want to thank you for your information, this is great help for many over here.

  38. jrod Member

    This is an interesting subject. Speaking of personal experience. We grew up in the U.S. Our parents emigrated from Mexico and spoke to us in Spanish since they didn't speak English. We are fluent in both languages. We learned English on our own, watching TV, school, friends, etc...

    I've learned that if you want your children to speak and be fluent in Spanish and are living in a different country, (U.S), then both parents should speak Spanish to their children at home. They will learn English or whatever other language of the country you live in.

    My example 1: I have three kids. I speak Spanish to them and my spouse speaks English. My kids are very limited in Spanish and are definitely going to have to take classes to learn more. This is because everything they do outside the home is in English.
    My example 2: My sister also has three kids. She and her spouse speak to them in Spanish at home. They all are fluent in both languages. This is the same with my other two siblings. They do the same. Both speak Spanish at home.

    From what I have experienced is that your children will be more fluent if both parents speak to them in Spanish at home. Believe me they will learn English or whatever other language of the country you live in.
  39. Phryne

    Phryne Senior Member

    New York City
    HI jrod!
    I appreciate your input; however, in my case I can't do what you suggest and I don't necessarily agree with it either. First of all my husband started studying Spanish about 3 years ago. He can hold a conversation but he makes tons of mistakes and he lacks vocabulary. Most importantly, why would I not teach them English? If my children are born here, I want them to be Americans. After all, it’s the language of their father and their father's family too. I know that they can learn it later, outside our household, but why would I deny them some of the knowledge I have if they can learn both? Because they won’t be as fluent in Spanish? Well, it’s also the kid’s right to choose how well they want to learn a second language.

    I believe that the best thing to do is as most people suggested. I will teach them Spanish and my husband will teach them English. What the outcome will be? We’ll see, but it’s worth the try...

    saludos :)
  40. te gato

    te gato Senior Member

    Calgary, Alberta
    Alberta--TGE (te gato English)
    Hey Phryne;

    Yes go for it!!!

    My son (age 7)..speaks better English than I do..(not hard to do)..and while I am trying to learn is he..and at his school they teach he is learning this as well..and my mother is Dutch and is teaching him some Dutch words..

    So far he is doing great in all of the languages. Sure he can't speak the other languages in full sentences yet but he knows different words, and uses them quite often. I think it is great, and hopefully down the line it will open many doors for him. As a single mom..I can only hope for the best for my son, and if his knowing many different languages helps him..then great, more power to him.

    The only thing that when he corrects his mother!!! But we have a lot of fun sounding off different words in different languages. The other thing that I have found is that he likes to use different languages with people..and then tell them what the word means..He said it makes him feel like a teacher..special...

    So as others before me have said...GO FOR IT!!...I mean, what can it hurt? for speaking many languages to your children and having them be slower in learning..I do not believe that..My son is very smart..(as I have been told by his teachers..I'm starting to question if he is really mine..kidding)..and he has no problems in actually helps him, so that he is not bored easy..and wants to learn more.

  41. Inara Senior Member

    My 4 years old son talks Russian to me although the only person who speaks Russian in his everyday life is me. Well, he also watches cartoons in Russian that his Grandmother sends him. He uses Catalan at school and with the people who talks Catalan to him. If you direct him in Spanish, he will reply in Spanish. He doesn't complain about me speaking diferently. And he does well at school. He likes me tell him tales in Russian though he knows I can do it in Spanish as well :)
    But I think we do have some problem. I wish he learned Cyrilic letters and start reading his favourite tales in Russian, but at the moment he learns latin letters and refuses to admit that "his" letter maybe diferent from that he learned at school. I also am afraid to confuse him and do not insist. Maybe I will try later, when he knows already to read Spanish and Catalan. Or, am I wrong? For me it will be great failure if he doesn t learn to read Russian. I find it very important
  42. CBFelix

    CBFelix Senior Member

    Here is an other opinion. I do not agree with it but, because it is quite an important issue, it is worth to mention.

    I had a friend who grown up in a multi-lingual environment, Italian mother, Spanish father, grown up in London etc.. She, besides English, talks Spanish, Italian and Portuguese fluently.. each is like a mother tong. She is married with a Spanish and has two kids. She simply refuses to talk and teach any languages other than English. She was so pissed off with her parents that she suffered and struggled all her childhood by these languages. She hated her father who mixes up several languages in one sentence. Now, she prevents her kids contact with any other language, sends them to British school, etc… She chose English because it is international and as she used to say ‘ it’s a lingua franca ’.

    And there are many others who things the same…
  43. VenusEnvy

    VenusEnvy Senior Member

    Maryland, USA
    English, United States
    I have, per your request, made some corrections. :)

    CB: That's very unfortunate. I think that mixing up the languages in the same sentence would confuse the heck out of me, too! Poor woman. Thank you for sharing this story. It represents the "other side of the coin".
  44. redwine

    redwine Member

    L'Asie aux asiatiques
    well for me, i experienced a quite different thing.

    i grew up in a city [ it happens to be the capital of my country] where people speak the national/official language. [if youll ask me where am i now located, please pm me]. not a bad for a kid of a mother who speaks Dialect A and a father who speaks Dialect B. My mom dont even know a single word in that Dialect B. Same goes with my dad. They speak with each other using the National Language (NL). Well, since I spend more time with my mother than my father, I know some Dialect A (DA) words, though she didnt really teach me to speak in her dialect. I dont know how that thing happened! :(

    Then we moved to a certain province in the north speaking Dialect C [that was when I was 5 years old] hmpt! it was hard for me to speak in their dialect. now i am in my 'tweens' , i still hard time to speak in (DC) Dialect C though i pretty much understand it.

    now, in home, we speak in NL than DC though in school, my siblings speak in DC cause u know, 'they were born in the tribe'! :D

    there will be no problem with me if someone will speak to me in DC, but the thing is, I can only reply to them in broken DC, besides till now, I could not still mimic the DC accent whereas my siblings could speak the dialect as natives do :(

    some people told me to brush up my Dialect C speaking but i choose not to. i dont know.
  45. jaykemin Senior Member

    Bilinggual??that will be cool. Our children could land a high paying jobs.
  46. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    This blunt comment made me laugh after all our analysis.
    It's not necessarily true though is it ? I have seen trilingual secretarial/receptionist jobs advertised at minimum wage. Depends where you live, what languages you have, and your other skills, so don't count on it, jaykemin. Are you in a high-paid job yourself ?
  47. chica11 Senior Member

    USA English/Spanish
    Hello! I just wanted to say what a great thread this is. I speak Spanish and English. English is my native language and I speak Spanish fluently. I am embarking on a MA/Phd in Spanish linguistics/latin american literature and so by the time I actually have children, I hope that I am ready to teach them both English and Spanish. This thread is definitely very encouraging to me.

    I remember having a professor down in Costa Rica, who was from switzerland and spoken a multitude of languages. Him and his wife were only teaching their two daughters, English, French and Spanish. Their daughters were young and so they would often mix them up. The professor specialty was Spanish linguistics and Romance linguistics by the way. Apparently, as long as you set a good foundation, your children will be able to pick up the language quickly in the future if it's not constantly used. And of course, one never uses more than one language constantly. Sometimes, because you happen to be living in Mexico, you speak more Spanish than English so your brain gets used to that; but then you move back to the U.S and now you speak more English and so your brain accustomizes itself.
  48. Amityville

    Amityville Senior Member

    English UK
    You've had a hard time rw by the sound of it and just within your own family and yet you are speaking English here on the forum as well - I guess you are quite sensitive to the gaps and lapses in the dialect that you don't feel you speak well. All credit to you, there are people who claim to be fluent in a language but are audibly getting by on the Daily Mirror reader's vocabulary of 5000 words. We all start off in a new language like that, and what I was trying to say in an earlier post, is that the identity crises that all (older) kids go through, is made harder by being unable to be yourself because you are what you say (in a sense) and if that's nothing then you feel you are nothing. This just applies to kids over 12 I guess, not the main issue in this thread, I concede.
  49. touaregsand Member

    Los Angeles
    Korea and America/ Korean and English
    We're a multi-lingual household. Korean, French, English and Arabic.

    The boy is too young to speak much of anything. But the girl speaks, reads and writes three languages. She is 6 1/2.

    Her first language was Korean. She began speaking English at around two, but since I was the only native speaker she was exposed to she didn't have much confidence in speaking it with other people. She attended a Korean pre-school and began attending a private French school in kindergarden. She also takes Korean classes on Saturdays. We plan on introducing Arabic next year.

    She has a facility for languages and is very talkative.
  50. lazarus1907 Senior Member

    Lincoln, England
    Spanish, Spain
    Several years ago I met a couple who raised their daughter quintilingually (if such word exists). The little girl didn't have any problem switching form English to Spanish to Italian to German... and I can't remember which one was the last one. I asked them about their method and they said that they just have been talking to her in all languages since she was born, and they let her watch TV in all those languages as well. No teaching at all, but because of their job, she had plenty of chances to talk to foreigners all the time, which is an resource not everybody has available. They also mentioned that it is very important not to mix the languages, and that she started talking slightly later than other kids, but once she started she had no problems, and eventually her vocabulary turned out to be better than most kids of her age. I regret not having asked them more details then.

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