Language Learning: Non-native raising bilingual children

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morpho

Member
English, USA
First, I want to echo all the "great thread" comments!

I will be in your shoes, charmedboi82 -- I am a native English speaker but fully intend to raise my children at least bilingually (I feel competent enough to speak only Spanish to my progeny, as I'm an aspiring ESL/Spanish professor). Hopefully my partner will be able to speak something non-Romance -- maybe even non-Indo-European... like Hebrew :)
 
  • lizzeymac

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Hi
    I was not raised bilingual but reasonably close - I hope this is relevant. My parents are native english speakers & spoke english at home but my grandfather was raised speaking only french at home. He taught all his grandchildren basic childrens french when we were little - greeting people, table conversation like passing food, counting games, christmas songs, and we would speak in french for at least part of every visit. My best friend's family are italian & her grandmother lived with them & taught us fairy tales in italian. My parents wanted me to learn a second language & sent me to a school run by french nuns. The school had children from many different countries so for many french was a 3rd or 4th language, & about half the students were learning english for the first time. We started french class in kindergarten, every day like any other class, the teacher spoke only french, no english at all. They used pictures & songs & games & focused on conversation & complete sentences & did not "translate" at all. They never talked about "accent", they just taught us the correct way to pronouce words & sentences - children are taught there are many different sounds for each letter or combination of letters in their first language, so we just learned more new fun sounds. They explained to the parents that with very young children they found it was better to speak to them in complete sentences using good grammar rather than trying to make young children memorize rules, the only rules they explained to us were the plural & singular and the familiar & the formal - which they explained as an extension of good manners. If we made mistakes they corrected us nicely. They used games & art projects to explain more complicated things like the difference between how many & how much, taller-bigger-higher etc. We were encouraged to write stories & plays in french & practised penmanship in french class just like in english class. As we got older the lessons became more formal & technical, just like all academic classes. The school had a French Only day once a month and we celebrated holidays & customs from french speaking countries from all around the world. One of the best parts of learning another language is learning about other cultures & countries - it is a great starting point for many other school classes & interests - history, geography, cultural studies - we even had home economics/cooking class in french once a week & we learned the metric measuring system for french recipes & had to make out a home budget in francs for math class.
    I stopped taking french classes when I was 12 years old, about 30 years ago, but I can still read french, understand it in conversation and my accent is pretty good.
    I believe learning another language at a young age gave me a huge academic advantage - as a child you see the connection between similar words in different languages, especially as you read - you learn word roots almost unconsciously & that will help you all your life, particularly in vocabulary exams. I know I learned spanish grammar in high school by comparing it to french grammar & I learned as much about english grammar in french class as in english class.
    I spent 2 weeks this winter tutoring my younger cousin for her college placement exams. She started french when she was about 15, italian & spanish at 12 years old and gets excellent grades & loves speaking other languages but I don't think she got the same overall benefits as if she had started when she was a child. She says she still finds herself "translating" in her head every once in a while & sometimes has to stop & conjugate a verb to be sure.
    I think there have been many excellent points raised in this thread, & some understandable concerns, but my experience was wonderful.
    Thanks for this great forum, it is a wonderful way to learn.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    This is a VERY interesting thread! What do you do if you marry someone who doesnt speak your language? Do you speak to your child in Panjabi even if the mother is only an English speaker? It seems a bit rude...and it would require my wife to learn the language...I guess I'll discuss it with my future wife if and when I get married...:;):
    anyway
    So if you're penta-lingual and you speak all five to your child, how can mixing up not occur? Do you complete a sentence in the language you started in and then move on to another one mid conversation? Maybe I dont give children enough credit for being smart!
     

    justjukka

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - USA
    My sister, though she does not speak Spanish herself, is starting her two year old son on Spanish words. I think it's a wonderful idea to help them begin their bilingual training, even if you are not fluent themselves. I wish my parents had started me when I was a toddler, so I'm sure they will be very appreciative when they're older.
     

    justjukka

    Senior Member
    USA
    English - USA
    redwine said:
    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.
    HEY!!! :eek: Were I you, I'd learn every language laid at my feet! Of course, it is your decision.
     
    panjabigator said:
    This is a VERY interesting thread! What do you do if you marry someone who doesnt speak your language? Do you speak to your child in Panjabi even if the mother is only an English speaker? It seems a bit rude...and it would require my wife to learn the language...I guess I'll discuss it with my future wife if and when I get married...:;):
    anyway
    To quickly answer this part of your question, if you marry someone who does not speak your language, it's not a problem at all. They will learn simple things by listening to you (asuming they are linguistically and amourously inclined), and will trust that if it is important and they do not uderstand, you or the child will translate.

    It is hard getting over the feeling that it is rude to speak to your child in a language others do not understand. I felt very awkward doing so at first, speaking English to the kids in French public. But you know, you just get over it.

    I really think my kids would not speak such great English if I spoke to them in French just because we were with someone who doesn't understand is listening. If it feels like you're being rude, you can always translate to the third party.
     

    beacea

    Member
    spanish uruguay
    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 :)
    Hi! Well, I have been teaching English for 11 years and studying methodology, the stages in the child's development and the like. I can tell you that nobody knows exactly how the learning process works, but there is evidence that learning more than one language enables the subject to develop the cognitive abilities better than monolingual people do. The studies also show that when the bilingual/multilingual person reaches old age, their minds are more active and the person has a better quality of life. I think it's very good what you do, that is, looking for information. Talk to as many ppl as you can! My advice is, go ahead! you are providing your children with a very important tool for the future.
     

    beacea

    Member
    spanish uruguay
    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
    Don't worry, Inara! I think he can pick it up later, when he's familiar with the latin alphabet. I have exactly the opposite problem: I can read and write in Russian, but I can't speak it! :) Well, this is because I'm learning, but what I'm trying to say is that it's not difficult to read in Russian. After your son masters reading and writing in Spanish, you can teach him.
     

    beakman

    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
    Don't worry, Inara! Your son will also read Cyrilic letters. May be he has already learnt them...and doesn't want to recognize it. My son (he's 6) does read in Russian, but when he wants or it is a part of a game (for instance, the dinosaurs go to school where an ugly, mad teacher/ monster makes them read, speak about animals, molecules..., answer his questions, etc). As I always form part of similar games, my son has acquiered much vocabulary and speaks Russian fluently.

    What esle? It is very difficult both for children and parents.

    From my son's birth I was determined to speak to him only in Russian, fortunately, my husband was in favour...though he weren't, all the same, my son whould be taught it, as I only can tell Russian falk stories and sing Russian lullabies with naturalness.

    So, The first 3 or 4 years were the most difficult, especially, for me. It felt very upset and people in the street (we live in a small town) overwhelmed me considerably. It wasn't easy to overcome shyness and speak to my son with a great self-confidence when we were out of home- I understood that my lack of it might be contagious. And I always made an effort and wherever we went (to the park, doing shopping, somebody's else's place, etc. I made myself speak Russian with the same naturalness as we were at home- so difficult!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Since I got used not to "turning down" my voice while speaking in Russian with my son, everything is better for me and logical to my sprout.

    Regards!
     

    )o(Akasha)o(

    Member
    spanish Spain
    CB FELIX
    I am spanish, my boyfriend norwegian but I also want our kids to speak english. You say when you start talking a language to your child you should not let it know that you speak anything else but that language. That would be hard because I talk norwegian with my boyfriend, spanish with my family and english is just a "must"...so, what am I suppose to do? :s
    is it really that bad for a child? do they really get all messed up in their heads with so many languages??
     
    Well, if you're busy trying to teach im English, who will be teaching him Spanish? I say this because I believe strongly in the "one person one-language" method with children, and Spanish is your language, after all!

    You should remember that the most important thing is not which languages a bi or tri lingual child learns to speak first - he can learn others later, far more easily than a mono-lingual child. If he grows up in Norway speaking Spanish and Norwegian, I'm willing to bet he will learn to speak excellent English at some later point in time.

    I think a child will resist learning a language from Mom or Dad if it is unnatural - and I can't imagine anything more natural for a Mom than speaking, singing, and playing with a child in the language in which she experienced her own childhood. :)

    CB FELIX
    I am spanish, my boyfriend norwegian but I also want our kids to speak english. You say when you start talking a language to your child you should not let it know that you speak anything else but that language. That would be hard because I talk norwegian with my boyfriend, spanish with my family and english is just a "must"...so, what am I suppose to do? :s
    is it really that bad for a child? do they really get all messed up in their heads with so many languages??
     

    robertino

    Member
    Italian
    Nice topic... Well, I would like to say a few things I learned from a friend of mine who were grown bilingual.
    - there's always a language hat grows stronger than the other (because of the environment, school, friends..). He doesn't have anyway big problems in both of them (actually he's 25 and has an MA in one of the 2 languages but already worked as a native speaker teacher of the other one at University...)
    - About talking to an unborn baby, well, that's an interesting point. I know this: if of the 2 parents only the mother speaks to his not yet born baby, as a child he will generally see the mother's voice as the "real" authority, much more than the father's. Basically, he will have a deeper memory of his mother's voice than his father's. It's just a few months of memory more, some may say, but think about the value of a month in a baby...

    Now, back to the bilingual point, I have to say my personal experience. I'm Italian native speaker, but actually, in Italy we have different dialects in each part of the country, sometimes in every city. These dialects have different grammar and different phonetical system, as well as different words. I would say, It's something like Italian-French difference. So, I can say I am bilingual actually, as I was grown with both Italian and my dialect. My parents never worried about how good would I become in these languages, so they just spoke both since I was born, 'cause it was normal. Now I can say I can speak both without problems. Of course, this dialect is less used nowadays, so sometimes I forget how to say a word, I probably spoke better this language when I was a child and I used it more...
     

    ekhlewagastiR

    Member
    Russian (languages RUS, SWE, ENG, GER, ESP)
    - there's always a language that grows stronger than the other (because of the environment, school, friends..).
    That’s true. Every language is changing constantly, new words appear, some words get new significance, etc. If you don’t have any contacts with the country of the language you are loosing a bit of this knowledge and then you visit the country 50 years later and speak an old-fashioned sort of the language. But still it’s not a problem nowadays with internet resources and the best of intentions. J

    I’m completely in favour of bilingualism. I only speak Russian to my daughter since she was born and my husband does it only in Spanish. She perfectly understands the both but still doesn’t speak, just repeats some words (she is 23 months old). The family of my husband (rather narrow-mindedL) sees it all problem and would prefer the child to be spoken only one language. Luckily my husband and I have another opinion. J

    It’s a great gift we can make to our children who will know 2 languages (or more!) being 3 years old and not only one like the rest of children. And it’s very good for their future.

    And of course it’s for the sake of the relationship and communication between my daughter and me, as it was mentioned earlier by other users. It would be very strange for me if my daughter had to learn Spanish from me at first hand, living in Spain and being surrounded by a lot of native speakers. :confused: Our choice is to give her two languages as a present and not a half of Spanish.
     
    There is a very old-fashioned school of thought that said that whildren would be confused by two or more languages, and it was all a load of rubbish that some people still believe.

    Good for you EkhlewagastiR :) for not worrying about what others think, I know a little boy of about 10 whose American mother believed her French in-laws that it would not be good for the boy. I know she regrets it. So will her son!

    Plus, if you don't teach them to speak your language, how will they talk with your family and feel at home in your (other) country?

    It would be very strange for me if my daughter had to learn Spanish from me at first hand, living in Spain and being surrounded by a lot of native speakers.
    Exactly! My kids certainly don't need me to teach them French!
     

    )o(Akasha)o(

    Member
    spanish Spain
    Well, if you're busy trying to teach im English, who will be teaching him Spanish? I say this because I believe strongly in the "one person one-language" method with children, and Spanish is your language, after all.

    I think a child will resist learning a language from Mom or Dad if it is unnatural - and I can't imagine anything more natural for a Mom than speaking, singing, and playing with a child in the language in which she experienced her own childhood. :)

    I am saying that I would like to teach the kid both english, spanish and norwegian.... not doing the "one person one-language" method. And I can't imagine talking spanish with my kid and then say something to my boyfriend in norwegian, that would be weird :s Of course it is more natural for me to speak spanish, but I feel comfortable with the other languages too.
     
    Hello,
    One can learn a language if you’re exposed to it somehow, specially if you’re a little kid. I was born and raised in a Spanish speaking Mexican city which borders an American city.

    Both my Mom and Dad are monolingual Spanish speakers, and they never meant for us to be bilingual, thought ever since I can remember I’ve always talked and understood English. My Mom told me the reason for that, was that since we were I guess toddlers my older brother and I would watch TV tirelessly, cartoons like woody woodpecker, jetsons, flintstones, etc., because back then only two channels were in Spanish “which we didn't like”, the rest American television. She told me that me and my brother used to sit and laugh as though we understood every thing, and she always wonder whether we could comprehend a language that nobody taught us, only later she found out when we began to translate to her what was being said.

    Though I only began to read and write English until I got to seventh grade, when they started to teach us English as a foreign language at school, and picked it up right away. My younger sibling learned English the very same way, their was a brief period were he was less exposed to English and I did notice he stared to talk a lot less English, nowadays he is very much bilingual, though he still hasn’t master the “th” sound, so I keep correcting him.

     

    quitejaded

    Senior Member
    English, USA (texas)
    Here's something I find interseting.

    My family is igbo and my aunt has two babies.

    The first one didn't start speaking some english words until the age of 2.

    The other baby, just a year old, isn't saying any real words yet.

    What you should know is that the parents speak Igbo to each other and most of the time. But when they speak to the baby they speak in english. The 2 yaer old can understand english and some igbo, but I doubt he will be able to speak it because he has not repeated any igbo words.

    I just wondered if their late speaking has anything to do with the 2 languages and the way they are used in our house.
     

    mrtom2985

    New Member
    English, UK
    I would like to add something to this thread as someone who has an English mother and French father, but grew up only speaking English.

    As far as I am concerned, if you want your kids to speak more than one language (why stop at 2?), whether you speak the languages or not, the best thing you can do is constantly expose them to the languages - by speaking to them, letting them watch TV in the languages, or whatever - and DON'T FORCE THEM! If your child sees you reacting negatively because they don't show enthusiasm for a particular language, it does NOT make them more interested in the language - it makes them LESS interested! I know it sounds obvious, but I think parents get so fixed on their goal, that they forget the person who has to do the learning also has opinions and feelings, and they may well be different to yours.

    What you should do instead is find a way to make the languages fun. Play games with them in the language, sing songs together from a country where the language is spoken, make friends with people from that country and invite them to your house.

    Also, remember that in countries like England and America, once children start to go to school, they may well become embarassed by their talent, because other children do not understand that what they have is a gift, and can make them feel alienated because of it. As a parent, it is your job to make your children feel PROUD of their talent, and not afraid to speak it in front of their peers. This does not mean they have to go around flaunting it, but the worst possible outcome is for a child to restrain themselves from speaking the language. You must help them understand that it is not a disease, but something very special, which they will one day be able to show to the world and will not be made to feel bad because of it.

    And to all those parents who can't speak the language, but want their kids to speak it... go for it! Learn it yourself, or even make it a joint learning activity between you and your kids. Even if you are only able to teach your child 100 words in a year, they will be 100 words which you can share together, and will have a special meaning. Also, it will not do the child any harm to know these words, and will make them much more open-minded to continuing their own studies of the language when they are older.

    I have heard a number of people say that American doctors told them it will be detrimental to a child's English abilities if they grow up with another language at the same time. Without being rude, they don't know what they're talking about. There are plenty of cultures around the world where it is perfectly normal to speak several languages/dialects from the start. The human brain was made to accurately assimilate a great many different forms of communication, and learning only one language as a child is a waste of your brain's abilities. Often, bilingual children do much better in school than their peers, even if they started to speak a little later - which is not strictly true. I think too much importance is placed on how well a child performs in school at ridiculously early ages (4-9 years old). You may well find that after they move past this age, the foundation you have built really starts to bear fruit, as they begin to overtake their peers in studies of the local native language, and of course they will most probably find it easier than their peers to learn brand new languages in school.

    In short... languages are great! And there is no reason why every child born on this planet cannot be raised bilingual at the very least!

    I'm fininshed now.
     

    mariposita

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Interesting topic. I've been through this personally and am going through this with my son, who is five... My general impression is that raising a truly bilingual child is not nearly as easy as one might think (and hope). I think it is important to have the right expectations, so as to not push too hard.

    From what I have gathered from my experience and from many other parents and kids that I have seen that attempt it, to be completely successful--that is for a child to have two "first languages"--it requires a really specific set of circumstances.

    The truly bilingual kids are those who are completely immersed in two separate "worlds." It could be that they speak one language at school and another at home (this seems to be the ideal). This isn't forced on them in any way, it's just their simple reality and they accept it and make the best of it. The more verbal a particular child is, the better they seem to adapt--but it's NOT necessarily easy for them. My son is insanely verbal (the main complaint that we've always got from his teachers at school is that he NEVER stops talking) and he has gone through periods of intense frustration. This is especially true when the pendulum swings too far out of balance and he gets significantly stronger in one of the languages--for example, after spending a month in the US this summer just speaking English. It took a few months to restore the balance and he suffered for it quite a bit. By the end of the school year, the situation will probably be reversed...

    Then there are kids who are bilingual to a lesser degree. Children who understand the language passively, but can't speak it at a native level or at all. I fell into this category, as a child. Now I can't speak the language in question at all--I don't know the grammar, syntax, etc. I can understand quite a bit and pronounce the words well. I do believe that this experience as a child greatly enhanced my ability to learn languages later on (at times, I also suspect that it enhanced my ability to forget them...).

    We have never adhered to the strict rule of always speaking English to my son 100% of the time. Instead, we have respected the space that we are operating in. At home we speak English nearly all the time, though we read in Spanish a lot and often my son likes to tell me about what happened at school in Spanish, since this part of his life is "castellano." In the "outside world," we all mostly speak Spanish. We don't really have many other people to speak English with and it feels forced for me to interact with my son in English when I'm speaking Spanish to everyone else. this has never been a problem.

    So, to make a long story short, I think there are many different ways to go about this and many different possible outcomes--nearly all positive from a learning standpoint. If the second language you are trying to impart isn't your own, I would think that it would be crucial to find or create a "little world" where the child is entirely immersed on a regular basis, not only passively listening, but also actively participating and speaking.
     

    quitejaded

    Senior Member
    English, USA (texas)
    In Germany, its not unusual to find someone who can speak 3+ languages. They even say to leave a man completely if he's hitting on you because you can't use an excuse like "I don't speak German" or "I only speak Portugese". Even if he can't speak it, chances are he has a buddy who can.

    Well, anyway, How do people in these other countries get to be so well rounded in language? Anyone know?
     

    malonso2

    New Member
    English - USA
    I've always been upset at the fact that my father and his family never taught me spanish (he came from cuba at a young age). We tried to pick it up in school, but in our situation foreign language wasn't offered until high school. I find myself translating everything if I can even attempt to hear or say spanish. Maybe I can read it somewhat from time to time, but to me it seems like a loss.

    To anyone who doesn't want to teach their child their native language - I ask you to teach them so they don't feel deficient later on. I know my gramma would be please if we could speak to her in spanish (she learned spanish, english, and french in Cuba).

    I plan to teach my children whatever I can at the youngest possible age. I hope I won't force anything or push to hard, but from my personal experience - I know its way easier to learn something when your young. Though I only ever thought of them learning English and Spanish, maybe I should think of expanding that. I'm studying mechanical engineering - so "engineering stuff" was going to be my primary focus :p
     

    nurirgendwo

    New Member
    USA English
    There's alot of good information here, but I still have one unanswered question. How do you build a strong generic base of listening and speaking skills that can be applied to the language of your child's choice later on?

    I worry that as people get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to hear and speak the unique sounds that do not exist in the languages they are familiar with. (I'm currently frustrated because I can't pronounce Arabic or hear Russian at 28 years old) So instead of trying to teach them how to use the actual language, simply try to get them to recognize and repeat as many languages as possible to acquire more listening and speaking skills, even if they have no idea what it means or how to use it. That way, it should be easier to pick up on the language of their choice later on.

    For right now, I only plan to teach english and basic german. But I wonder when the right time would be to try introducing my child to mandarin, hindi, spanish, and all the other languages that I only understand a few words of.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    Like for most threads, I'm not going to read every post.

    I'm annoyed by parents who go crazy with Baby Einstein and tricks they hear about like speaking to your baby constantly in hopes of making them talk sooner. Einstein himself was slow to speak when he was a kid, and his teachers thought he had a problem. And I know very smart kids who apparently didn't get any special treatment as a baby/toddler.

    From what I know, speaking to your child in a language that you aren't fluent in will still help them learn that language considerably in the future because they will already have had practice with it.

    I find some people saying they speak 5 languages fluently, and I seriously doubt them. There's somebody who lives in my neighborhood who is like that and while she can speak enough English to get by pretty well, she still has a thick accent and says things funny sometimes. I'm not even sure if you can know 3 languages PERFECTLY fluently, speak without an accent, understand play on words without being explained, be fluent in slang, etc. I don't consider accents a part of fluency but I think it makes a big difference.

    My friend can speak both Arabic and English without an accent because she speaks only Arabic at home to her family, and English everywhere else. She goes back to Egypt for vacations sometimes. I think that's awesome. Even in America, I know people who are supposed to be "bilingual" but there's still something defective in one of their languages. I think a solid environment is necessary for learning languages. I've known kids who have been in immersion programs since elementary school but they still didn't do that well on their language's SAT.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    CB FELIX
    I am spanish, my boyfriend norwegian but I also want our kids to speak english. You say when you start talking a language to your child you should not let it know that you speak anything else but that language. That would be hard because I talk norwegian with my boyfriend, spanish with my family and english is just a "must"...so, what am I suppose to do? :s
    is it really that bad for a child? do they really get all messed up in their heads with so many languages??
    My mom speaks to my brother in Japanese, but the rest of my family (my dad and I) doesn't. My brother did not start speaking until later than most kids, and he had a problem with stuttering. He still has problems with reading comprehension and writing (though this may also be due to some other factors). Sometimes I wonder if it's because Japanese is SO different from English. Does anybody know if learning more related languages like French and Italian is easier for the child?

    I guess it's nice that he can still understand Japanese (basic things) when we visit family in Japan, but I'm convinced that it held him back in English. He also doesn't speak Japanese.

    About developing the cognitive skills...in my mind, it doesn't make much difference. I'm from an extremely diverse area, and many kids are exposed to something other than English. Some of those kids are smart, some aren't. I also know very smart people who only know one language. While I think bilingualism is nice, I don't think it is essential, particularly if family/relatives don't even speak it.
     

    mrtom2985

    New Member
    English, UK
    I'm pretty sure that as a general rule, exposing a child to two languages as diverse as Japanese and English is not necessarily harmful - but you just can't say that either argument is true for every single child in the world. Everyone is different.

    I think the important thing to remember is that just because someone can speak 2/3 languages from birth, it does not automatically make them a good linguist. Conversely, I find it quite easy to start learning new languages (including Arabic, for example), and I've only ever spoken 1 language truly fluently - English.

    The point I'm trying to make is that if someone is going to have language/speech difficulties, it doesn't matter whether they can speak just English, or English, Spanish and Japanese. If their brain is configured a certain way, they will always be susceptible to stuttering, or having trouble with the subject in school, or whatever. I know plenty of people who only speak English, and were never very good at English in school, and of course there are plenty of people who have speech impediments and only speak one language. If it was meant to happen, it was meant to happen.

    And just as a final small point - look at Masi Oka (who plays Hiro in "Heroes", and has also appeared in Scrubs)! He speaks perfect Japanese and American English. There will always be some people who struggle with it, but also other people who have no problem. It's kind of hard to know which one a person is when they're just a little baby, but in my opinion, just letting them hear a couple of different languages can't do any harm.
     

    mrtom2985

    New Member
    English, UK
    CB FELIX
    I am spanish, my boyfriend norwegian but I also want our kids to speak english. You say when you start talking a language to your child you should not let it know that you speak anything else but that language. That would be hard because I talk norwegian with my boyfriend, spanish with my family and english is just a "must"...so, what am I suppose to do? :s
    is it really that bad for a child? do they really get all messed up in their heads with so many languages??
    Personally I don't see any harm in each speaking your native language to the kid, but also every so often just throwing in a couple of English sentences. Kids actually love being able to say small phrases in a foreign language, even if they don't understand anything else. So what would be the harm in saying "Let's go!" instead of "¡Vamos!" to them once in a while, for example? They love to repeat stuff like that, and before long they'll have their own little repertoire of phrases to impress tourists with. This will also give them a platform to go on and discover English for themselves later, if they so wish to. I think the important thing to remember is that you can't necessarily force a child to take this step, but if you make it seem like something fun and interesting, then you may just make them curious enough to want to pursue it themselves.
     

    Musical Chairs

    Senior Member
    Japan & US, Japanese & English
    I'm pretty sure that as a general rule, exposing a child to two languages as diverse as Japanese and English is not necessarily harmful - but you just can't say that either argument is true for every single child in the world. Everyone is different.

    I think the important thing to remember is that just because someone can speak 2/3 languages from birth, it does not automatically make them a good linguist. Conversely, I find it quite easy to start learning new languages (including Arabic, for example), and I've only ever spoken 1 language truly fluently - English.

    The point I'm trying to make is that if someone is going to have language/speech difficulties, it doesn't matter whether they can speak just English, or English, Spanish and Japanese. If their brain is configured a certain way, they will always be susceptible to stuttering, or having trouble with the subject in school, or whatever. I know plenty of people who only speak English, and were never very good at English in school, and of course there are plenty of people who have speech impediments and only speak one language. If it was meant to happen, it was meant to happen.

    And just as a final small point - look at Masi Oka (who plays Hiro in "Heroes", and has also appeared in Scrubs)! He speaks perfect Japanese and American English. There will always be some people who struggle with it, but also other people who have no problem. It's kind of hard to know which one a person is when they're just a little baby, but in my opinion, just letting them hear a couple of different languages can't do any harm.
    It's true that people are different. I think it goes with how some people who speak more than one language are really smart, but some also aren't. And it's not just brain configuration that predisposes you to stuttering and other difficulties. I think lifestyle (like watching TV, etc) in many cases influences it more than how your brain was made.

    I don't know who this is but I would assume that he was raised in a similar environment (one language at home, the other everywhere else). There are people who know Japanese and English equally well, and all of them I know were raised that way (and often went back to Japan for their summer vacations). And also, I think interacting with people your age could be the most important thing (especially in learning every-day language and not just grammar/vocabulary) in being fluent. I came to the US when I was 6, but I was sent to kindergarten right away. Sometimes I'd say things and not get the responses I was expecting, or just guess what was being asked of me. I think it made it more comfortable, because children don't think adults are on the same level that they are. When I talked to the other people in my class, I was unconsciously learning without being taught, which I don't think can happen once you're past a certain age. So, I think there's a psychological aspect involved in learning from children and learning from adults. I don't know how it happened but I started speaking in 3 months and was correcting my mom's English the next school year. I wish it could be that way now with the current language that I'm learning. :(

    I was sent to a Japanese school (not immersion) when I got to the US, and I hated it at the time but I'm glad now because I can still read most things and not just understand/speak. I also went back to Japan for parts of two school years and went to school there. I'm sure that if I weren't able to read even though I could speak, things would be loads more inconvenient for me during my visits back (obviously) especially since the writing looks nothing like the kind I'm writing now so you can't sound things out like you could with English/French/German/Spanish, for example.

    Edit: I'd also like to say that I know of a Korean adult who moved to Japan who spoke Japanese perfectly after only two years. I think this has a lot to do with how similiar the two languages are, certainly more similar than Korean and English.
     

    jonquiliser

    Senior Member
    Svediż tal-Finlandja
    My mother, who is bilingual Swedish/Finnish 'for practical purposes' (she speaks Finnish without problems, though her grammar and ortography are not that good), decided to speak Swedish with me and my siblings. She felt more confident with her Swedish and thought it would be better that we spoke one language well (my father is also Swedish-speaking) than two languages so-so.

    Although I understand why she'd do things this way, and agree that it probably was better in many ways, I do wish that she would have put more emphasis on Finnish. I think it's possible to just read a few stories for one's kids, even if not talking in that language otherwise. Or audiotape stories, watch TV programmes or films with them (and explain anything the don't understand) or other, similar little things. That way at least the child(ren) gets used to hear and understand other languages, or at least might simply get used to differing sounds and structures.

    I imagine this is not exactly the situation the initial question revolved around, but I'd still say that there's no harm in introducing your kid to little bits and pieces of a language you don't speak perfectly, even if you generally speak your own first language with her/him. And as many others have said, just make it a fun thing rather than a "language class". :)
     

    argentina84

    Senior Member
    Argentina Spanish
    HEY! Really interesting thread my friends! It's a pity I didn't join the forum before...
    I would like my chidren to be bilingual, too (some future day). My first language is Spanish but I also speak English, some French and Italian. I love languages. But will it be ok if I teach my children English without being a native speaker of the language? I have been adviced to marry an English speaker but..well...that is another cup of coffee!

    hope we have more ideas and comments on this thread....
     

    SaritaSarang

    Senior Member
    English - United States
    I have a question.
    I plan to raise my kids speaking spanish and english, ( their father will most likely be a native spanish speaker), but spanish isn't my native language, and although i speak it quite well, I know I make mistakes, so will that have a negative affect on my kids? Is it okay for a parent to speak english and spanish to the kids ( for instance if I come across something Im not sure how to say, just say it in english), or should each parent speak one language to them ( dad speak spanish, mom speak english). ?
    Thanks in advanced for any advice :D
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    I think that if you provide a strong basis in Spanish, your children will be able to pick up the fundamentals fairly well. Perhaps placing them in a Spanish speaking daycare would be very helpful, because they would be receiving input from many speakers from all sorts of levels, and this can perhaps offset any doubts you have as a non native.

    Non natives do a great job teaching their children a foreign tongue. I learned English from my parents and they are non native, so it's definitely possible!
     

    simoneia

    New Member
    USA, Russian
    I am Russian. My husband is Italian Mexican. We have a 2 year old boy. We all live in the USA. We want our son to learn all our languages as well as English. I try hard to speak only Russian to him. My husband tries very hard to speak to him only Spanish mixing in Italian once in a while. Our child is in an English-speaking daycare from 9 to 11 hours a day. And surprise! His dominant language is English. It is getting so dominant that he would understand what I say to him in Russian and respond in English. He does the same with my husband. I have read several comments about being consistent in speaking for a child to realize that there is a way to speak to mom and there is a way to speak to dad. But it has become hard because my husband and I constantly mix, or switch codes when we talk to each other. I am fluent in English and high-intermediate in Spanish and he is fluent in Spanish and high-intermediate in English. That is why I speak to him in Spanish to keep my Spanish occasionally switching to English when I don’t know how to say something in Spanish, and he speaks to me in English occasionally switching to Spanish when he doesn’t know how to say something. Is it confusing enough? J
    Well as a result, our son hears us mixing two languages English and Spanish when we talk. Other issues come into play. I am worried that my son will be looked at as “different”, that he won’t fit in even though he was born here. I am afraid he will feel embarrassed that his parents speak English with an accent and speak some “other” languages. I am proud to have Russian heritage in me but I am not proud of my people. See, I strongly believe that Soviet regime seriously messed up our people’s mentality. I am embarrassed of that. I also know that part of this mentality lives in me. My husband has similar issues with the Spanish language and Mexican heritage. He believes that Spain destroyed Mexico and imposed their culture on the Mexican people. That is why very deep inside he is not proud to speak Spanish. Now, I don’t speak Italian and he does (he is 50/50).
    So my questions are:
    1. If we still want our son to learn Italian how should we go about it? Shall my husband speak to him in Spanish one day and Italian the next day? Any ideas?
    2. How do you teach pride of a language when you, as a parent, don't have much of it yourself?
    3. Does being consistent with a child in speaking but mixing languages between parents create a potential harm in language development?


    Thank you,
    Irina
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    I have a question.
    I plan to raise my kids speaking spanish and english, ( their father will most likely be a native spanish speaker), but spanish isn't my native language, and although i speak it quite well, I know I make mistakes, so will that have a negative affect on my kids?
    My class and I had a discussion about this with my linguistics professor. She said that it's best you speak the language with the child that you speak the best. If you speak English like a native, you should use English. If you speak both languages well you could attempt to use them both, too. But, it's not recommended that you use a language with the child that you don't feel confident or comfortable with. Anyway, you said his/her father will (most likely) be a Spanish-speaker, right?
     

    VenusEnvy

    Senior Member
    English, United States
    sarita said:
    I have read several comments about being consistent in speaking for a child to realize that there is a way to speak to mom and there is a way to speak to dad.
    I used to hear that, too. Recently I've spoken to foreign language specialists and linguists, and they've said that there exists research confirming that it does not matter whether the child only speaks Spanish to dad and only English with mom. They will learn to differentiate between the languages on their own.
     

    mariposita

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Irina--
    I think 2 years old is too early so see how all of this will turn out. From what I've seen firsthand, most bilingual kids really hit their stride with the languages when they are around 3 1/2 or 4. Some even later.

    I'm in a situation not unlike yours, except it is (mainly) just with two languages. My son is five. We live in Spain and he has been going to a Spanish public school for three years. Every year he starts school stronger in English after spending more time with us in the summer (we speak mainly English at home). At the end of every school year, his Spanish is stronger in certain areas (pronunciation, reading, writing). There is a constant push and pull between the two languages. I've found that it is very artificial and unrealistic to always speak English with my son. Almost all of our friends and the people that we interact with speak Spanish, so I basically try to create an English environment at home and we speak Spanish in the "outside world."

    I am not embarrassed that I still (and will always) speak Spanish with something of an accent and he doesn't. I correct him all the time in Spanish (he makes typical kid mistakes and certain Spanglishisms) and he does the same to me from time to time. He doesn't make the kinds of mistakes that I make. It's all part of the learning process.

    I would recommend that you try to get him into some other Russian and Spanish immersion environments. I think it is very important that children have more than just one or two people with which to speak the language. This is critical for correct pronunciation--every summer when I take my son to the US, he is shocked that so many people can't understand him when we understand him fine--part of the problem is that he speaks a mile a minute like a good madrileño, part of it is that he can get a bit sloppy because mama and papa can always translate what he's saying.

    In my opinion, language, history and culture are related, but not inextricably. We are both American (with other ethnic identities attached) and my son spends almost a month in the US every summer, but he isn't really American. He talks like an American with no accent whatsoever, but this summer in particular it became clear that culturally he is much, much more Spanish.

    Also, I think that it is very important to start thinking about reading. While some may think that parents should only speak one language with the child, I've found that we need to read in both languages. Otherwise, I think that it puts him at a serious disadvantage at school. Learning to read Spanish is helpful for learning English, so the one doesn't take anything away from the other.

    Our son is also exposed to French and Portuguese to a lesser extent. He keeps them perfectly separate from the other languages and could really take off with them if only we all had the time. Unfortunately there are only so many hours in the day....

    Good luck!
     

    elizabeth_b

    Senior Member
    mexico spanish
    Well my mother is a spanish speaker, my dad is portuguese speaker and i was born in France. So I was raised in the three languages. I remember that sometimes I mixed the languages but my parents correct me. But it was not a great confusion, it never caused me problems at school or something like that. Now, I have some problems with some expressions in Portuguese because there are many things similar to Spanish, so there are somethings that are tricky but it's not a big deal.
    About talking to unborn babies what doctors say is that the audition is the first sense to be developed so it seems that all that the woman speaks while she's pregnant is information that will be somehow processed by the baby. If this is so I think it may help.
     

    simoneia

    New Member
    USA, Russian
    Thank you for your coments :) they gave me a certain strength and confidence about the situation we are in.
    Irina
     

    jintro

    New Member
    French
    A quick word to encourage parents who want to teach their children a second language. My father is English and my mother French. I've always lived in France but I often go to England to visit my family. My father never spoke one word of French to me and my parents spoke to each other in English. I don't really remember getting mixed up when I was a little girl.

    Of course my French is much better than my English (the major factor being the French cultural environment I grew and lived in plus the fact I only spoke English to a few people as a child) but I'm really grateful and think it's a wonderful thing to know two languages.

    It is false to say that speaking two languages will make your child slow. I even think it is the opposite because it is like a "mind-opener" : two languages, two ways of seeing the world, two cultures, etc. If I remember well I skipped a year of school when I was 5.

    Anyway the only thing I could say is that one parent speaking another language is not enough, the child should become familiar with the culture too : read him books, try and take him to the country, etc. The second language should be "active" so that he can hear it often and pratice it later.

    Here's my "half-and-half" experience, hope it helped ;)
     

    Bog Svarog

    Member
    Macedonian, Dutch
    I'm planning to raise my children quadrilingually.

    Dutch
    Macedonian (Skopian)
    Bulgarian (Sofian)
    Serbocroatian

    Seeing how they'll probably master English by default as well, this will eventually make them pentalingual.


    I'll inform you of the results in about 20 years.

    ;)
     
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    Roy776

    Senior Member
    German & AmE
    Well, my personal experience as a child is a little bit strange, I'd say.
    I grew up bilingual, but started later than most of us here said. At first, I only spoke German, until the age of five. But I was already highly interested in other languages, or at least that's what my mom always said. She said I was always really fascinated when listening to music in a foreign language, always asking wether she understood what they're singing, and if I could learn it, too. My mom though always told me that it was only senseless babbling. For some reason she wanted to keep me from learning about other language's existence at first. But then, when I was four, we've got visit from our aunt from australia. She spoke to my parents in English, and that was the first time, that I've even noticed that it actually is a language. That much, I remember. From that day on, my mom tried to teach me english, really starting when I was 5.

    Now I have to say, that for me, it actually worked well, although it was a late start. But it also had it's disadvantages. I can't speak for myself here, I would need real native speakers for that, but I believe that I oftentimes make mistakes regarding the tenses. I have the feeling, that my English is influenced by my German. I don't believe to have problems regarding grammar, but the tenses are problematic, as German has long lost the exact difference between Preterite and Present Perfect (Präteritum and Perfekt).

    So, to keep this story relatively short now: I think it is really best to start as soon as possible, or one language could interfere with the other to a certain extent. Don't make that mistake, start as soon as possible and see it through to the end. The kids can only benefit from it.

    And the second thing I can tell you:
    My aunt has a friend who is in a very interesting relationship, seen from that point of view. She is polish, her husband's dutch and both speak German fluently, without accent. They have two children. They wanted to teach both kids Polish, but both found the language funny, always laughing about it. Their father, too, tried to teach them Dutch. The younger one again has no interest whatsoever, and finds it funny. The older one, though, has an interest in this language and is learning it right now. So, sometimes it also depends on the child, and the age you start with teaching/learning.
     

    merquiades

    Senior Member
    English (USA Northeast)
    Most of you here say you speak to your children consistently in one language and if they choose they have the right to answer back in the language of their choice as well. What do you think of forcing a child to speak back to you in your language? I know of a couple who speak English to their child (they're kind of near-native in English, but the family lives in France and always has and will). The child has decided to speak in French to them. They act like they don't understand and won't pay any attention to him if he doesn't try to answer in English. Is this harsh? Or is it like the end that justifies the means. They say he will get used to it... It's doubly strange because they are both native speakers of French and use the language with everyone besides the child. Otherwise they have planned it well with books, videos in English, native speaking nannies and tutors...

    Then again I know a lot of people trying to teach languages to children in France. Most are native speakers. But a lot of the time the will becomes weaker over several years. Usually it's when the children start speaking French and use it with the parents and the parents let them. If there is more than one child, they also speak to each other in French. So, all in all, after ten years everyone is speaking French. That was the case of a Franco-German and Franco-Russian family I know. So maybe this family forcing the language on their child won't be that bad in the end.
     
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    mariposita

    Senior Member
    US, English
    Wow, this is an old thread! I posted above when my son was five--he's now eleven! For him, everything has worked out fine. Despite living in Spain and going to a Spanish public school, he prefers English a bit now (it used to be the opposite). I think it's because he has learned English almost entirely from adults (and a few super-smart similarly international friends that he has), so he has a more sophisticated vocabulary at his disposal than in Spanish, which he has learned primarily from kids at school.

    Something merquiades pointed out mirrors what I have observed in many families of expats here in Spain. When the language spoken at home is different from that in the culture at large and the kids aren't part of a much wider immigrant group with close ties, first children tend to speak the family language much better than the second children and beyond. This is, I think, because the kids begin speaking the language of their place amongst themselves. And, perhaps also because parents tend to loosen their grip a bit with subsequent kids.
     

    Youngfun

    Senior Member
    Wu Chinese & Italian
    Hi mariposita! I'm glad to hear that you succedeed in raising your little boy bilingual! I'm happy for you.

    The child has decided to speak in French to them. They act like they don't understand and won't pay any attention to him if he doesn't try to answer in English.
    This reminds of a novel I read: "Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet" by Jamie Ford, in which there is this Chinese family emigrated in America, the father (despite not knowing ENglish very well) wants his child to speak in English, and whenever the child speaks to him in Cantonese, the father would ignore him. Then father and son ended up not talking at all.

    If it's worth I can tell my story as child of how I raised up as a[n imperfect] bilingual.
    I was raised by my grandparents in the city of Wenzhou, in China.
    My family comes from the village of Qingtian, so at home my grandparents spoke Qingtianese with me. Then when guests come to visit us at home, or when out of house, I would speak Wenzhounese, the dominant language of the city (at that time). Mandarin was the language of the TV, and the language of the kindergarten, and the language to speak with Chinese from other cities.
    So as a child I was already trilingual (counting Chinese dialects) in Qingtianese, Wenzhounese and Mandarin.
    Probably I was the least proficient in Mandarin, but I remember that when I went to Beijing once I was able to talk with the ladies that chatted with me.

    Then when I was 6, I went to Italy. Qingtianese was the only language spoken at home among my parents, my brother and all my uncles, aunts and cousins.
    I started learning Italian, and learnt it quite quickly, I remember that after one year I could talk with people and understand the classes in elementary school. But soon I forgot Wenzhounese and Mandarin.
    But my parents are also able to speak Wenzhounese: my dad grew up in Wenzhou, while my mother just learnt it talking with people. Wenzhounese is the dominant language in the Chinese community in Italy, and my parents would use it when speaking with other Chinese people (not from Qingtian). So I basically re-learned this forgotten language (if it's possible) although now I can speak it fluently, but with Qingtianese accent.
    Then when I was 7 or 8 I was sent to a weekend school to study Chinese, and starting from 10 years old I was sent to China every summer to study Chinese.
    So I re-learnt to speak Mandarin (if it's possible) and to write Chinese, although my proficiency is still lower than the "true" Chinese that live in China.
    I don't know if it's possible to re-learn a forgotten language when child, but maybe that's the reason I speak Mandarin and write Chinese better than my brother? And maybe that's why I can speak Wenzhounese and he can't? Subconscious remainders of childhood knowledge?

    I speak mostly Italian (with Roman accent) with my brother and occasionaly Qingtianese. With my cousins I speak a mix of Roman-Italian + Qingtianese. With my parents, aunts and uncles I speak Qingtianese.
    I also speak Italian with the other Chinese young people born in Italy.

    Basically, my parents didn't need to speak to me in Italian, because the surrounding environment was already Italian speaking.
    I never speak in Italian with my parents as it would be too strange for me, although they are quite good in conversational Italian. But my brother would sometimes speak to them in Italian.
    I also know some Chinese born in Italy that don't speak Chinese at all, most of them can speak it but not write it. But I also know some Chinese that even though born in Italy, only get in touch with Chinese people, so their Italian is bad, with a strong Chinese accent.
    Even for me, I still have some Chinese substratum in my Italian speech.
     
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    mariposita

    Senior Member
    US, English
    What a great life story, Youngfun. You forgot to mention that you write very well in English, too!

    The neighborhood where I live in Madrid has a big community of kids from China who speak a dialect other than Mandarin/Cantonese and then learn Mandarin on the weekends. Almost all of the kids go to public school with my son and it's interesting to see how different their level of linguistic assimilation can be. One of my son's best friends is Chinese and he has had a tough time speaking Spanish fluently (he's very shy and cerebral and is an only child). He moved to Spain at age 5 and thinks the other Chinese kids speak terribly and write even worse!

    My son now feels as you do--that speaking Spanish to me is weird. He used to be a lot more ambivalent about it when he was younger, but now we only speak Spanish when another Spanish speaker is present--even then, it feels a bit stilted sometimes.

    I think early exposure to a language definitely helps to pick it back up later on. When you speak English, do you have an Italian or Chinese accent? I learned French when I was a teenager and used to speak it with almost no accent, but that was years ago. Now when I speak it, I sound Spanish.

    --Megan
     

    LilianaB

    Banned
    Lithuanian
    Yes, Youngfun, this sounds like a realistic illustration of the problem. Although the father from the book had at least a legitimate reason to speak English to his son -- because they lived in the United States and English is very important here. I really feel sorry for those children who are forced in the early childhood to learn a language their parents fancy. I grew up myself in a very multilingual environment -- almost everybody in my family spoke a different a language as native, and I lived in different countries, on top of that. They shared some languages, of course but not on a native level. For me it was not so bad, because at least they spoke authentic languages and everything was done spontaneously -- not like some people might decide to just use one language in the morning, and another one at lunch time, sometimes the languages they like or find useful, but that they don't even speak that well. The child may end-up speaking any language he or she wants -- most likely learned from TV or from the peers. There is no unanimous evidence what multiple languages in the early childhood may do to children -- some may become really well developed -- intellectually, others may stop speaking, and develop a delayed learning syndrome. Shouldn't they just be happy, and have a natural childhood? This is for certain, that you cannot force a child to learn a language he or she does not naturally want to learn. Perhaps you can make them understand the language -- yes, but doubtedly the child will speak it.

    What I meant here especially was speaking English to a child born in France and living in France, whose parents are Russian and Spanish, for example, or Spanish somewhat to a child whose parents speak mostly English, and just learned Spanish (a little bit) at some fancy courses -- this happens a lot, in New York these days.
     
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    Roy776

    Senior Member
    German & AmE
    Yes, Youngfun, this sounds like a realistic illustration of the problem. I really feel sorry for those children who are forced in the early childhood to learn a language their parents fancy. I grew up myself in a very multilingual environment -- almost everybody in my family spoke a different a language as native, and I lived in different countries, on top of that. They shared some languages, of course but not on a native level. For me it was not so bad, because at least they spoke authentic languages and everything was done spontaneously -- not like some people might decide to just use one language in the morning, and another one at lunch time, sometimes the languages they like or find useful, but that they don't even speak that well. The child may end-up speaking any language he or she wants -- most likely learned from TV or from the peers. There is no unanimous evidence what multiple languages in the early childhood may do to people -- some may become really well developed -- intellectually, others may stop speaking, and develop a delayed learning syndrome. Shouldn't they just be happy, and have a natural childhood? This is for certain, that you cannot force a child to learn a language he or she does not naturally want to learn. Perhaps you can make them understand the language -- yes, but doubtedly the child will speak it.
    I heard that the key to success here is supposed to be being strict about who speaks which language. I think I've mentioned this before, but I want my child(ren) to learn Polish and German or Polish and English. I would then have to always speak German or English with my child while my girlfriend would need to speak Polish, because when the child realizes that the other parent also speaks the other language it might (only might not will!) get discouraged as it no longer sees the point in learning one of the two languages if it can use one language with the other parent, too. I don't know, though, how true this actually is and it might prove difficult to do if your wife/husband does not understand your language.
     
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