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Bilingual issues

Posted by on Jul. 29, 2007 at 8:56 AM
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Hi, Im Polish and my husband is American. Our baby is 5 months old. Of course we will raise her bilingual. My family doesn't speak english and his family (including my husband) doesn't speak Polish. I just wonder how do babies know later on when they start to speak that if they say something in Polish to mommy or Polish grandma they will understand but they will have to talk english to the other side of family. I guess it would be easier if everybody was bilingual but that's not the case. I just wonder how it happen or if poor kid is confused until she figures out which language is which.... ?

Bella 02/27/2007

by on Jul. 29, 2007 at 8:56 AM
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by Group Owner on Jul. 30, 2007 at 8:56 AM
I actually had the same question!   I have two boys, one is 22 moths old and the other one is six months old.  I just speak Spanish to them and my husband and his family speak English to them.  So I was wondering the same exact thing you were saying.  I guess the child's mind is like a sponge and it will just get used to interact with both sides of the family, making the separation of languages by itself and understanding both.

My 22 month old at this point, understands Spanish and follow my instructions.  He can say a few words already, but Spanish is harder to use because the words are longer so even though he understands the words in Spanish, some times he asks for the same thing in English.  I am already aware that if I continue with both languages, it could take him longer to start to speak, but as soon as he starts, he will be fully bilingual.  So that encourage me.

let see how it works!
by New Member on Jul. 30, 2007 at 3:34 PM
Mi and my Husband both speak Swiss German and his Parends also. So for our little Boy it's easier to lern it without problems....but he will have an harder start with english, because everyone is speaking in Swiss German to him. But i know he will lern it too. But when i would be the only one. I would just speak to him in Swiss german english ! I heard that one of the parents has to stick with it. So the little ones don't get confused. So they know exactly witch one of the Perants they have to speak in english and with witch they have to speak in am other. The Child will have it easier to lern it when you stick to it.
The Child will know it....i'm very sure!!!!
by New Member on Aug. 3, 2007 at 8:59 PM
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Hi - I'm brand new to the group!  Thanks for letting me join you!

I can't resist responding to this post.  this touches on a subject I care deeply about.

I applaud each of you for your resolve to raise your children bilingual.  I think I have a somewhat unique perspective on this issue.  And I assure you, your kids will do just fine!  Let me explain...

Before I do, let me say that I'm no expert, but language learning has been my passion my whole life.  I've lived in several multi-lingual situations, and taught language both in school settings and at home.  I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't raise my children to be as bilingual as I would have liked, but my husband and I used to tell secrets to each other in German - and that is how they learned to speak it themselves!  haha!  I've watched a lot of families in their approach to bilingualism, and taken mental notes since forever.  again, I'm no expert, but this is my passion, so I'll share a few thoughts from that perspective.

I have lived in South TX for the last 26 years, a very unique part of the country where Spanish and English are spoken side-by-side.  (have recently relocated to Maryland, where I grew up, but that is another story - my heart is still in TX!!)  When I first moved there, I expected that nearly everyone would be bilingual, as we are right on the border.  I was surprised to find that many folks live out their whole lives there, and never learn to speak the other language.  I taught HS French there, and always used my knowledge of spanish to help the kids learn new vocabulary in French, as both are romance languages.  To my surprise,  it soon became clear to me that altho 98% of my kids came from families where the only language was Spanish 2 or 3 generations ago (their grandparents or great-grandparents), they don't speak enough spanish to function easily in the language, even in daily situations.  I think this is very sad.  When they "give up" the language of their grandparents, they lose a very valuable part of their heritage, and of their very identity.  Conversely, by mastering both languages, they choose the richest mixture of both cultures and identities, and develop unique abilities and perspectives that will open many doors in their futures!

So again, I really applaud you for your decision to make sure they have both languages from the beginning.  You don't have to worry about them being confused as to which to use, or about experiencing a delay in learning to speak.  Of course every child is different, and initially some may show signs of delay, but I assure you, this is very temporary.  Kids are like little computers, and they instinctively know which language to use with who, and almost as soon as they start speaking, they have an ability to switch effortlessly between the two languages from one moment to the next. 

As you mentioned, Kayoz, consistency is pretty important.  But that doesn't mean that if a mother speaks her native tongue with the child in private, and then, in a family situation, switches over to English to be considerate of the other family members who don't speak that language, that the child will be confused.  Again, he instinctively understands which language is appropriate based on the person he is interacting with, as well as the situation.  And in a short time he will know when certain family members need a translation - so he'll automatically start translating for them, to make sure they don't miss anything!

Jandy, you mentioned that your 22 month old may ask for things in English, even when you are speaking to him in Spanish.  This is also pretty normal, and doesn't really have anything to do with preferring one language over another - but he'll probably use the vocabulary word that comes to him first, just because it's easier.  He doesn't know he's switching languages.  The best thing to do, if you want to be sure that he has that vocabulary in the other language, is just to continue speaking in Spanish even if he is speaking in English.  He'll get the idea, and develop the necessary vocabulary soon enough. He doesn't need to know that you are focusing on one language over another - he'll just go with whatever flow you give him.  His consistency will build with time, and he'll learn to use one language at a time in response to the person he's speaking with.

Kayoz, in your situation, both parents speak the same mother tongue, but you live in another country where the dominant language is English, right?  It's great if you speak English with him at home, but as soon as he starts to play with other children whose primary language is English, that's where he will effortlessly pick it up. 

One hard issue is what can happen to their second language if they return to their native country and no longer hear the second language they had come to speak so easily when in a different situation.  Unfortunately, they can lose the language as easily as they learned it in the first place, so it is really important to keep them stimulated in situations where they have to use it.  When I was growing up in France, my best friend (from an American family) had learned French as her second mother tongue in a daycare setting.  When she was 5 they moved to England for 5 years, then moved back to France.   That is when we met (age 10).  When she lived in England, there was no one speaking French with her.  She had lost all her French, completely.  She had to start over, but this time it was harder, because by age 10, the way we learn language changes, and we become more analytical.  We have to have someone explain verb conjugation to us, etc., and learn what direct and indirect objects are, etc.  Babies don't do that - they just use it until it works for them.  So keep them speaking both languages at all costs! 

There is nothing more enriching than to be completely bilingual!!

well, this post is long enough - maybe too long!  But as I said, you can tell that this is my passion!

bon courage a tout le monde!

by Group Owner on Aug. 4, 2007 at 11:18 AM
thank you! All the information was very helpful!
by New Member on Aug. 4, 2007 at 7:14 PM

thank you very much. it was very helpful

Bella 02/27/2007

by New Member on May. 17, 2009 at 8:26 AM

well, my family does not speak German and his family does not speak Italian. common language is Enlglish, but nobody in both familiey really speaks it well.

the kids have no problem, the know exactly who speaks what and they never make mistakes. if you speak to them in Italian they answer in Italian, and if you speak in German they answer in looks so easy for them...

May you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live.

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