Raising children quadrilingually

164 posts in this topic

Based on my experience, hardly anyone is really  totally bilingual  because the society you´re living in dominates re up to date slang, new usage etc. Our native language fossilises outside our native patch. I know plenty of people with parents of different native languages and I have listened to eg the son or daughter as an adult..their English ( for example ) sounds old-fashioned.Not " localisable " accent-wise and they´ve grown up with different TV programmes, maybe different  sports etc.

I´m an ex-native speaker of English, living outside the UK for many years and get flummoxed when I read some of the stuff on here, for example. 

A lovely American friend of mine, sadly deceased, was really good at German - really good after 30 years but when the IT business got off the ground, he had to phone his sister in the US to ask for her help with the vocab.

I remember  when the mobile phones came out thinking they were  called a Handy in English...:D:D

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13 hours ago, yourkeau said:

AFAIK, Japanese are very afraid to speak English, because of too harsh language assessment and low self esteem. They can speak English, but they don't because they are afraid to be laughed at. 

Absolutely correct.

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16 hours ago, LeChamois said:

It is a huge disadvantage in any professional setting, for instance not to being able to produce a text that doesn't have to be edited by somebody else in any language.

 

True of course.

But come on, the level sufficient for getting rid of the need for editing is not as high as native, a lower level will do. 

German scientists (like all scientists) produce international publications in English. Their non-native English is almost always good enough that there's no need for editing. And many of these people never really lived in an English-speaking coutnry.

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13 hours ago, john g. said:

Based on my experience, hardly anyone is really  totally bilingual  because the society you´re living in dominates re up to date slang, new usage etc. Our native language fossilises outside our native patch. I know plenty of people with parents of different native languages and I have listened to eg the son or daughter as an adult..their English ( for example ) sounds old-fashioned.Not " localisable " accent-wise and they´ve grown up with different TV programmes, maybe different  sports etc.

I´m an ex-native speaker of English, living outside the UK for many years and get flummoxed when I read some of the stuff on here, for example. 

A lovely American friend of mine, sadly deceased, was really good at German - really good after 30 years but when the IT business got off the ground, he had to phone his sister in the US to ask for her help with the vocab.

I remember  when the mobile phones came out thinking they were  called a Handy in English...:D:D

 

I would say that simply because you do not know the modern lingo does not exclude you from being a native speaker. Plenty of older people will not know the slang used by the younger generation or might use language that the younger generation doesn't really understand or considers archaic ("how do you do?"). Also, some of the stuff that flummoxes you might be from other dialects, so you wouldn't understand it even if you still lived in the UK (and vice versa)

 

As for accent, one advantage of native knowledge is the ability to quickly get used to and understand different accents (no matter what some Germans say about not understanding other Germans who have even the slightest accent from another area). That's why a Texan and a Scotsman can understand each other, but put a non-native speaker in the mix and it gets much more difficult

 

 

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7 minutes ago, msam said:

As for accent [..] (no matter what some Germans say about not understanding other Germans who have even the slightest accent from another area). That's why a Texan and a Scotsman can understand each other [..]

Well, when ITV aired "Auf Wiedersehen, Pet" in 1983 (story about a bunch of blue collar Geordies working abroad), people from the south of England wrote complaint letters that they couldn't understand them...

 

If two Scotsman go to a bar in Texas and have a conversation as if they're at home, the Texan bloke will grasp sh*t...

 

 

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I remember watching Gregory's Girl years ago on AFN (American Forces Network) here in Germany and it had subtitles. 

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40 minutes ago, msam said:

As for accent, one advantage of native knowledge is the ability to quickly get used to and understand different accents (no matter what some Germans say about not understanding other Germans who have even the slightest accent from another area). That's why a Texan and a Scotsman can understand each other, but put a non-native speaker in the mix and it gets much more difficult

 

It is my experience that there would be more chances of the non-native speaker understanding the Texas and the Scottish than the both native speakers understanding each other.

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22 minutes ago, Krieg said:

 

It is my experience that there would be more chances of the non-native speaker understanding the Texas and the Scottish than the both native speakers understanding each other.

Yep.

It can be more beneficial to speak good english as a non-native, in this way you can communicate with all speakers of English (natives and non-natives), whereas sometimes it seems the natives can communicate only among themselves.

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15 hours ago, john g. said:

Based on my experience, hardly anyone is really  totally bilingual  because the society you´re living in dominates re up to date slang, new usage etc. Our native language fossilises outside our native patch.

I agree. The longer you live outside your home-country the more difficult it is to keep up your language. For example, expressions change over time. I also doubt whether children can be native speakers in several languages, e.g. do they learn all says and when to use them in the right context, do they learn all subtleties and finesse of a language, etc.?

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Somewhat relevant blast from the past:

On 20.11.2010, 12:30:49, El Jeffo said:

I speak English, Spanish, and Mandarin Chinese with my three-year-old son, while my wife speaks Polish, Hungarian, and Swahili with him, and we send him to a quintilingual German-French-Italian-Portuguese-Swedish kindergarten. We think his teachers tell us that he's doing well in all five languages, but unfortunately we can't understand a word they're saying.

 

Anyway, we think he should speak an even dozen languages before he starts first grade, so does anyone have any ideas as to what a good twelfth language would be for him to learn? Alternatively, would it help to lock him in a cage with wild ocelots for four hours each day on weekends, so he can learn to speak to the animals?

 

Thanks,

El Jeffo (which, if you didn't know, is Spanish for "The Jeffo")

 

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3 hours ago, Krieg said:

 

It is my experience that there would be more chances of the non-native speaker understanding the Texas and the Scottish than the both native speakers understanding each other.

 

That might be because non-native speakers might be doing more effort. The first reaction of native speakers tends to be "I can't understand / It's too difficult / I won't even try / he speaks weird!"...but if they actually try to listen they should start "getting it" relatively quickly (quicker than a non-native speaker, assuming both have the same will to understand - which is an admittedly big assumption). This does not apply to different vocabulary, only to the accent. The non-native speaker will also have equivalent trouble with the vocabulary

 

3 hours ago, Gambatte said:

Yep.

It can be more beneficial to speak good english as a non-native, in this way you can communicate with all speakers of English (natives and non-natives), whereas sometimes it seems the natives can communicate only among themselves.

 

Similarly, non-natives can sometimes only communicate between themselves. I think native speakers mostly have less patience or simply get overwhelmed by the number of mistakes that are done by non-natives who speak at a limited level (subconsciously, they need to correct for the mistakes, so it can also be tiring).

But going from that to it's better to speak at a non-native level, is a stretch. A non-proficient speaker, in any language, has less ability to communicate precisely, which is never an advantage.

 

 

2 hours ago, LukeSkywalker said:

I agree. The longer you live outside your home-country the more difficult it is to keep up your language. For example, expressions change over time. I also doubt whether children can be native speakers in several languages, e.g. do they learn all says and when to use them in the right context, do they learn all subtleties and finesse of a language, etc.?

 

Do you really think that single-language speakers who never left their own country learn all subtleties and finesse of their language? As I said in a previous post you have to define "native", but, by that definition, most people wouldn't have any native language at all

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29 minutes ago, msam said:

That might be because non-native speakers might be doing more effort.

I don't know. I can understand Bavarian/Austrian to some extent because I live in Bavaria. So, I understand more than some native German speakers from Hamburg/Berlin. But that doesn't mean I have better ear for dialects than Germans. Definitely, not. 

 

I remember, 8 years ago somewhere in France:

- Hi, I'm John. I'm from Australia.

- Hi, I'm yourkeau.

Then a small talk, his mobile phone ringing.

John (talking over his phone): Ldjhhjhfhjgsdhghj djkjdghjghj fddsghjgdjhg uiuibjkbkjghdfg fgjkgjkdsgh llllggghsmm.

Conversation ends.

John: That's my wife, she is from Scotland.

 

I don't know which dialect they spoke, but since both lived in Australia I assume it was Australian English. I didn't understand a single word during that phone conversation. I was impressed.

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21 hours ago, msam said:

Do you really think that single-language speakers who never left their own country learn all subtleties and finesse of their language? As I said in a previous post you have to define "native", but, by that definition, most people wouldn't have any native language at all

Good point. Define "native" first.  Look at immigrants who left the home country decades ago. Most of them can't speak their mother tongue properly anymore e.g. Dutch immigrants in Australia or Canada who came there in the 1950s and 1960s. If they came as an adult, they can't speak native English either. Basically, they have no native language (anymore).

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37 minutes ago, LukeSkywalker said:

Basically, they have no officially codified native language (anymore).

FTFY.

 

Of course, they have a native language, their own, unique one. Some of such languages are never codified, but some become new languages like Afrikaans, which is basically Dutch spoken by migrants from Netherlands to South Africa.

 

Icelandic is another such language: it was Norwegian originally, but after a while it became a separate language.

 

And so on.

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22 minutes ago, LukeSkywalker said:

Good point. Define "native" first.  Look at immigrants who left the home country decades ago. Most of them can't speak their mother tongue properly anymore e.g. Dutch immigrants in Australia or Canada who came there in the 1950s and 1960s. If they came as an adult, they can't speak native English either. Basically, they have no native language (anymore).

 

What do they speak amongst themselves? If dutch, then that is still their native language. It might not be modern dutch, but that's one way how dialects are created.

If they stopped speaking dutch then it might really be that they have no language which they can speak at a native level. 

 

If they do still speak dutch, their children could very easily be bilinguals - english and "australian/canadian/1960s" dutch

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On 8.8.2017, 21:13:13, john g. said:

Based on my experience, hardly anyone is really  totally bilingual  because the society you´re living in dominates re up to date slang, new usage etc. Our native language fossilises outside our native patch. I know plenty of people with parents of different native languages and I have listened to eg the son or daughter as an adult..their English ( for example ) sounds old-fashioned.Not " localisable " accent-wise and they´ve grown up with different TV programmes, maybe different  sports etc.

I´m an ex-native speaker of English, living outside the UK for many years and get flummoxed when I read some of the stuff on here, for example. 

A lovely American friend of mine, sadly deceased, was really good at German - really good after 30 years but when the IT business got off the ground, he had to phone his sister in the US to ask for her help with the vocab.

I remember  when the mobile phones came out thinking they were  called a Handy in English...:D:D

 

This is an excellent point, and most people seem to have missed it.  There are some of us (not me yet, I hope) who have lived outside of the native english environment so long that their english is no longer really up to par.  It is also true of my greek cousin (not sure if I mentioned her earlier in this thread) who was born in greece, to a greeek father and was not only fluent but had greek as her first language.  Since moving to england sometime in her school years she has, according to her and her parents basically dropped to a decent conversational skill level but not someone who would pass as a greek, even though she actually is.

 

I also have one friend who describes himself as having 2 second languages (farsi and english) but no first language.  Interestingly he ended up being an english teacher in japan and I think now speaks japanese on a better level than either of his notionally first languages. 

 

Sure there are exceptions, but I think they are much rarer than we think.  The elefant in the room is of course the vast numbers of people who speak excellent english as a second language, but I think we are all aware that english is a special case.

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I really like that this topic developed into such an interesting discussion. 

I would like to say though that even native speakers need to be edited. All the book writers, translators are edited. I am a translator myself and my work was edited. This is how it is done. So it is absolutely ok to be edited in a foreign language. 

On the other hand how many of native speakers are actually able to produce rich and correct language? Many native speakers have very poor vocabulary. Is it really an advantage if a child grew up somewhere in the south or east of London but is not able to speak and write correctly (despite speaking that one language)? If we compare it with a child who grew up in Germany and learned English from his mother. I really don't know. 

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On 11/9/2012, 11:40:56, LukeSkywalker said:

I'm glad to hear that your daughter is doing well in school, but most migrant children in Germany have language deficits, because they don't speak German at home, e.g. Turkish children. They already lag behind when they go to kindergarten. A lot of studies prove this. It also depends, of course, what effort parents put in there themselves to learn the local language.

 

Is there such a study that you can share? I am asking because we are currently in a similar situation. I'm Turkish and recently moved to Germany. My daughter turned 4 years old 2 weeks ago, and started going to a kindergarten just this week. Of course i would like her to be bi/tri-lingual, but i recently started reading about this, and want to learn all the details about this subject.

 

My wife is bilingual, but she is not concentrated enough to speak her other language while speaking at our daughter, and time to time the language she speaks to her varies.

 

I would be happy to hear about real life experiences.

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On 9.9.2017, 17:51:25, TurMech said:

I would be happy to hear about real life experiences.

When my child started Kita in Germany, at age 3yr9m, she spoke zero German.

Since then, all people around her, other than us parents, have only ever used German. Into erste Klasse Germans (including more than one teacher) started telling us the way she spoke they could not tell she was not German.

We have only ever used our own languages with her, at home and out, zero German, and our "marital language"  is yet a different one.

Her skills at our own languages are probably less good than if she was monolingual.

So far so good.

Do not worry. Only speak to your child the language your Mum spoke to you. Make sure she get plenty of natural exposure to german language via native friends etc.

Perhaps problems arise only when people confines themsleves in monolingual "ghetto".

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Our daughter is also trilingual. English from me, Italian from her mum and German from Kita and school. It would seem strange for me to speak anything but my mother tongue with my daughter (even though I speak German when her friends come to visit) and the same is true for my wife. Because she has been to German Kinder-krippe, -garten and now -hort as well as one year in Grundschule her German is very natural too her. She may not be top of the class in German, but it is certainly not giving her any difficulties. When she is playing by herself she tends to do this in German, but is happy to switch to English or Italian depending on who is about.

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