Raising children quadrilingually

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Another question on the subject. Experiences are also appreciated.

 

For the languages that are only used at home, should reading and writing be seperately taught to the child, or as long as both languages use the same alphabet (latin), reading/writing skills come along automatically?

 

And what if one of the languages have a different alphabet than latin, like chinese, arabic, korean etc. ? In this case i guess, reading should definitely be taught seperately, and then the question of teaching reading in which of the languages should come first arises? Does it matter?

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On 13.1.2019, 08:37:55, TurMech said:

Another question on the subject. Experiences are also appreciated.

 

For the languages that are only used at home, should reading and writing be seperately taught to the child, or as long as both languages use the same alphabet (latin), reading/writing skills come along automatically?

 

And what if one of the languages have a different alphabet than latin, like chinese, arabic, korean etc. ? In this case i guess, reading should definitely be taught seperately, and then the question of teaching reading in which of the languages should come first arises? Does it matter?

 

Very good questions.

No, reading/writing skills do not come naturally, I'm afraid. My 9yr old can read/write in German at the right level for her age, but reading/writing in Italian is still very bad.

In case of different alphabet: for us, japanese, it's extremely hard. It's even more frustrating since Mum is a language teacher with 20yr experience. It takes hard work, but it's really hard because the child does not see value in it and thinks "why should I work hard for something that is of no use, after all I can already speak with Mum, that's all I need, innit...?"

There are challenges in being a parents.:huh:

Good luck.:D

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A bit similar with our 10 and 8 years old kids.   They have no problem with German and English reading and writing because they go to a German-English school.   But Spanish is the weakest language, they can read to an acceptable level but not really appropriate for their age if they were in a Spanish speaking country, and writing is even weaker, they mostly write following other language spelling rules.  The grammar is not bad because their speaking skills are quite OK.   I guess it is just the lack of practice compared to the other two languages.

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To get practice, and to get your kids into a room with other "native speakers", even if they attend a private school, try to get them into a herrkuntsprachliche Unterricht ("HSU").  In theory kids with a "migrations Hintergrund" should get HSU for language(s) their parents speak.  Such classes might meet only once a week for 45 minutes, and possibly at a different school than where your kids go, but I think it makes a difference.

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1 hour ago, Gambatte said:

... the child does not see value in it and thinks "why should I work hard for something that is of no use, after all I can already speak with Mum, that's all I need, innit...?"

 

This reflects my daughter's attitude faced with three languages. But, we are dealing with children! Let them be children!  You all seem so  very ambitious and anxious for your progeny...

 

I do not pressure my daughter, 13, it bears no fruit. Instead I see everything as a gain. Progress is not steady but comes in spurts. She'll catch up in due course, nothing is lost. We took her out of the bilingual German class last year because she was at the bottom and getting low marks because of the language not the subject, not good for her self-esteem. No drama. She is happier now in the normal stream and getting better marks. My one piece of advice is to stop the angst. Whatever will be will be. You can only offer a certain imperfect context and the rest is beyond your control.

 

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On 13/01/2019, 08:37:55, TurMech said:

For the languages that are only used at home, should reading and writing be seperately taught to the child, or as long as both languages use the same alphabet (latin), reading/writing skills come along automatically?

 

Writing definitely does not come automatically. My sister lived in Sweden for some years.  She always spoke Icelandic with her kids and made them speak it with her. Moving back their spoken language was fine except for some school term they were missing but their spelling was awful. The oldest daughter actually got a negative grade on her first spelling test.

 

I've heard other stories like that too. Sometimes the children prefer to stop speaking one of the languages. I met a family like that too. The kids could understand but not speak. They will pick it up more quickly though if they ever need it.

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19 minutes ago, LeonG said:

I've heard other stories like that too. Sometimes the children prefer to stop speaking one of the languages. I met a family like that too. The kids could understand but not speak. They will pick it up more quickly though if they ever need it.

 

The thing is that I really prefer not to speak English or German to my kids because those are not my first language.    I can't express in the same way in those languages, so my communication would be seriously affected if I had to use a second language.

 

I would have no problem if they decided to stop talking to me in Spanish and decided to speak English to me, because they would be following the same feeling I have, but fortunately they haven't given up on the Spanish yet and the big one is actually very proficient nowadays, if she talk to a Spanish native speaker they would only catch her strange accent and some small mistakes like if she has to conjugate an irregular verb she is not familiar with in a complicated tense, so for a kid she is doing OK.

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36 minutes ago, LeonG said:

They will pick it up more quickly though if they ever need it.

 

It's not necessarily as simple as this. It appears that a child who has developed a spoken language to effectively native level always has a great advantage over a non-native language learner. There only remains a bit of getting familiar with reading/writing - which should be the relatively easy part. The child's perception can be different: he/she may feel like -- and be received as -- a native with a deficiency of knowledge compared to a normal speaker, rather than an advanced foreign speaker. While it's pleasant to be recognised as the latter, the former is much less enjoyable... and may influence their choice about whether they 'ever need it'.

 

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2 hours ago, optimista said:

 

This reflects my daughter's attitude faced with three languages. But, we are dealing with children! Let them be children!  You all seem so  very ambitious and anxious for your progeny...

 

I do not pressure my daughter, 13, it bears no fruit. Instead I see everything as a gain. Progress is not steady but comes in spurts. She'll catch up in due course, nothing is lost. We took her out of the bilingual German class last year because she was at the bottom and getting low marks because of the language not the subject, not good for her self-esteem. No drama. She is happier now in the normal stream and getting better marks. My one piece of advice is to stop the angst. Whatever will be will be. You can only offer a certain imperfect context and the rest is beyond your control.

 

 

I love this. Thanks.:rolleyes:

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We have found that our kids have learned to read and write in German, and English has been a sort of 'freebie' extra with no effort at all. That said, like optimista, we have not been stressed about it, and their spelling and pronunciation of new words has been quite random, but these things improve over time and are extremely funny on occasion.

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Time to tell my Jesus' leg joke. My young daughter asked in French if Jesus was still alive. I answered in French that the man was dead but his legacy was still alive. I used the French word "legs", pronounced without the "s". She proceeded to ask me in English... "and is his leg still moving?"

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4 hours ago, deadsoul said:

 

It's not necessarily as simple as this. It appears that a child who has developed a spoken language to effectively native level always has a great advantage over a non-native language learner. There only remains a bit of getting familiar with reading/writing - which should be the relatively easy part. The child's perception can be different: he/she may feel like -- and be received as -- a native with a deficiency of knowledge compared to a normal speaker, rather than an advanced foreign speaker. While it's pleasant to be recognised as the latter, the former is much less enjoyable... and may influence their choice about whether they 'ever need it'.

 

 

This family I knew, the mother was single with two boys.  She would speak Icelandic to them and they would reply in Swedish.  When I met them, they were both adults and they could not speak Icelandic, however, they could understand it.  Later, one of them came to Iceland to work and picked up speaking extremely fast.  I met him after a year of being there and he had no accent.

 

5 hours ago, Krieg said:

The thing is that I really prefer not to speak English or German to my kids because those are not my first language.    I can't express in the same way in those languages, so my communication would be seriously affected if I had to use a second language.

 

I totally agree.  I don't think it's beneficial to your children if you speak with them in a language where you are not fluent.  You will carry your mistakes over to them.  One of my brothers friends had a German mom.  For some reason she did not speak German to him growing up resulting in two things, 1.) him not learning German and 2.) him starting 1st grade with a thick German accent (he got sent to speech therapy).

 

I think the parent should continue speaking to the child in their native language for them to learn but if the child decides to get lazy and reply in a different language, then maybe there is not too much you can do about that.  Children seem to prefer a simpler world with less languages.  It was common for my sisters friends, other Icelandic students in Sweden at the time, that their kids preferred speaking Swedish to each other as it was the language they spoke at school and with their friends and if the parents let them, they would speak Swedish to the parents too.  If the parents then started speaking Swedish back to the kids, they unlearned their Icelandic pretty fast.  However, as long as you always speak your language to your kids, they can not unlearn it.

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5 hours ago, Krieg said:

The thing is that I really prefer not to speak English or German to my kids because those are not my first language.    I can't express in the same way in those languages, so my communication would be seriously affected if I had to use a second language.

Maybe a way to work around this is to read something age-appropriate to them like fairy tales in your second language. A lot.

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1 hour ago, LeonG said:

... if the child decides to get lazy and reply in a different language...

 

I would hesitate to call it being lazy. We RELATE to each other through language. The kid wants to tell us something, he's gonna do it whatever way is easiest maybe, but also in the language he feels COMFORTABLE with, with you. We tend to assign a language to a person and vice versa. Speaking more than one language to the same person is something that has to be acquired and feels weird at the beginning. It is something that has to be surmounted within certain contexts.

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My daughter´s first words in English were " park " and " bath." (my main jobs plus nappy-changing! )  My wife was Spanish and Silvia heard both languages  and we lived in London--sigh, 30 years ago..don´t they grow up fast...

My other job was putting her to bed but I lost every time...I fell asleep mostly before she did...:D

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Thank you very much for all the replies.

 

Then we have to teach her reading&writing in languages other than German, which she will learn at school. In this case, could there be a drawback if she learns reading&writing first in one of the languages spoken at home? Does that negatively effect her progress in German, and/or other lessons in the primary school, whose teaching language will be German?

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13 hours ago, jeba said:

Maybe a way to work around this is to read something age-appropriate to them like fairy tales in your second language. A lot.

 

I don't think this is a good idea, because even if I consider myself fluent in English and very proficient in German, my pronunciation is those languages is heavily accented.   I speak English with strong South American accent and  Spanish has mostly only short vowels and no 'ae', and I struggle in German with some phonemes that do not exist in my mother language, like the 'r' and 'z'.  So I don't want my kids to carry over those mistakes.    Of course they heard me all the time talking to my wife in English, but fortunately they picked up the English from her and not from me.

 

Anyway by now I guess what it's done is done and I think we did OK by sticking to OPOL (one parent one language).

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My friends have the same situation. It took very long time to speak for her. It does not come for free. I would stick to the local language + English and invest time somewhere else like math, logic, some creative subjects. Non language skills pay off much more later in life.

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17 hours ago, TurMech said:

Then we have to teach her reading&writing in languages other than German, which she will learn at school. In this case, could there be a drawback if she learns reading&writing first in one of the languages spoken at home?

 

How are the other languages in terms of how easy they are to learn reading/writing? 

 

German is phonetic. What you see is what you get, and reading/writing are easy to learn. English is not, and what you see and what you say/read varies wildly from word to word. It is a bugger to learn to read/write in English. Therefore ours (bar one) learned in German, and then transferred the skill to English pretty painlessly.

 

I would let them learn at school, and somewhere around the end of the second class look to see how they transfer the literacy skills into their other languages. You may be pleasantly surprised and find it is comparatively easy, or you may need to start grafting away, but I see no merit in putting them through the whole process in another language first, knowing they will need to learn it all in German at school anyway.

 

Friends of ours, also teachers like me, did teach all 4 of their kids in English first, and I can say from our shared further experiences that it was absolutely unnecessary.

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6 hours ago, kiplette said:
23 hours ago, TurMech said:

Then we have to teach her reading&writing in languages other than German, which she will learn at school. In this case, could there be a drawback if she learns reading&writing first in one of the languages spoken at home?

 

How are the other languages in terms of how easy they are to learn reading/writing? 

 

The languages are Turkish & Arabic. Turkish is also phonetic and have similarities with German like the Umlaute & Kasus, but Arabic is a totally different language from every aspect. 

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