Raising children bilingually

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Interesting question, I was going to ask the same myself recently.

 

My 18 month old is quite slow to say any words. We are both (my wife is German and I am a Brit) aomewhat worried about our little one's development.

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Don't be worried, that is normal. Between now and 3yo, they will just start talking and won't stop!

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i'm raising both mine bilingualy.

takes time and patience jeremy, its a known fact that bilingual kids are a little slower with words, your wee one is the same age as my youngest just about. we still only getting babble too.

 

i learnt from other people the golden rule of never giving up. strict adherence to speaking english even when they turn round and answer in german. it was bloody frustrating not being able to communicate quickly but its worth it.

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one parent always german (or whatever)

 

the other one always english

 

take your pick when the parents are speaking to each other

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We adopted the situation-specific approach. Family language German, outside language English. That was when we were living in Boston. Then my husband was laid off from his job and we moved to Germany. My daughter was 3 at the time and soooo relieved to speak English at home. So we switched the approach. My son, at the time, was 15 months old.

 

Now we speak only English at home. It IS frustrating, especially since my son is a bit slower. He is going to be 4 in August and still mixes the language. It is a practical consideration, really. My family can't speak German. Perseverance is the key, as someone here said.

 

No need to worry about a delay. There is a great book by Norbert Herschkowitz, a neuroscientist in Bern, Switzerland, called A Good Start in Life. I happen to know his wife, Elinore. They raised their kids bilingually (German and English). It worked out great. In their book, they discuss children's brain development. The earlier the better in exposing them to foreign languages. They retrieve the information from the same part of their brain if they learn it before age 12. It is a brain development thing.

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Our Son is 16 months and just starting to say his first words... we heard each parent should speak one language to the child so I speak English and my wife German. That way he should not end up speaking english and german words in the same sentence we have been told... be interesting to hear if this theory works. Its a right pain because I am alwazs mixing up the languages myself! Not that mz german is anz good which makes it even worse!

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Yup .. we try to avoid "Ginglish". It is hard sometimes! What do others think? Is one parent/one language the better approach in your opinion?

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My son is 2 this Saturday. He gets only Cockney from me and Bairisch from his mother and half-sister. This leads to interesting, but delightful little words, eg. Mushroom and Schwammerl = Musherl. I love it when he says "Awlgawn!" (All gone).

 

My step-daughter is 10 in a month, and she is picking up Cockney now. She sometimes pretends not to understand a single word, but you know by what she says in German that she has got it 100% correct.

 

However, Filth, the Norwegian guitarist in my band (everybody should have a Norwegian guitarist at hand), is married to a South African. Their 4 year old son is now in kindergarten and playing with local kids, so he is tri-lingual (Norwegian/English/German) with a spattering of Afrikaans.

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Yup .. we try to avoid "Ginglish". It is hard sometimes! What do others think? Is one parent/one language the better approach in your opinion?

 

 

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

 

in a nutshell yes. being bilingual isnt just language it's culture too.

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My son is now 3.5yo and he can switch back and forth and he does a damn good job of it. He mixes words sometimes, but so does his mother and father. :P

When we are in the states, within two days he is speaking pure American. I try to give him lots more English because he will get all the German he can handle and when the majority of them try to speak English, they suck at it as bad as I suck at "100% perfect" German.

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Good on all the parents making the effort.

 

Growing up in S Africa, I soaked in every word of Afrikaans, even though we spoke English at home. Never forgot it, and its all flooding back now that I'm learning German. A child's brain is a wondrous thing at that age.

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Great thread. I've got all this to bloody come. Gonna insist on cockney though, only way.

My mate Raquel has a mum from Yorkshire, Spanish dad, and grew up in Mallorca. Spoke English at home, was dumped in school as a white, blond girl with little Spanish, all classes in Spanish, all kids spoke Catalan or Mallorcan Catalan in the playground. Came to England at 19, spoke with a brilliantly fun mixture of Coronation Street sounding English, with Spanish words thrown in.Best linguist I have ever met, learnt languages without trying.

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REPETITION! Is that loud enough?

 

Ian got a full dose of Elmo growing up. He learned ABC's, 123's, Babies, Dogs, Wild Animals and you name it. When he got a little older, we threw in some Blue's Clues and Winnie the Pooh. Nothing beats perfect repetition.

 

Each night and many times during the day he got read a mixture of Mini-Max (German) and Green Eggs and Ham. Those were his favorite from early on. I think that I have read Green Eggs and Ham in a house with a mouse, in a box with a fox, on the train in the rain a million times. :D

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Language is indeed culture and vice versa. Whenever I'd get really mad at my kids, I found it soooo hard to speak German to them. English became the "evil mommy" language. Good thing we switched. Now I find myself slipping into German when I'm rip-roaring mad.

 

Do you know the magazine Transitions Abroad? It might be of interest to you all as it talks about working and living abroad. My article "Bicultural Living" is in the May/June issue.

 

http://www.transitionsabroad.com/

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Here's my two cents' worth.

My husband speaks to the kids in French and I stick to English, even when they answer in French (which is practically all the time, as we currently live in a French-speaking environment). The two of us speak English to each other.

The kids used to come out with the occasional "Je ne veux pas go to bed" when they were little, but now no longer mix them up.

Of course, it will be interesting to see what happens when we move to Munich later this year...

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I work with a woman who was raised tri-lingually. Her mother spoke Italian, her father spoke English and she grew up in Munich in a German school (while living on an American military base). She now runs a language school!

 

http://www.lbt-languages.de

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We're raising bilingual kids. Kilian (now 10) was born in Munich and we lived there for his first two years, then we moved to the US for five years. Robert was careful to teach him Hochdeutsch, even though Bairisch is his native language, because he didn't see how he could teach Kilian a language all by himself, and there was no one around to reinforce the Bairisch. As it was, Kilian refused to speak German for several years, and Robert very much wanted to give up. We argued about that a lot, as I recall. Anyway, Kilian picked started speaking fairly early, for a bilingual child, and has never mixed up the languages.

 

Gus (now 4), on he other hand, was born in the States and came to Germany when he was seven months old. We live in Dorfen, about 15 minutes away from his Bavarian-speaking grandparents, and he spends a lot of time with them and so mostly speaks Bavarian. He code switches all the time, probably because I let him get away with it, but I think he'll outgrow it in school. He is effectively tri-lingual, switching to Hochdeutsch when he talks to our friends from Munich.

 

As far as I know, it doesn't matter whether you use the MLAH (Minority Language at Home) or OPOL (One Parent, One Language) approach, they seem to work equally well. I also think you can be fairly relaxed about it when they are toddlers, but as someone said, it's not just a language, it's a culture. I think it's kind of hard for a single person to transmit a culture, and it's fairly important for the child to get the minority language from someone other than the parent who speaks it: books on tape, videos, or best of all, a community - bring the kid with you while you hang out with English-speaking (or French-speaking, or whatever) friends. And phone calls with the grandparents.

 

There is also the fact that with different children, you get different results. Kilian seems to have a talent for language, he soaks it up like a sponge. He was reading signs and menus in Paris last year, and we were only there for four days. Gus is learning well enough, but doesn't seem to have any particular talent.

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Just my experiences on this one. We moved here 18 months ago from the UK, my wife is German.

 

My 8 year old had always spoken to the in-laws (who speak no English) in German when he saw them just for around 4-5 weeks a year when we visited here or they visited us. He had perfect German within 2 months of getting here...slotted instantly into school with no language related issues. He has a high IQ.

 

The 4 year old moved here aged 2 and was slower to speak, but as others pointed out once they get going they dont shut up. He only speaks German but seems to understand 80% of the English so we are hoping he is absorbing and will also speak it later. At home I speak only English to the kids and wife, she speaks mainly German to them. Truth is that I dont talk to the 4 year old DIRECTLY that much I guess - but he gets the general conversations.

 

One interesting issue on the subject is that the in-laws and other relatives always gently nag that they think we should all speak German at home to improve MY german...but I point out that my concern is actually more that the kids keep/learn English. So it slows down my German but I can live with that.

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JE Amusing suggestion by your in-laws but it won't be long before your kids are correcting your German in public anyway...

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