Is being bilingual really worth the hard work?

(69 Posts)
herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 21:23:03

I am a foreign national who lives in UK with a DD age 8. My DH is English. So far I tried to support/push my DD's learning my native language and let her attend Saturday classes, which is basically for ex-pat children who are going back to my country, thus very high expectation and lots of home works. Also it is 1 hour drive one-way. My DD seems happy to go, but also curious about other clubs she can go to if we drop it.

Lately I am not sure if it is really worth continuing this Sat literacy class, or even trying to make her bilingual by talking to her in my native language.

I can not see being able to speak my native language will help her get a job in the future (except if she lives in my country, which I am not particularly keen).

For GCSE (and A-level??), she can study for the exam when she is older, if she chooses.

I am ok with her not speaking my language. But I will continue if she can expect return worth the efforts.

Can anyone assure me that it IS worth continuing the second language education when it takes so much hard work and there seems no practical use for it in the future?? Many thanks.

irisgrey Wed 08-Jan-14 21:25:40

Do you have family she won't be able to communicate with if she doesn't speak your language?

CallMeNancy Wed 08-Jan-14 21:27:44

Depends on which language.

I have similar issues with my children, & an hour commute.

We don't. No point. No one wants this language. It opens doors to neighbouring countries only, nothing more. Helps with some ancient languages, and I personally found it to help me in the basics of many other languages, but no more than the basics.

OhBuggerandArse Wed 08-Jan-14 21:33:20

Have a look at the research.

www.bilingualism-matters.org.uk/

Whatever language it is brings cognitive benefits throughout life, not just educational development. The particular language you share will bring cultural connections and depth, and a different window on the world, which can't be matched any other way.

WidowWadman Wed 08-Jan-14 21:37:46

My children don't go to a sunday class, there's a playgroup with other German children once a month, but I exclusively speak German with them, read in German with them, and they've got CDs/DVDs in German too, plus there's visiting family in Germany, Skype etc. I work full time, so they hear English much more often, and of course it is stronger.

There a phases when German is being rejected by one or both kids, which is frustrating, but recently certainly my oldest who is 5 has made a breakthrough and her German has developed a lot.

For me it is not only about the language, but also the culture. I want to share the stories, books, songs I grew up with with my children. I want them to have a relationship with my home country, and with my family.

I don't think extra classes are neccessary, if as a parent you keep on top of it. I guess if you send your children to extra classes instead of using your mother tongue with them consistently, they probably will be less likely to really develop fluency.

herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 21:39:22

Hi irisgrey: My parents have passed and remaining relatives are not very close to us.

CallMeNancy: Thanks for the reply, much appreciated.

I think I have done enough teaching about my country and need to accept that she is English, born and growing up here.

I would agree with WidowWadman - true fluency should come easily, fluidly, as part of everyday life for the child. If the child needs to work hard at it, I don't believe they will ever be truly bilingual.

WidowWadman Wed 08-Jan-14 21:45:16

herdream1 - have you asked your daughter how she feels about dropping the language completely? I mean not the lessons, but talking to you etc?

herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 21:54:15

Hi WidowWadman: Thank you for replying. I am not talking to her in my language all the time now, as I work with her on maths, literacy, etc, which needs to be done in English. Also as she grows it gets harder to explain complicated things in my language, when she just does not have enough exposure to the language in her daily life.

Yes true bilingual will happen only when the child lives in the environment where he/she is living in both languages, which is very hard to provide.

CallMeNancy Wed 08-Jan-14 22:05:46

I grew up bilingual.
Sodding parents taught me minority language first and English second.
I attended Saturday school for years until I decided to go to boarding school and managed thereby to avoid it.
Frankly, grandparents, cousins and boys piqued my interest in the language, mostly boys ;)

They all liked me, mainly as I was English, and therefore different. I could have had any man I wanted. But realised I didn't went them, as it would always be because I was western.

Being fluent and having an English driving license did help me get out of 99% of my speeding fines though smile. And into all members only clubs ( had to carry ID)

CoteDAzur Wed 08-Jan-14 22:06:35

It's worth the effort. Teaching your child another language is a unique gift.

Not only is speaking another language is an asset in life, study after study has shown that bilingualism brings distinct cognitive advantages.

TooMuchRain Wed 08-Jan-14 22:09:40

I know many parents who are successfully bringing their children up to be tri/bilingual with the one parent one language approach, it's not impossible, though sometimes it can be tough when they hit adolescence. The benefits of learning another language are not about job prospects but about identity and leaving doors open for the future. But, in the end it's your family's choice and it sounds as though you have already decided.

herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 22:52:20

Hi TooMuchRain: What doors it opens, would you say?

Maybe acting as an interpreter? But though it is a good skill, I would think it makes rather a modest dream to aim for, as interpreting is basically being a machine. I would rathe be a person who uses the interpreters.

I can not think other doors..

pointythings Wed 08-Jan-14 22:57:41

Being bilingual does bring cognitive advantages, there is no doubt about it. I am fully bilingual and I am sad that I cannot pass this on to my DDs - but DH does not speak a word of Dutch, it is a very, very minority language in the world which really won't open doors (because the Dutch tend to speak very good English) and the facilities just aren't available. As for Dutch cultural heritage, I can think of two things - tulips and speed skating. And I say this as a Dutch national.

So I'm going to focus on supporting French and German in my DDs (I am fluent in both though not native speaker standard) and take it from there. I am so glad DD1 is actually being made to learn French grammar by rote, it is about time the phrase book method was abandoned!

Dont think too much about the doors it opens, but the doors not knowing her mother tongue closes.

A friend of mine grew up in Belgium, speaking French only. Her Moroccan dad could not be bothered with the language.

The fact that she never learnt the language, meant that the door to the language, the country and the culture felt closed to her. She was bitter towards her dad for not sharing his culture and country with her. She had wanted to explore the Moroccan side of her heritage, but couldn't.

With language is culture and understanding of that culture, and knowledge of a country and its history. Why deny her this?

CoteDAzur Wed 08-Jan-14 23:07:11

You really can't think of any doors that being bilingual would open, other than being an interpreter?

All big business is multinational, which means people who speak languages and can understand other cultures are sought after. This is true not only for producers but also for service industries like finance or consulting.

WidowWadman Wed 08-Jan-14 23:08:12

pointy - I'm actually quite tempted to take up learning dutch, just for the fun of it. (And because I love Rotterdam)

herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 23:14:57

Hi QuintessentialShadows: Thanks for the post. I will keep doing whatever I can to support my DD's building identity from my country. It is just that to be bilingual level, so much efforts are required as in above posts.

It sometimes hear that the children who grew up to be bilingual, are grumpy about having had to learn the language, while those who was not taught are also unhappy as they think their parents could do more. I wish my DD could decide on her own, but she is too young to really understand pros and cons, when even I am not sure?

herdream1 Wed 08-Jan-14 23:20:50

Hi CoteDAzue: In my humble experience, all business communication was done in English only, as there could not be a room for being ambiguer or mistaken. When it is needed they use professional interpreter. All you need is a very good English skill.

Which languages are sought after for finance and consulting in your experience, may I ask?

CoteDAzur Wed 08-Jan-14 23:33:20

In marketing of products and services, there is a distinct advantage in speaking the language (and thereby understanding the culture to some degree) of the place you are trying to sell to. I'm not talking about secretarial communications that could be all in English.

Language is a significant asset in consulting and finance, too. When you are analysing or valuing a company, for example, you can't translate everything. Companies just hire people who speak the local language for those projects. A private equity or fund's Eastern European people will invariably be full of people who speak Polish, Romanian, Greek etc.

herdream1 Thu 09-Jan-14 01:25:40

I personally found it annoying when our partners/suppliers sent us representatives who were thought to speak our language. It seemed these people were chosen not for their core business skills but for a peripheral skill and were useless in most cases.

So Polish, Romanian, Greek, among others are the hot languages at the moment? Is this likely to last?

Kenlee Thu 09-Jan-14 02:27:14

Well actually we do prefer to speak Pu Tong Hua...I think its quite cool to speak another language...I spoke Cantonese to my daughter since her birth and my husband spoke only English. Her Grandparents spoke only Pu Tong hua and Hakkainese. Which are all different dialects of the same language.

Being bilingual is not about making money. Its about the ease in which you can communicate with others.

longjane Thu 09-Jan-14 02:43:03

I think the main reason your daughter should speak your language is selfish one but very vaid .
And that is so you have someone that understands your mother tongue when you get old.
Having someone to speak to you in you 1st language is very important to mental Health.
So that you have some to speak to when you are no feeling well.
And if you lose your marbles they understand what you are on about.

herdream1 Thu 09-Jan-14 06:48:59

Thank you for all who replied, very much appreciated.

Eastpoint Thu 09-Jan-14 08:16:30

Even if your mother tongue is not highly sought the more languages one speaks the easier it is to pick up additional languages. I would make the effort.

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