What to do?

(7 Posts)
AnotherDeviation Fri 25-Jan-13 10:43:10

I've been reading through pages upon pages in this forum, trying to find someone with a similar problem to me, but couldn't find a single person. Basically, DC1 (born 2000) and DC2 (born 2003) were both born in Another Country (my home country). The father is British and we did OPOL while in Another Country, even though DC1, who could speak, would only reply in Another Language (my native tongue), as that was the majority language. In 2005, we moved back to England. DC1 was then coming up to 5 years and DC2 was 2 and a bit. In the beginning DC1 struggled with the English a bit, but after about 6 months she started replying to me in English when I was speaking in Swedish to her.

In 2006 the father and I separated, and we adopted the Swedish model of having the children 50/50, one week on, one week off. I stuck to only speaking Swedish to them, but despite my best efforts they started speaking Swedish less and less. In 2008 my current partner moved in with us. He is British, and around this time the kids were hardly speaking much Swedish to me at all, unless prompted. At the dinner table or whenever we were having discussions as a family (weekends etc) I switched to speaking English to them if DP needed to follow the conversation.

Last year we had a baby together, and DC1 and DC2 now speaks English to me and the baby. I nag them daily, hourly, even! Typical convo will go:

(me in Another Language): DC2, would you like a snack?
DC2 (In English): Yes please.
(me in AL): Another Language please!!
DC2 (in AL): Yes please.

Am I right in nagging like this? It happens every time we speak together. I just really want the baby to speak AL fluently, better so than the older children. It's funny, really - because I am MORE bilingual then they are, even though I have only been immersed in English for about 12 years (since I was 20). I dream in English, can switch easily between the two, while they struggle and are unable to switch easily. They also SOUND foreign when speaking AL, while I don't have an accent in English at all.

I also find it a total pain to do OPOL when DP doesn't understand what we're talking about. At dinner he ends up excluded from our conversations, and if we're planning to do something I have to translate everything just said. The kids can't cope with speaking AL to me and English to DP, it just ends up being in English and I have to nag.

I also nag them about speaking to baby in AL. As a result their communication with baby is stuttered and awkward, it just doesn't sound natural at all, and I notice how they avoid talking to him "for real", instead sticking to songs they know etc. When I'm away from the room, and only DP present, I hear how they switch to English to speak to baby, and the communication seems easier and more natural to them. Should I insist they speak to baby in AL?

Sorry, really long essay here, but I'm at my wit's end.

To add, they have been going to AL Saturday school for years, and unfortunately DC2 was in nursery from 8 to 5.30 Mon-Fri after we separated as I couldn't afford not to work full time. DC1 had wrap around care and was picked up from after school club at 5.30 too. Baby will be starting nursery at the end of March when he will be 13 months old. He will be with Dad in the morning while i am at work, get dropped off to nursery at 9, then I will pcik him up at 11.30 and speak AL to him for the rest of the day.

Thoughts on what I have written? Will baby be able to speak AL? SHould I nag/remind older kids to speak AL? Please help! What about OPOL and socialising a a family? What do other people do?

noramum Fri 25-Jan-13 12:32:33

I think you need to find the reasons why you want your children to be bilingual and what level you can accept.

My dD's main language is English despite the fact that DH and I only speak German to her. We know she understands us fully, can speak if she wants and when on holiday in Germany she is even better than at home.

While we would love her to speak to us only in German we accept that is it not fair to make the whole family suffer because we get angry when DD doesn't do it. We praise her when she speaks German without us prompting but don't nag constantly.

You also need to find common ground with your OH and a family language.

As soon as your child is in childcare and school you will loose influence about the language it will speak.

Show our childre that the second language is fun not a chore.

Hi, sorry to hear about your situation.

I don't have much proper advice but I can tell you about my experience with OPOL.

I am British and and currently living in DH's country. We have 2 DSs aged 4 and 7 months.
From DS1's birth, I have spoken only English to him and DH in his language.
I was a stay at home mum for 2 years so naturally, he spoke more English. This changed when DS started pre-school, his other language gradually became the dominent one.

I made more effort to make sure he had access English books, music and children's tv programs, not easy though. He still makes mistakes in both languages which I think is more to do with his age. He doesn't seem to have a problem adjusting between the two languages at the moment.
However, I've noticed he's less eager to talk to me when he's around other people (I'm his only source of speaking English). Sometimes, he'll ignore me on purpose.
He speaks both languages to his baby brother, it depends on who is holding him smile

Regarding socialising, no matter where we are, I won't speak the other language to DS1. I haven't come across any problems in the exception of DH's family but that's a whole other thread!

I understand that your DH feels excluded if you speak Swedish, I feel the same way but maybe try explaining how important it is that your DC know your language and how it makes you feel when they don't use it.
I frequently don't understand what DS and DH are talking about but I'm looking at the bigger picture.

If I were you, I would try the following things:

Don't nag children into speaking Swedish, it will make them dislike the language and feel like a chore.
If they speak English, just reply in your language. They will soon get the idea.

I would try to look for Swedish speaking groups-maybe baby groups or hobbies?

How much access do you DC have to Swedish books, tv etc?
Maybe a for the older DC, find a Swedish pen/email pal?

What about seeing your family? Do you call/skype them often? Do they have cousins they can speak Swedish to?

Sorry for all the questions but I hope that this has been of some help to you smile

AnotherDeviation Fri 25-Jan-13 16:59:03

Hi, thanks for both your replies. I will answer your questions:

*If they speak English, just reply in your language. They will soon get the idea.

I have been speaking Swedish to them consistently since they were born. At 12 and nearly 10, I'm pretty sure they already "get" the idea. They just don't like it/can't be bothered as it's easier to reply in English.

* I would try to look for Swedish speaking groups-maybe baby groups or hobbies?

As I mentioned in the OP, they have both been going to Swedish Saturday School for years, since they were 6 and 8. This seems to have made little difference. They speak to the other children there in English, but speak Swedish in class. The teachers say they are amongst the better Swedish speakers there.

* How much access do you DC have to Swedish books, tv etc?
I have a bit, quite a few DVDs, loads of books etc, but as they have got older they will only listen to when I read (they can't read Swedish very well), and DVDs/TV doesn't work well with the youngest as we have to keep pausing to explain what they are saying (I think this is partly to do with me speaking in a Northern accent and most films etc are filmed down south, but I could be wrong).

* What about seeing your family? Do you call/skype them often? Do they have cousins they can speak Swedish to?

We go back home about once a year. The children speak Swedish well (albeit with a foreign accent) when we're there, although reverts back when we land in England. We Skype about once a week when they are here, so about every 2 weeks. Their cousins are only 3 and 1.5, so they can't really speak much to them on the phone. A pen friend wouldn't work so well, as they can't really write in Swedish. My mum writes to them in Swedish and they either won't reply or they use Google Translate to reply (cheeky, I know!).

I just don't understand how they can both have a foreign accent when speaking Swedish. DC1 lived there for 5 years and could only speak Swedish when we moved here! I don't sound Swedish at all when speaking English, people always assume I'm British, and I learnt it as a non native!

I still don't know what to do about OPOL and dinner conversations, socialising with the whole family. Do I just accept DP is left out from it? Do I speak to the children, then translate for DP (annoying, but a possibility). What do others do?

cory Sat 26-Jan-13 23:00:41

Another Swedish speaker here and I'd say my dc pretty well are bilingual despite my not being at all consistent about OPOL. Dd at 16 has a stronger Gothenburg accent than I do. Ds (12) does have a slightly foreign accent at times but tbh I don't stress much about it: he still pronounces most sounds better than his monolingual Swedish cousins (who seem very late in their speech development).

I think your older dc are coming up to an age where you need to sell Swedish to them as something that is relevant to their age group, not just something that mum wants me to do. For dd the contact with Swedish teens, on holiday, via facebook and emails, as pen-friends etc makes a big difference. Also the exposure to youth culture, films, music etc. Could you organise for them to take part in any activity with their own age group next time you go? My dc have done swimming lessons in Sweden over the years, and ds usually manages to fit in football school during the summer holidays.

Otoh a solution that regularly excludes one member of the family probably isn't a great selling point. Could you manage some more flexible arrangement?

I've never made any rules for what dc are to speak to each other, but I've noticed that they sometimes do speak in Swedish. And that ds quite often spontaneously addresses me in Swedish though he is under no obligation.

Our only house rule is: This is a bilingual family, the family language is Bilingual. This means you can speak anything you like unless there is somebody present who would be made to feel uncomfortable. So when we're in Sweden we speak Swedish if younger cousins are present, when we're at grandma's or have friends around we speak English; family time is a free for all.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 23:07:48

I grew up bilingual without any pressure, both parents speaking different languages. but I always spoke English. I understand all the other language and can speak fluently after immersion in the country for a week or so.

My Dad learnt my Mum's language so that helped. Perhaps your DP should learn too.

I think the important thing is that you speak naturally and don't make an issue of it. It's not worth it. I have never used my foreign language in work or anywhere else other than communicating with relatives, most of whom speak better English than I speak their language anyway.

spaghettibolognese Tue 29-Jan-13 00:40:12

My family moved to Australia when I was 2 and by the age of 7 I was speaking only English. My father then bribed me to speak only in his language. I would get $3/week if I didn't speak English at all all week. it worked wonders for me smile

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