Teaching bilingualism to 7 and 3 year old?  

(8 Posts)
Norrsken Mon 29-Jul-13 10:21:32

I'm Swedish, DP is English and understands very little Swedish. We have DC aged 3 and 7. I would like my DC to speak Swedish, but at the moment they only know about 10 words. When DC1 was born I spoke Swedish to her, but I went back to work when she was four months old and I only had 1.5 hrs with her in the evening before DP came back, and then we spoke English as I didn't want him to feel left out.
 
I've lived in the UK for 14 years and have very few links to Sweden, I have no Swedish friends and am NC with my parents. I've tried the nearest scandi group but it's very small and any events are held during my working hours and DC1's school hours.
 
I would like any advice on how I can teach my children Swedish. Should I just speak Swedish to them all the time? It sounds silly, but I worry that they will be upset if they can't understand me! Should I ease them into it by speaking for, say, an hour each day? What shall I do when they reply in English? How long will it take to see result?
 
Thank you,

chamonixlover Mon 29-Jul-13 12:04:49

Speak Swedish from birth and don't speak any other language. You cannot teach a 3 year old, they learn by immersion.

How did they learn to speak English? Did you worry they wouldn't understand so used a different language, I doubt it? Just speak to them in Swedish and not English. An hour a day in a foreign language? Pointless. Speak Swedish, always Swedish. At their age, I'd say you're now looking at 1 to 2 years. When they reply in English, you reply in Swedish.

cory Tue 30-Jul-13 21:50:01

There's various ways of doing it, chamonixlover (and clearly a little late for the advice to speak it from birth wink).

OP, if you are going to switch with children as old as 3 and 7, you probably can't get away with suddenly only speaking Swedish. They are old enough to get confused and resentful, particularly the 7yo. And a resentful 7yo can easily decide he is never going to have any truck with his new language at all- and stick to it!

The way you proceeded when you had a newborn doesn't really help you here: a newborn doesn't notice that he can't understand: a 7yo will. And he will need help with things- homework, communicating things that happened at school etc - where he actually does need a language he can communicate in. Yes, if you had spoken Swedish with him from birth that would have been fine, but you haven't and he still needs to communicate with you. A 7yo cannot spend months not understanding what his main carer says, because at that age (unlike the newborn baby age) they need to be able to communicate via language.

That doesn't mean it can't be done, just that I think you need to adapt it to their age and needs.

You need to discuss things a lot more with a child that age and make sure they are on board if you are going to make changes: basically, you need to sell Swedish to him. Shouldn't be too difficult: start with fun activities, DVDs perhaps, or trying to find Swedish children for them to meet up with. Have special games which you play in Swedish. Fun times which can only be accessed in Swedish.

Start using Swedish more and more. Explain to them that you are doing this to make things more fun. I wouldn't stick to anything rigid like an hour a day, more a gradual build up which eventually becomes all your time together.

OPOL is not the only way to achieve bilingualism and at the moment possibly not the best way for you right at the moment.

LoveSewingBee Wed 31-Jul-13 14:07:24

Totally agree with Cory - you need to sell it, especially to the seven year old.

Maybe a trip to a Swedish funpark or something else as an interim reward.

The first step is working on their vocabulary. The first few months when their vocabulary is still too small to understand you will be the hardest. It will be crustrating for all of you at times so you need to be sure that you are really committed.

In the evening read very simple stories with pictures as support to build vocabulary. When with the kids point out the Swedish words for objects around you, play games, eg I spy in Swedish, Simon says in Swedish, counting rhymes in Swedish, songs, clearly pronounced not mumbled children's songs on CDs etc. Lots of praise, mistKes are fine and correct through correctly repeating the word or,sentence without actually openly telling them they made a mistake as the latter is discouraging.

Don't expect too much progress in the first six months, but suddenly they will reach a certain point and it will become easier.

Good luck.

LoveSewingBee Wed 31-Jul-13 14:07:58

Frustrating ...

dyslexicdespot Wed 31-Jul-13 14:19:57

There are loads of wonderful and free resources in Swedish on the net. Sveriges television has loads of childrens programms and sveriges radio has a good channel aimed at children called radio apan. You can find lots of Swedish childrens music on spotify.

I would also suggest buying some svenska tva books, that is books aimed at teaching Swedish to recent immigrants to Sweden.

Good luck!

Fazerina Sat 24-Aug-13 23:46:59

I'm also interested in this with the exception that my DS is 2.3 and not speaking Swedish, but another language.

I can relate to how you describe it being difficult to speak your language to your children, when English is your 'home'language with your DH.

I wanted to add that I've noticed that many tv programmes on my country's tv-channels' internet pages cannot be viewed abroad. However, I recently learnes that you can purchase access via a service called astrill. You basically log on to your computer via the service and it will be as if you were browsing in your chosen country instead of the UK and then you can watch all the local programmes on web-tv. Apparently there are other providers as well, but this is what my friend recommended to me.

Tryingthisagain Sun 08-Sep-13 18:32:07

Watching with interest (though different language).
We recently watched a ballet and my 5 years old who doesn't speak Russian was very inspired and wanted to learn some Russian words instantly (this whim has now gone, sadly).

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