Would hiring a nanny to teach kids a second language work?(12 Posts)
DH and I would really like our kids (2.5 years and 10 months) to learn a second language. We both studied in Germany and speak pretty good (though far from perfect) German; we also speak some rudimentary Italian. We're not close enough to native to teach the kids ourselves, so we're thinking about possibly hiring a German- or Italian-speaking nanny to look after and speak the second language exclusively (or almost exclusively) with the children.
What we're wondering, though, is how much exposure would the kids need to really pick up the language? Would 10-15 hours a week be enough?
There's a German school not far from us (nursery through secondary) but pupils must be fluent in German when they start, so we're curious if we might have a shot at sending them there if they can successfully learn from a nanny first. (We also have some local German-speaking friends, so they would be able to speak with other native speakers as well.)
We've only started considering this, so any other advice or things to think about would be appreciated. Thanks!
Unlikely to work IME. I tried it with a French nanny (my French is fluent) but because it was only for a few hours a week they didn't catch on - also couldn't get DP engaged in speaking to them in French as he cannot speak French ... Read the threads on bilingual parenting - it's an uphill battle even with a native speaking parent.
If you are really serious you could cut out all TV unless it is German TV, speak to them in German only on certain days, cut out books unless they are German books, get the German nanny and see how you get on ...
We do have some German books and use some German words with the kids, but as I said, neither of us is fluent to native level, so I fear we'd just be teaching our mistakes.
I know young children usually learn languages incredibly easily, so it feels like a lost opportunity if we don't somehow figure out a way to manage it -- but that seems easier said than done.
My son has had Vietnamese speaking nannies since very early on. He receives little Vietnamese input outside of these nannies. He is now 5.8 and I think he speaks Vietnamese like a 4 year old native speaking Vietnamese child.
Some subjects, such as getting dressed, etc. he is probably better at in Vietnamese than in English.
Don't worry about your German not being perfect - they do not have another chance to pick up a language this early, work with what you have. I speak non perfect French to my kids - I don't even have a degree in it. I supplement it with DVDs, computer games,native speakers for a few hours a week and books, CDs etc. I started when my eldest was 2. He is now 5 and can speak French, understand native speakers and prefers to watch tv in French to English. It is completely possible to immerse your children in another language enough if you are committed, I would say if you have a nanny as well as you speaking it to them you are really likely to be successful. My son still mostly speaks to me in English but I reply in French, and when the person who comes to play with him in French comes he speaks entirely in French. I really wouldn't worry about your accent- after all it is not like they have an option to learn from a native speaker parent, they would just be acquiring their own bad accent later on if you don't do it now. It is really hard to make the switch though!
My DD is 3 and has had a Hungarian nanny since she was 11 months old. For the first 6 months it was 4 days a week (4x8 hour days) then it has been 2 days a week for about a year and a half (16 hours- not far off your 10-15 hours) as we added in a German-speaking childminder for the other 3 days a week.
She (apparently) now speaks Hungarian as clear to the nanny as her German/ English level is to DH/ me respectively. I think the 10-15 hours will work, especially if it isn't the only time they get to hear the language.
Really happy to hear some success stories. DH and I will need to chat/think about this a bit more and decide on an approach. DD (almost 2 1/2) is very advanced verbally, so I think she would pick up another language quickly. (She already knows and uses a few basic German expressions.)
I think it's doable if you're committed to it. DS is already FR/EN bilingual but he has soaked up some Spanish just being around a few Spanish speaking friends and their children and our former AP's friend (who now babysits for us) smothers him with Spanish endearments and taught him how to ask for cuddles in Spanish so just from very limited input something is happening. He also has some hilarious Welshisms/Welsh phrases because he'd hang around our AP when she was skyping her family and they spoke Welsh together.
You do need to be really committed to keeping it up though. German nanny alone for 10 hours won't be enough. Add in German books and TV, holidays in Germany with kids clubs, German Saturday school etc and you're looking at a good grounding.
Not in the same situation, but this might be relevant: I speak the minority language (Dutch) and I am not with DS (2.4yo) during the day. So he has exposure to my language on average for 1 hour in the morning, 2 or 3 hours in the evening and all day at the weekend. His Dutch understanding is as good as his English at this point. He slightly prefers saying English words at the moment but uses a larger percentage of Dutch words when speaking to me. There is no doubt that he is bilingual.
sorry to hijack but rrreow thats pretty much exactly what our situation will be. does your ds get any dutch contact when youre not there? books/tv etc or have you found that just you being consistent is enough?
I am literally the only Dutch exposure he gets. We have a couple of Dutch DVDs but he only watches them when I'm there (as he's at nursery during the day).
Also it might be interesting to know that I didn't decide to raise DS bilingually until he was about 14mo. So I spoke English to him for the whole first year of his life. It doesn't seem to have affected him much (he was a bit of a late talker, but that was the case for both languages, and his comprehension was fine and age-appropriate at all times).
Good luck! It's a bit nerve wracking to be the minority language speaker (is he getting it, or isn't he? Will he ever speak the language?) but it definitely works and is worth it in the end.
I also think it might well work esp with a child who is verbally strong by nature. My kids are English- German bilingual, but for the last 6 months by youngest (now 2.5) has been great friends with a 3 year old Bulgarian girl, who understands German but so far refuses to speak it. He only really sees in the village playground (right by our house, we spend a couple of hours a day there, and she is there a lot too). Usually Ds2 speaks German to her and she speaks Bulgarian to him, but he has now started speaking some Bulgarian to her - according to her mum, who thinks it's hysterical, she can understand what he's saying!
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