Has anyone regretted teaching their baby a second language?

(37 Posts)
Nigglenaggle Tue 10-Jul-12 21:20:27

Just read the message from the lady who thought she had given her son a stammer trying to teach him a second language and wondered if anyone had regretted trying to teach a baby a second language? We hope to teach our son Russian but as neither of us is a native speaker we wont be able to go for the one parent teaching each language approach

Lala29 Tue 10-Jul-12 22:25:33

Where abouts are you? Can't comment on regretting teaching a second language yet, as dd is only 9 months old, but I am speaking Russian to her, so if you happen to be near by ( a long shot, I know), could meet up! Why have you opted for Russian?

jkechichian Tue 10-Jul-12 22:32:30

Teaching my DD English and Spanish and hoping to add Arabic as well. Her language skills are very good and we often get comments that she is above her age group for language ( don't know if the bilingualism has anything to do with that).
I have always been told it good to start young, no regrets

natation Wed 11-Jul-12 09:35:53

I would never advise "teaching" a child a language, not for a child under the age of about 8 where language is acquired from environment, it needs to come from an immersion for a language to be fluent and truly mother tongue and natural. If you don't speak a language naturally to mother tongue level, then stick to the language(s) you do speak to that level, find an environment which will provide consistency, quantity and a need to speak a language - an environment lacking one of these 3 things will be very unlikely to produce fluency in a language.

There really is a big difference in language fluency where a child learns from environment and where a child is formally taught. Our children speak French fluently because that is the community and school language, 3 of them also read and write quite well and speak to a reasonable level in Dutch and could watch Dutch TV for hours and laugh along to jokes, but they are NOT fluent in Dutch, it is "taught"to them at school as very much a second language.

cory Wed 11-Jul-12 10:37:04

If you have the right kind of child, there is no reason you can't start teaching them (as opposed to immersing them) before age 8. As long as they want to learn.

My mother taught me English from the age of 6 and my brother had German lessons from a similar age. It may not have made us fluent at the time but it laid solid foundations which enabled us to become fluent at a later age. My brother speaks German like a native and I certainly think of myself as bilingual. I did not actually get to spend much time around native speakers until I was in my teens, but because my passive/academic knowledge of English was very good it didn't take long for the other parts to slot in: I was sitting O-levels and getting top marks after a few months in the country.

Just because a certain method may not produce instant fluency doesn't mean it is not worthwhile.

All in all, I don't think there is much point in laying down rules about how you have to acquire language skills or who has to speak what language in a family - families are all different and people have all sorts of different relationships to the languages in their lives.

Most of the rules about OPOL or everybody-must-speak-their-native-language are simply anecdotes about what has worked for the families in question, not evidence that nothing else can work for anybody else.

UptoapointLordCopper Wed 11-Jul-12 12:36:03

I'm a great believer in "teaching" your children things, be it a language or a skill or anything. In doing so they learn things, and you learn things about yourself and them that no one can tell you, and you establish a good relationship where you can debate and discuss things. Languages are especially good because then you get to discuss everything since languages tend to cover everything ... What you need is patience and an open mind and a willingness to change and adapt as your children change and one "method" or another fail to work or work in a strange way. It is all very exciting.

But maybe that's just us ...

Nigglenaggle Wed 11-Jul-12 21:06:25

We are in the midlands and chose Russian because we lived there for 5 months and both speak it to a good level. We arent trying to give formal lessons ^^ but might sing in Russian to baby or read a story in that language. My mum occasionally spoke Spanish to me while I was a little girl (but not as young as we are starting) and I've always felt it helped me learn languages in general - Im better at it than my other half but nowhere near as good as our friend who is bilingual - she can pick up other tongues with ease. So sort of thought any young learning would be better than nothing. But then wondered if it would just cause confusion :/ Glad no-one has posted an I-did-this-and-was-really-sorry type story smile
Why did you go for Russian Lala? Jke do you have different native speakers in the house or are you doing it with languages you just know well?
I dont really mind if our son is fluent or not, just want to help him and give him a head start if possible, and not hinder.

Rosa Wed 11-Jul-12 21:16:19

Both mine are bilingual but we are native speakers ( one in each language). I teach preschoolers english and have had comments from the teachers that when they move onto school they are in advantage as they are more capable / have a better 'ear'and are willing and do learn more.

natation Thu 12-Jul-12 10:15:57

Nigglenaggle, why don't you find a Russian environment like a Russian speaking Latvian / Estonian / Russian who could become a babysitter, or something similar? I wouldn't recommend speaking long term in another language you are NOT fluent in. Just met too many children whose parents speak English to them instead of their own native languages, thinking adding English in the home will be an advantage, the children speak noticeably different English to the children who learn English only from their English speaking school environment. They are trying to immerse their children in less than perfect English.

I suppose it's fine to sing or do the odd bit in another language at home, as we have multi-lingual TV and our children have multi-lingual friends, they are constantly asking to do something in another language, the current demand is to speak German at home! I wouldn't want to impose my good but far from fluent German on our children, I am currently considering an immersion week in German for the 6 year old, but I don't expect her to come home saying anything other than "wie geht's maman?"

Nigglenaggle Fri 13-Jul-12 13:38:27

I have thought about that and its a really good idea. Maybe when he's a bit older though as dont feel comfortable leaving him with non-family at the moment. I do also have some tapes/videos in Russian as am aware that our pronunciation has probably suffered a little from being away from Russia...

Nigglenaggle Fri 13-Jul-12 13:42:21

Often when people are taught language it isnt by a native speaker though, and while a native speaker is better, it doesnt mean you can never learn or perfect the language because you have been taught by someone who was raised speaking something different I think.... or all of us are doomed!

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 13-Jul-12 15:13:31

I learned all my languages from people who "have funny accents"... I am doomed, doomed, I say.

Lala29 Sat 14-Jul-12 19:09:10

I am Russian originally, so we decided to bring DD up bilingually. I also disagree that teaching a language at an early age is pointless and won't make them fluent. Yes, at the time, they won't be, but Later on in life, it will probably be a lot easier for them to learn languages.

My dad taught me English from when I was 4 ( I am horrified now, as he's got the worst accent!) and no, I wasn't bilingual within a few years at all. But we came to live in England when I was 13 and within a couple of years, you wouldn't know I wasn't born here (no accent at all apart from regional one). Children of my parents' friends who came here at the same time still speak with an accent. I have also found languages much easier to learn since then and am now fluent in German and currently learning Spanish.

I think singing and stories in russian is a great idea, also it would be lovely if you incorporated some russian traditions into your everyday life s you child gets interested in the country aswell as learning the language...

MultilingualBabySitter Fri 31-May-13 16:44:53

8 years is a little bit too late. I don't understand with is wrong with "teaching a language". I was taught in my childhood a second language (not by native ), just somebody who has a good level, then "come" another language, and I kept going so now I speak and write at a professional level six languages.I mean not similar languages ,like only Slavonic or only Nordic.Just start, children absorb everything.It depends how you teach them.I have even published articles on this subject.

tabitha8 Fri 31-May-13 22:19:25

I've been learning a second language with DS since he was aged about 1.5, so no immersion here smile. It's working well. He'll certainly have a huge head start when he begins school and it's good for my brain, too.
He's four now.

LoveSewingBee Sat 01-Jun-13 20:56:07

I agree with Natation.

Ime teaching (and learning for that matter) a language is very hard work and requires long-term commitment. Benefits need to be clear with plenty of opportunity to practise in ideally a natural environment.

I have come across too many so-called bilingual kids who end up with below average skills in both languages hampering their education.

Fazerina Tue 25-Jun-13 02:14:11

My DS is 2.1 and is raised somewhat trilingually. Both myself and DH speak our native languages to him to a varying degree and we live in the UK, so English is the majority language (plus we speak English at home to each other).

I'm finding it very tough at times to keep speaking my language and DS doesn't really say many words in mine, let alone DH's language, as English dominates our lives.

I do regret speaking my language to him sometimes, as it's so much extra work and takes a lot of effort. Most of the time our 'conversations' are DS saying words in English and me saying 'yes DS, it's a car/duck/doggie etc.' In my language so I don't think he's really learning it, as he just speaks English mostly.

TheBirdsFellDownToDingADong Tue 25-Jun-13 08:11:34

You don't teach babies a language.

They acquire (as many as they are continually exposed to) from the native speakers around them.

Facilitating the acquisition of the parent's native language should never feel like hard work. You're just speaking to the child. In your own language.

I think OP, you'd feel happier about the odd sentence/word in Russian that you are exposing the child to if you stopped thinking about it and just did it. (without concentrating on any didactic goals) Dd and I exchange the odd expression in Spanish now she's learning it (she is bilingual Italian/English) but I don't ever stop and actively think "oh time to insert a Spanish phrase!" (IYSWIM)

kelda Tue 25-Jun-13 08:25:05

No not at all. Although as someone has pointed out, you do not teach a child a language.

And I say that as a parent of a child with a very severe speech disorder. The professionals all drop their jaws in amazement when they realise just how good he is at both languages - I am very proud of him.

Fazerina Tue 25-Jun-13 15:14:04

To be honest OP, I don't think you'd be giving your DC 'a headstart' in any way, as you wouldn't be able to create an environment where your DC became a fluent Russian speaker. Of course, you might spark an interest in learning languages in general though.

You could be able to teach him a few words here and there and perhaps a few nursery rhymes, which is a fun thing of course. I still remember nursery rhymes in Italian, Hungarian and Japanese that were randomly taught to me as a child and I find it a funny thing to surprise people with. Although I consider myself multilingual (I speak three languages to native level), I speak none of the abovementioned languages at all.

I agree with what someone pointed out; you don't teach language to children, they acquire it. In my experience, what is hard work is not so much speaking your own language to your child, but to try not to get frustrated, when he doesn't respond to you in that language. It's very difficult to create an environment, where the child experiences the need to speak your language without many people around you that speak your language. Despite the DVDs, books and music CDs, my DS prefers to respond in English, even though he understands my language, because only one person modelling that language is not encouraging enough for him to try and copy it IYSWIM.

cory Thu 27-Jun-13 21:40:39

"I agree with what someone pointed out; you don't teach language to children, they acquire it."

Depends on the age of the child. My mother taught me English from the age of 6. This had nothing to do with a bilingual environment, she was not bilingual but had a degree in English: our reading sessions were very formal with grammar excercises and principal parts of the verb. I was 11 before I first had the chance to meet a native speaker. It was still a very good foundation and in many ways a life-changing experience.

My own children have grown up in a bilingual environment which is a totally different thing. But even so, dd at least has always been very interested in discussing the different languages as languages, their differences and how they work. She wasn't even two when you could give her a word and ask her to translate it into the other language, or point to an object and ask what that was in English.

kelda Fri 28-Jun-13 06:43:35

I actually ment 'babies' and very young children; I didn't really mean older children.

FloweryOwl Wed 10-Jul-13 21:27:41

I'm the opposite. My mother is English my father is Spanish and I regret not teaching my eldest (youngest is only 5 months) to speak Spanish from day one.

I have always spoken to her in English, with the odd Spanish sentence but only because her father knows very little Spanish.

I lived in Spain from 5 to 17 years old so did most of my schooling there and was spoken to in both languages from birth and never had any problems.I have now been in England for the last 6 years and dd is 3 and a half.

She speaks very little Spanish and I regret not starting sooner.

brokenk Sat 13-Jul-13 14:38:21

My both older kids can speak fluently 2 languages
But I m worried about my DC3
He preffer English so Im not sure if I should keep trying

ninani Sat 13-Jul-13 15:05:34

Fazerina youn must know by now that the reason why your son isn't fluent in your languages is because you respond to him in English. IME when parents who speak 50% their own language and 50% english their children tend to speak only english. I speak my language, my husband his own and I and my husband speak english toone another as there is no other way. My husband was born here and is fluent but he insists that our children ONLY speak to him in his own language. He was taught by his mother who was trilingual and very fluent in english but chose to not speak any english to her children so that they would learn the other languages properly.

Our children are trilingual (at least) and we get lots of comments, even from school about how advanced their vocabulary is compared to other children's so no, being bilingual doesn't hinder their vocabulary, it actually enriches it. If they don't understand a word in my language I just translate it into english and it registers immediately.

I would never dare to converse with our children in english though: my accent is really bad and they wouldn't learn properly!!!! blush I do read to them though and have tought them reading before they started school and explain things when it has to be done.

cory Sun 14-Jul-13 10:09:40

ninani Sat 13-Jul-13 15:05:34
"Fazerina youn must know by now that the reason why your son isn't fluent in your languages is because you respond to him in English. IME when parents who speak 50% their own language and 50% english their children tend to speak only english."

That really depends on all sorts of factors. Families are all different and one size doesn't fit everyone.

Dh and I both speak each other's languages: our children are still well and truly bilingual. In our case we have been able to find other ways to compensate and make the minority language attractive: really good books and plenty of bedtime stories, visits to my country, visits from my relatives etc.

My reason for speaking both languages was that I realised that dh wasn't actually very well up in English nursery rhymes or children's books or any other cultural aspect of childhood: it seemed a shame that dc should miss out when I had that knowledge in two languages. And now that they are older, I am better placed to help them with their homework, coach dd in her am dram parts and discuss her English literature reading list, because in some ways I have had a better education in two cultures than dh has had in one. He has other things he can teach them.

Littleen Mon 05-Aug-13 20:53:59

I started learning English on a trip to USA when I was 5, and had it at school - am bilingual now and most English people can't hear an accent with me. Also learnt swedish from yearly holidays (2 weeks a year) there, so it doesn't necessarily have to be a huge amount of teaching going on. We will probably speak one language each to the little one, Norwegian and English, as it's important for us that s/he is equally familiar with both cultures. A lady I know taught her kids both words of everything, like, if the child asked "what's that?" she would reply with both English and Norwegian word, and that seems to have worked really well smile

Vietnammark Fri 30-Aug-13 17:32:20

This research suggests that there is a correlation between early multilingualism and stuttering:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/09/080908215938.htm

Vietnammark Fri 30-Aug-13 17:33:11
CoteDAzur Fri 30-Aug-13 17:36:20

There is also a significant positive correlation between bilingualism and intelligence.

Vietnammark Sat 31-Aug-13 00:17:38

Yes, but this was not the Ops question, and I believe he correlation you mention may be more relevant to sequential bilinguals as proposed to simultaneous bilinguals:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130829124351.htm

Vietnammark Sat 31-Aug-13 00:18:38
CoteDAzur Sat 31-Aug-13 07:13:56

That link doesn't say anything about intelligence.

Re stuttering - I live in a uniquely multicultural place, where almost everyone is bilingual and most people are trilingual. My DC are trilingual from birth. All their friends are at least bilingual, most are trilingual (in different languages).

I have not met not heard of anyone with a stutter.

Vietnammark Sat 31-Aug-13 10:48:56

No it doesn't directly say this, but this is what I, rightly or wrongly, infer.

I believe being multilingual is great, but sometimes people just pick up on any old research or newspaper headline to reinforce their beliefs.

Let's say it takes a 1,000 hours of studying/immersion to learn a foreign language well. I would think that this 1,000 hours of studying would have a positive effect on the brain, but wouldn't 1,000 hours of studying chess/maths/juggling also have a positive effect?

www.spring.org.uk/2013/07/the-mental-benefits-of-useless-skills-like-juggling.php

I feel that it is the act of learning that makes one more intelligent and not necessarily the act of learning an additional language.

I do know a couple of multilingual kids with stutters, but I do know quite a lot of multilingual kids.

CoteDAzur Sat 31-Aug-13 11:09:21

Worse is people who pick up any research to reinforce their beliefs and "infer" conclusions from them that are not even in the said research.

OP - There are many advantages to speaking more than one language. If you have the opportunity/means to teach your DS Russian, go for it. My one commendation would be to find a native speaker to speak to him in Russian - babysitter, cleaner, Russian kids who don't speak English, for example.

Good old Wikipedia summarises the Cognitive Advantages to Bilingualism with links to relevant research.

Vietnammark Sat 31-Aug-13 11:16:20

Cote

I agree with everything in your last post.

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