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To worry DD isn't growing up bilingual?

(67 Posts)
bragazasdelaabuela80 Thu 29-Aug-13 19:16:09


AIBU? DD is 3 now and despite me using only Spanish with her since birth as this is my native language, she only ever answers me in English. DP is British so speaks to her in English all the time and we speak in English as a couple as he doesn't speak Spanish at all. The only time I speak in Spanish apart from with DD is when I go back to Spain to see the family once a year.

Have any other mums had any 'negative experiences' with OPOL?

riksti Thu 29-Aug-13 19:19:23

My 3-year old doesn't really answer me in my language as she communicates in English everywhere else. But she understands everything that I say to her, which was my goal - to make sure she understands my family when they come here or we go visit.

Souredstones Thu 29-Aug-13 19:23:54

If you're talking one language she answers in another then it sounds like she more than understands it

bragazasdelaabuela80 Thu 29-Aug-13 19:24:50

Risksti - what's your native language out of interest?

Everquake Thu 29-Aug-13 19:25:09

That she sunder stands you is the most important thing I think. Can you get to a Playgroup so she hears you speaking to other people in Spanish? You might find that a visit to/from your family will mean she realises she has to speak Spanish to communicate with them.

DS speaks mainly English and at 3.5 his French is rapidly improving (DH and local) but is nowhere near his English and has really only taken off from single words in the past three months. DD speaks only words, but at the moment 99% French as she wants to impress daddy! Just keep going, you are doing an amazing thing for your DD.

LookAtTheTwain Thu 29-Aug-13 19:27:51

I think the fact that she understands you means that at some point she will speak spanish. I guess she just doesn't need to at the moment.

ArtVandelay Thu 29-Aug-13 19:30:04

I think you shouldn't worry too much. She obviously understands Spanish but probably realises that speaking English works just as well with you. My son is speaking English mixed with a little Dutch to me. He speaks English/ Dutch about 50/50 mix also to his Dutch Dad and speaks a Dutch/German/English (mostly German) mix to German people (where we live). I wasn't prepared for such a mix up but he's only 3 so I'm not too bothered. I have a friend who speaks only English to her girls and they only reply in German. She and I pretend we can't understand them which works in that they speak English to me but they just know mum speaks German because they hear her all the time. They are older though, I personally wouldn't feel like doing that to a 3 year old! I think it just comes and goes depending on how they are feeling. So I think you are being a bit U because she probably is bilingual, just choosing not to speak it right now. I am no expert though!

PumpkinPositive Thu 29-Aug-13 19:30:37

If she can understand you, that's the important thing at the moment. She'll start speaking it when she's ready. Do you have any Spanish language companies nearby that run weekend play classes for children?

Dackyduddles Thu 29-Aug-13 19:33:33

Don't stop the Spanish! As an outsider it sounds perfect. Assuming your nattering away and she's chipping in in English or answering you perfectly. She's understanding, formulating and responding. That's marvellous.

riksti Thu 29-Aug-13 19:33:46

It's Estonian so not much hope of finding other families practicing the language with their children around here smile your daughter will hopefully find it really easy for travelling later on in life as she's grown up with two major world languages in her life. Even if she doesn't pick up Spanish now it'll probably be very easy for her if she decides to learn it later.

gloti Thu 29-Aug-13 19:33:54

Very interested to hear other experiences... I'm also Spanish and although DS is only a month old I'm hoping he's going to grow up bilingual...

Im planning to use the same method as you so I'm a bit worried now that my plan might not work! hmm

CoteDAzur Thu 29-Aug-13 19:34:22

Put her DVDs on only in Spanish and find her a Spanish friend who speaks no English. Read her books in Spanish. Pretend you don't understand when she answers in English. Give her choices like "Do you want milk or water?" rather than yes/no questions like "Do you want some milk?"

In a year or two, she will be old enough to understand "If you can't say it in Spanish, tell it to your dad when he comes home at night" wink

RenterNomad Thu 29-Aug-13 19:36:53

DS always understood DH, but certain things propelled his "father tongue" to higher levels, particularly going on holiday with DH and DH's family without me.

Everquake Thu 29-Aug-13 19:38:47

Can you Skype with your family regularly so she has more reason to speak Spanish?

OhBuggerandArse Thu 29-Aug-13 19:45:39

You just need to 'not understand' her if she speaks in English. Give her prompts in Spanish to help her out if need be, and give her lots of opportunities to vocalise in Spanish in other situations too.

Songs and rhymes work well, or favourite books where she can join in with words and lines where she knows them. You need to really work at making opportunities for her to feel easy saying what she can - that will give her the confidence to use her Spanish in other situations too.

Good luck - it's really tough having to be so rigorous and consistent, but it really will pay off in the end.

froken Thu 29-Aug-13 19:47:38

My ds is only 8 months old so he doesn't speak either language yet ( Swedish/English) but I worked as an English teacher before I had ds.

My tips would be to only let her watch Spanish tv. Games like bingo are great, you can print out bingo with all sorts of topics (clothes/food/weather) if you say the word for the picture "I have picked up a carrot, do you need a carrot? Can you say carrot?" as time goes on build up the words she needs to say "I need a carrot" "I like carrots"

Ideally time with a Spanish speaking person who doesn't understand English ( or who is very good at pretending they don't understand) is the quickest way to get kids speaking. A Spanish babysitter would work really well. You can make flashcards for essentials such as water, toilet, hungry so the first couple of times your dd can communicate her basic needs but make sure there are fun activities for them to do thay involve lots of speaking.

Pachacuti Thu 29-Aug-13 19:53:34

All the bilingual children I know have gone through a phase (often a veeerrry long phase) of refusing to speak the "other" language (i.e. the one that doesn't mesh with the country in which they are living for the majority of the time). As long as they are hearing it, understand it, and ideally get the opportunity to occasionally talk to grandparents (etc.) who don't speak English they all seem to turn out fine and basically still fluent by the time they hit their teens.

Interestingly, trilingual children (both parents using OPOL but neither of those languages being English) that I know don't seem to have this issue but use all the languages quite happily.

CinnamonAddict Thu 29-Aug-13 20:02:04

IMO it is very hard for children to grow up bilingually with OPOL. It can work, don't get me wrong, but it is very hard work.
We speak German at home. Dh isn't a native but grew up in Germany, so speaks it fluently.
The dc all speak fluent German, but the older 2 speak English when they are alone. It is the language of the peergroup, so I undestand that. They spend a week in Germany in summer camps each year where they have to communicate, and we have many German friends there and here in the UK.
My dsis is married to a Brit and it is very hard for her to keep the German going. I have now switched to English with her youngest (8), as otherwise I would not be able to have a proper conversation with her. The older two are only marginally better in German.
My dsis did work full time when they were little so they were exposed to much more English than German, whereas I was at home for 2 years with each of them and then only did part time. They have only ever watched German TV and DVDs, until they had their own laptops (at 11).

My eldest did her GCSE in year 8 (A*) and my middle one will do it next year. He needs more input in writing, because he reads far less and only a small proportion of that is German books.

OP, is she surrounded by Spanish books and films? Do you read to her in Spanish? Do you have Internet radio switched to Spanish stations? Have a satellite dish for Spanish TV?
There is a lot you can do.

I have never ever spoken English to mine, and of course they know I can speak it. When they have friends round I just tell the friends in English what I have just said in German.

NulliusInBlurba Thu 29-Aug-13 20:02:29

I think it's fairly common that DC will initially have a passive relationship with the minority language (which is Spanish in your case), because children are spectacularly practical about languages and only learn as much as they need to in order to communicate effectively - right now your DD doesn't have a strong enough motive to speak Spanish rather than just understand it. I don't see that as such a huge problem right now - as soon as you take her back to Spain for a holiday and she's in an environment where she HAS to speak Spanish to communicate, her passive knowledge will be activated pretty quickly.

We didn't do OPOL because DH and I share English as a native language but we live in Germany, and we made sure that the DC learned early on that only English was acceptable at home. If they said something in German we would just calmly say, 'can you say that in English please?' and 'we don't speak German at home'. So you need to establish to your DD that when she speaks to you, the only language to use is Spanish. However much she does speak English to you, you must persist in answering her in Spanish. I know many parents find that phase frustrating, but it's worth it in the end.

Is there any way you can send her to a Spanish-English junior school? It makes an enormous difference if they learn to read and write in both languages.

bragazasdelaabuela80 Thu 29-Aug-13 20:03:52

Risksti - what's your native language out of interest?

WorrySighWorrySigh Thu 29-Aug-13 20:10:05

Dont assume that your DD doesnt speak Spanish.

Children do what they need to do.

A while back when we lived in the Netherlands a Polish friend of ours was sending his youngest DD to kindergarten. He said that she didnt speak any Dutch and they were a bit worried. It took my DCs about 5 minutes to work out that she spoke fluent Dutch!

greenfolder Thu 29-Aug-13 20:11:41

My friend lives in france with french husband. Oldest dc heard nothing but english at home (altho dh english not brilliant). She started school in france with no french and picked it up within a term. However the younger children in the family spoke english with a very heavy french accent- once at school they all spoke french to each other.

CinnamonAddict Thu 29-Aug-13 20:11:52

Nullius, funny, the other way round smile
My older dc have never spoken English to me, the 4 yo has had a phase when she started to really speak English (after being in preschool for a year) when she would address me in German. I just told her I don't answer that, because we speak German to each other. It happened twice, I didn't make a fuss but was insistent. Problem solved.
Nowadays she asks me words in English or German. E.g. when she speaks to her little friend she would turn around and ask me "what is xyz in English" and I'd tell her. She then uses it with her friend. Or if friend uses a word she doesn't know she will ask me what it is in German.

microserf Thu 29-Aug-13 20:19:30

Is there a Spanish language nursery near you? We did opol and dd (eldest) only spoke in French although appeared to understand French. One month in a French nursery and she was chattering away in French. We did opol with our second and he spoke much earlier. Keep going, you will get there!

microserf Thu 29-Aug-13 20:20:08

Darn. Meant to say she spoke only in English, and the the French came out when she went to nursery.

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