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AIBU to want my kids to learn their language of their home country?

(52 Posts)
BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 16:59:27

Bit of background.

DS1 and DS2 are twins and are not from this country originally. We adopted them at birth from Bulgaria and they have been citizens here for all of their lives. In the past 18 months I've been trying to get them to at least go and have some Bulgarian language lessons so they can speak to their biological grandparents (whom we are in contact with) with more ease. They've been going but the teacher is now leaving and we're looking for somewhere else to have the lessons.

DS1 isn't that bothered to having more, DS2 just goes along with what he says. DP thinks it's up to them if they want to keep learning or not.

I'm firmly of the opinion that they should keep going. We're their parents but I don't want them to forget their heritage or be ashamed of it. I feel like in the future they might want to look into their bioligical family more and they might regret not learning the language in years to come.

AIBU or not?

collieflourplease Sun 09-Oct-16 17:00:49

How old are they OP?

00100001 Sun 09-Oct-16 17:01:17

If they can't be bothered to learn, you'd just be wasting your money.

Have them talk to their grandparents I'm Bulgarian and they will keep it up that way?

Soubriquet Sun 09-Oct-16 17:02:59

It's their choice

You can't force them to do it

Sparklesilverglitter Sun 09-Oct-16 17:03:19

I think you are being a little unreasonable

I think if they are not interested then why make them? Let them do something they enjoy.

Why are you so focused on them regretting it in the future? If they ever do then you can learn a language at any time in there lives you know

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:08:02


They're 14, so they've been going since they were about 12.


I think my worry is that if they do regret it in years to come, they might not be able to learn the language. It's a tricky language as it is and it's better to learn whilst you're young, apparently.

Coffeegivemecoffee Sun 09-Oct-16 17:08:43

My DH is Italian, I'm English. We've lived in England our DC whole life but spend 6 weeks Summer holiday in Italy each year

Dd1 20 years old can only speak a few words of Italian, she never Wanted to learn Italian

Dd2 18 years again has no interest in speaking Italian

Ds1 can speak fluent Italian and loves everything Italian

Ds2 knows some Italian but as of yet his not shown a great deal of interest

Little 5 year old DD can already speak a bit of Italian and she enjoys making Italian meals with DH

All DC are different OP and I don't see the need to make them learn the language if they don't enjoy it so I think YABU let them do something they enjoy

They can learn a language at any time in there lives if they so wish

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:10:12


That's the way we're doing it right now. They can have a conversation with each other but nothing too taxing. I just worry if they stop learning they might lose what they already know.

Their grandparents are lovely and know basic English but I'm sure they would be overjoyed if they could speak to their grandkids in their language. Bulgarian culture is a very lovely thing and very important to them and I don't want my DCs to miss out on that.

TotallyOuting Sun 09-Oct-16 17:10:20

It's a tricky language as it is and it's better to learn whilst you're young, apparently.

I'm pretty sure 14 is way past the 'easier to learn languages' point.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:12:31


I think I agree with you there. Me and DP have a decent understanding of the language but it was a slog for us for a while. We go there every year now to see the GPs and extended birth family.

I don't think it's that they hate learning it, just that DS1 would rather be playing more football and DS2 just goes with the flow!

Like you said, I suppose it's never too late to learn the language and we're very big on making them learn about the history of their home country as well as here.

heatherwithapee Sun 09-Oct-16 17:13:36

I wouldn't push it. As PP said, learning a language when young IS much easier, but generally this means under 10 and the younger the better. It's hard work at 12/14 and they're unlikely to reach much of a standard now without a lot of hard work, especially if they're not interested.

TeenAndTween Sun 09-Oct-16 17:14:46

I think it's a tricky one. How often do they have contact with their bio GPs? Is it regular enough that the hours spent learning really feels beneficial, or only once every few months?
Is there any kind of Bulgarian community where you live that they could practice or chat with other teens?
How interested are they in their 'heritage'? I think it is great you've been supportive, but the age they are now maybe it's just not a priority? Just because SWs say our adopted kids 'should' be interested in stuff, it doesn't mean they will be.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:15:06


The MFL teacher at the school I work at told me the optimal age is up to about 9 but the brain is still more "absorbent" until about 15/16 after which you have to really try hard to retain the skills/information as you learn it.

As it is currently, they're both conversational in it, so at least they have that. It's the reading they struggle with because the language is just completely different with an entirely different alphabet.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:17:48


We see their GPs and birth family about once or twice a year (we visit them and they visit us) but they speak to their GPs on skype at least once a week.

Like you said, I think it's very easy for SWs to say we should all be doing this stuff but in practice you kind of have to let the kids decide themselves.

They're very interested in the culture and history though, as are we. So at least we're ticking that box, if not the language.

I think I'll probably see how they feel when the teacher they have comes to the end of their contract. If they want to carry on, we'll find somewhere.

collieflourplease Sun 09-Oct-16 17:19:57

At that age I'd leave it OP - you will alienate them and as a previous PP said if they want to learn they'll have to do it through regular conversations with their grandparents.

We moved abroad when DC were below age of 8 - they are bilingual now - but that was because they were totally immersed in the other language (friends, school etc)

We "wasted" £££s prepping for their move abroad with language classes and one-to-one tuition - they said themselves it was a waste of time and not really useful.

Nurture an interest in their motherland by looking at culture, traditions etc but don't try and force the language at this stage.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:23:10

Cheers for the advice CollieFlour

I think they pick up quite a bit of language from their grandparents (it's got to be the place they picked up the Bulgarian swearwords, hasn't it!) and our holidays there. I won't push it when their lessons come to an end, I'll let them come and ask me and if they do I'll know they're genuinely interested in carrying on.

collieflourplease Sun 09-Oct-16 17:26:10

At 14 I wouldn't push it. I'd nurture a love and interest in culture and traditions but by forcing lessons it will alienate them.

We moved abroad with DC when they were below age of 8 - they learnt language by immersion (school, friends etc) and are now grown up and fully bilingual.

We paid £££s on language lessons to prep them for the move but they said themselves it was not worth it - as nothing can substitute for speaking/listening all the time. I honestly think that unless they have a burning desire to learn Bulgarian then you are wasting your/their time.

Try not to define them by where they were born (my DC are reticent to say where they have lived - as people pigeon hole them)

Spend the money on developing their interests and what they want not on something that they will see as a chore.

collieflourplease Sun 09-Oct-16 17:26:58

Bummer - I thought it hadn't posted earlier - hence the rephrased and re posted bit - apologies

Lorelei76 Sun 09-Oct-16 17:29:25

I was born here but my parents were not.
I didn't have any interest in learning the language of their country as I knew I wasn't going, it wasn't a helpful one to learn in terms of work or anything really. It has horrified people but I just think this is my country, why learn a fairly obscure language for a country I'm not interested in. They may feel the same. Certainly they're old enough to choose.

When I read your title I wondered what birth country meant because I often told England isn't my country of origin, upsettingly. But if they were adopted and brought here they may feel the same.

Lorelei76 Sun 09-Oct-16 17:31:31

Sorry hit post too fast! Interesting that you say you're "ticking the box" with them being interested in the culture and heritage. I guess you feel under pressure in that way? I guess it's also different in that they go there and it could be useful for visits.

Bountybarsyuk Sun 09-Oct-16 17:34:01

If they know the alphabet and some phrases by now, that may be enough. It is unlikely unless you spend a huge amount of time there, and are prepared to do so, that they will speak it well enough to be fluent with their grandparents on all topics, but if they can be polite, thank them, interact with a few phrases, then that's a big gain for them.

Bulgarian is not an intrinsically difficult language more than say Russian, but it's not very used across the globe, so that may also factor in your decisions- if they were learning Russian, then it would be more useful (sorry to be blunt).

To learn, you have to have pretty much weekly lessons, plus lots of reinforcement and practice, and make it a central thing- just as most of us are not fluent in French from lessons in school, you have to go the extra mile to attain fluency and conversation. If they are not fussed, I am not sure it's worth enforcing, although I do think as I said earlier, learning the Cyrillic alphabet and some language is a really positive thing.

Bountybarsyuk Sun 09-Oct-16 17:36:34

I would also say that if they are interested in the culture and heritage, this is most of the battle. Sometimes children feel forced to choose, and it's great that they don't and they feel positive about that side of their heritage. It all sounds positive, on that front.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 17:55:10


I don't feel pressured really, but the social worker made a big thing of it when we first adopted. They were really worried they wouldn't settle in too well. But they did.

I've been blessed with two wonderful kids - I love them with all of my heart. The box being ticked thing was just a joke really, but I am overjoyed they are so interested in their original culture. They love the UK too of course and consider themselves British, but they love Bulgaria as well, and I'm glad of that. I never wanted them to think we were forcing them one way or another. We had been in touch with their GPs since the start but we both agreed that we would let the DCs decide, when they were old enough, if they wanted to meet. It was a tough conversation but they decided they wanted to meet them. They've been going every year for nearly 8 years now.

BowieFan Sun 09-Oct-16 18:00:36


I know what you mean about their birth country. They consider themselves to be British, for all intents and purposes. Of course, all of their mates and family know they weren't born here, because it's obvious from their first names and appearance, but they consider themselves British. I had to reassure them a few weeks ago when we were filling in the school census that nobody was questioning their Britishness, even though we obviously had to put down their correct birth country.

The only time they have been conflicted over countries is when they were deciding who to support in the World Cup Qualifiers (DS1 picked England, DS2 Bulgaria!) grin

TotallyOuting Sun 09-Oct-16 18:06:56

It's hard work at 12/14 and they're unlikely to reach much of a standard now without a lot of hard work
I wouldn't say it's hard work as such at 12/14 when you have little else (relatively speaking) on your plate. You definitely need to have something motivating you to keep it going though.

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