Advanced search

Bilingual baby !!

(20 Posts)
onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 13:44:15

Hi all !
I have Italian/Croatian roots and unfortunately was not taught fluently by my mum who can speak (dad English !). I can pick up the odd word but literally just that, I can't link them together or anything.
Our daughter is almost 5 months old and we would really like her to speak Italian as to be bilingual is a huge life skill (one I'd envy!)

Pretty much since she was born all children's tv is in Italian, we have books and Italian musical toys as well as nursery rhymes that sing English then Italian (I think me and the husband are starting to learn from the toys !)

I was just wondering whether anyone had any experience of teaching a language they don't speak fluently and whether we're on the right track with the learning materials ?

Many thanks ! X

vinyard68 Mon 11-Jul-16 15:41:32

Hi, there is a language/bilingualism thread under "Being a parent", you might get more responses there.

onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 15:59:19

Brilliant thank you !!! smile

EverythingWillBeFine Mon 11-Jul-16 16:03:25

I brought up my dcs to be bilingual
What you are doing us great but if you want you DC to speak Italian fluently, she will need more input than that
In a very short way, the more Italian she will hear the better. And the more it comes from you/a trusted person the better.
Good luck with it!

onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 16:14:47

That's great, thanks ! I have some Italian cousins and a few Italian friends but none locally (anymore) sadly ! Would Skype work, I'm trying to look for Italian playgroups as just saw an older thread about them! Hadn't realised they existed ! Xx

noramum Mon 11-Jul-16 16:34:15

DD grows up bilingual. The problem with not knowing the language yourself is that a lot of important vocabulary is missing.

I think alongside what you do at the moment you need to brush up you own skills. Only if your child hears a language permanently on a mother-tongue level you will make progress.

Additionally you need to expose her to lots of native speaker, playgroups or visits to Italy.

It is a painstaking process and DD was 4 when she finally decided to use German actively so it is hard. Also, as soon as your DD will move into an English environment like playgroup, nursery, activities you will find that Italian will move down and then the lack of your own knowledge will make it more difficult.

onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 16:43:52

This is my worry noramum. We're trying hard to brush up on our own Italian and are throwing the odd word in to day to day chatter smile

EverythingWillBeFine Mon 11-Jul-16 17:14:16

Agree with noramum
I haven't had any issue with the dcs speaking in french to me to start with. But carrying on when they start nursery/school is harder. I fiound that my dcs have had/have a lort of trouble explaining what they hav done in french when they have done everything in english for example.

YY to be surrounded with native speakers, something I've struggled with (Time issue to go back to France etc)

Natalieevans79 Mon 11-Jul-16 18:38:46

I will be interested to follow this as my husband and I have been speaking French to our 3.5 and 2 year old for about 5 weeks now. We are defo not fluent though (both lived abroad at university and conversational level I would say) and it's very hard work as a result. We also don't speak it exclusively- as much as we try, we get tired or forget. Somedays I think I'm mad and wonder if it's worth the effort, but my eldest can understand more than I expected already, and is very curious. I doubt you can ever achieve bi- linguism unless you're a native speaker, or they have some other on going exposure but I would like to know how much they could learn this way. Any inspiration from people further on in this project would be very welcome!

onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 19:10:08

Thank you for your responses, all valid points to consider, do you think if I started weekly Skype sessions with my Italian cousin that would work or is that not often enough ?

esornep Mon 11-Jul-16 19:20:28

The usual rule of thumb is that a child has to spend at least 20% of their time hearing a language to pick it up at any significant level. Unless a child watches an awful lot of TV, television/toys in another language is not sufficient in itself.

Agree with other posters that it is hard, much harder than monolingual parents might expect, to get a child to be completely multilingual. My children have been reluctant to use their second languages actively: they preferred to reply in their first language and we had to keep at it to get them to talk all languages. (Not helped by the fact that DC actually had different first languages i.e. their favourite languages were not the same.) I also agree that there are inevitably gaps in vocabulary, grammar etc in their languages. For example, my children have always had to speak a different language at school than their home languages. Correspondingly they find it hard to explain maths and science in their home languages - and they found it hard as small children to explain food, cookery, clothes, politics etc in their school language (as they didn't hear the vocabulary for these things at home).

onceuponadream2016 Mon 11-Jul-16 19:36:16

Thanks esornep that's an interesting perspective. I know there's such a lot to consider and already by starting this thread bits have come up that I hadn't thought of. So 20% we'll really have to work on that. Has anyone had any successful tutor stories when their children are older ?

Natalieevans79 Mon 11-Jul-16 19:59:33

If it's an option, an au pair? We are looking for one but in meantime we pay a local French au pair to come and play for a few hours a week.

frenchfancy Mon 11-Jul-16 20:15:46

I confess as a mother of 3 bi-lingual children I am not sure how you are going to manage this. If you and DH spoke no Italian but you lived in Italy so the outside world did then it would work, but as you don't speak Italian and neither does the outside world then I don't see how it will work.

You may put in an Awful lot of work, but when kids get to 4 or 5 they realise there is no point in it so they give up. It would work if you could do OPOL or if you had a nanny who spoke the 2nd language but otherwise I don't believe you have a chance.

Having said that I think there is nothing wrong with introducing the concept of other languages early on and I think it can have enormous benefits later on, but that is not the same as bilingualism.

I really don't want to be negative, I think language learning is great, but I'm not sure the effort you are going to put in is going to produce the results you want.

EverythingWillBeFine Mon 11-Jul-16 20:21:41

One thng that could be nice though, even if they don't end up speaking the language is to have learnt different sounds from another language quite early on.
Learning to 'hear' and pronounce sounds can be quite hard later on and is much easier when you have learnt that as a baby/toddler. It helps a lot with the accent and the ability to speak, if your dd ever wants to learn another language.

onceuponadream2016 Tue 12-Jul-16 08:05:59

This is true Everything ! Lots and lots to think about! Thanks everyone smile

FayaMAMA Wed 13-Jul-16 23:48:01

I think your best bet would be to start learning yourself! The best way to teach a child a language is to speak it around them constantly... or get a nanny who speaks it fluently like my parents did for us hmm My girls speak fluent English and French (or as fluent as 3 year olds are anyway!). I socialise them in 'French' environments as much as I can and talk to them in French at home. I obviously speak french though. I would suggest trying to find an Italian group in your area - if your DD can socialise with other Italian speakers it will REALLY help.

Vietnammark Thu 14-Jul-16 20:23:41

Many people learn to be fluent and almost bilingual by learning a language as a foreign language rather than being immersed at a young ago. So it is doable.

My 8 year old son has been studying Mandarin as a foreign language for 3 years now. For the last 18 months he has been doing the following:

Whilst brushing his teeth, showering, and getting dressed and undressed in the mornings and evenings he watches or just listens to Mandarin cartoons on you tube. This amounts to about 30 minutes a day.

He has 30 minute on-line lessons on Saturday and Sunday. During holidays he frequently asks for more of these so last year, despite some lessons being cancelled for holidays, he still did over 110 of these. He even did some of these lessons when we were away on vacation.

I used to also play CDs in the car as well, but have decided this is overkill and that learning a language is a marathon and not a race.

His school also does 1 x 30 minute lesson a week. The level of this class is much lower than his, but he does like being the best in his class so this does give him an added incentive to learn.

I am not saying that the above is perfect, but I believe he has very good pronunciation in Mandarin and within a few years he will be fluent. This does not mean that at 11 he will be the same level as a native speaker, but he will have a very good base to progress to a very high level in the future.

My son's level of Mandarin is the highest in our household and he never gets to speak to native speakers outside of his on one .

I have been in the language teaching business for over 20 years so am reasonably confident that he will get to a very high level in Mandarin as long as he can keep motivated.

Also, reserach shows that Mandarin takes a lot longer for native English speakers to lean than Italian.

onceuponadream2016 Thu 14-Jul-16 20:45:38

Viatnammark thank you so much that's really positive to know smile

CruCru Sat 16-Jul-16 20:37:36


A friend employed a French speaking nanny for her kids (she was going back to work so was going to need a nanny anyway) and made sure that the nanny only spoke French to the children when she was looking after them.

I do know of one nursery that is French / English bilingual - but not one for Italian.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now