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Which language do siblings speak?

(12 Posts)
Hanachan Mon 13-Jun-11 10:38:35

Our 5 y DD has coped really well with her bilingual upbringing, it has been fascinating to see her learn both Dutch and English. I have been consistently speaking Dutch to her and I think that helped, so I am wondering how things are going to work out for baby nr 2, due in 2 months. I'll still speak Dutch, dad will speak English, but how will things go with bis sister? Should she "choose" one language to use with the baby? What happens between siblings in bilingual families? I'd be interested to hear your experiences!

annasophia Mon 13-Jun-11 11:12:09

Are you in the UK? And will your children go to English nursery/school? In that case it is very likely that your two children will speak English together.

We are in the same position as you (me speaking German to dc, dh English) and we live in the UK. While both of mine (now 9 and 7) speak German quite well, they generally speak together in English - the language is just so dominant in their lives - school, friends, tv etc etc. This is despite me speaking to them only in German, they going to German Saturday School, they watching German tv/videos and spending holidays in Germany/Austria.

So while you can encourage Dutch while they're little, once they start nursery there is very little you can do, I'm afraid smile.

HettyAmaretti Mon 13-Jun-11 11:22:08

My DC are also Dutch/English bilingual and tend to speak Dutch together (we live in NL), sometimes it's a mish-mash of both languages but that doesn't seem to be doing any harm. I'd prefer them to speak English to one another but it's a hopeless task TBH. I only ever speak English to them and DP Dutch.

They're both younger than your DD (2 and 3 1/2), maybe they'll choose to speak more English together and in general when they're older.

HettyAmaretti Mon 13-Jun-11 11:24:53

Oh, and no, I don't think there's any need for your DD to stick to one language with the baby. She should just express herself however feels best to her.

I've not read many books on bilingualism, so I could be entirely wrong...

mopsyflopsy Mon 13-Jun-11 11:44:39

Same experience here. The kids mainly speak together in the 'majority' language (language of country & school), even though they are perfectly capable of speaking the minority language. So even if your dd speaks to her little brother/sister in Dutch now, she will likely revert to English later, assuming you live in the UK.

Hanachan Mon 13-Jun-11 12:56:16

Thanks for sharing your experiences. We do live in the UK so I guess English will become the more dominant language. Did you find that your children all coped similarly with being bilingual or did one child struggle more with it than another?

Rosa Mon 13-Jun-11 12:59:06

My 2 speak Italian between themselves but dd2 (2.6) comes out with teh most amazing mixtures. Some words are just English and some just Italian. DD1 speaks fluently in both and we are srtarting to read iN English as in Italy they do it in 2 yrs time so trying to get ahead.... Oh and we live in Italy.....

mopsyflopsy Mon 13-Jun-11 13:08:18

Hana, my dd has always been much better at languages than ds. She started speaking earlier, is better in English at school and separates her two languages very well (German and English). DS is better at other things smile.

AuldAlliance Tue 14-Jun-11 08:56:35

DS1 (6) and DS2 (2) speak either French or English together, according to who they are with. (Well, DS1 does. DS2 speaks an odd mixture, but the English is there when he speaks to DS1, not when he speaks to French speakers).

We are in France, their Dad is French, DS2's CM speaks French... So English (my language) is very much the minority language.

Right now, when they are alone together they speak mainly English, which I am surprised and pleased about. I suspect that once DS2 goes to nursery school, that may change.

mousymouse Tue 14-Jun-11 09:07:21

ds is 4 and dd 18m.
both attend nursery 4 days a week, ds will start school in september.
the words that I hear from dd are mainly german (our home language).
ds talks german to her when at home, but when ds plays by himself he speaks english.
we only speak german at home, have a selection of german language films and we insist on ds answering in german (pretend not to understand him if he talks english to us).
will see how it goes once he starts school, heard from other families that that sometimes is the biggest hurdle for the minority language.

cory Tue 14-Jun-11 09:20:44

My take has been that this is something I do not police or give instructions about, because it's their relationship. When they were little (3.5 yrs age difference) they spoke mostly Swedish to each other, now they speak English (majority language) if talking about school or anything else they do in English, but frequently drop into Swedish on neutral topics.

I found ds (the youngest) has struggled more with being bilingual and tended to prefer whichever was his dominant language of the moment; it's not the languages as such I think so much as his need for identity. But he is still bilingual.

natation Wed 15-Jun-11 08:14:54

Our 2 youngest children speak French between each other, our 2 eldest children speak English between each other, all down to the fact that the youngest ones have spent a greater proportion of their lives in French schools than the eldest ones who were in English longer. The home is becoming more and more French speaking, it's the language of the community and schools, it's just nature. I'd never tell our children to switch languages at home, I'd never ignore them if they spoke in French instead of English.

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