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Annoyed at STBXH constantly reverting to English ...

(15 Posts)
EveHarrington Tue 21-Jun-11 12:57:25

STBXH and I made the decision to bring up our DS bilingual (English and Norwegian). We will be living together for the next couple of years, albeit "separated" in the legal sense.

The problem is STBXH keeps reverting to English with DS both when I'm around AND when I'm not here. I was brought up not being able to speak either of my parents' native languages and I feel that I have lost out in some way, especially at traditional family/cultural gatherings or traveling back to my country of origin, and I wouldn't want DS to experience the same thing on his father's side (I know how hard I have found it at STBXH's family reunions, despite most of his family being able to speak English to/at a reasonable standard).

STBXH says that he does want DS to grow up being able to speak Norwegian, but at the moment, it's just not happening! I don't want to keep nagging at/pressuring him and I'm guessing there's very little I can do about this sad but any tips from those who have faced a similar situation would be greatly received!

mamsnet Tue 21-Jun-11 13:44:06

I'll bump this for you.. I don't think I have any advice but as a mother of bilingual children, i feel for you.

How old is your DS?

Is your ex doing this to annoy you?

EveHarrington Tue 21-Jun-11 14:57:07

Thanks for the bump smile No, annoyingly enough, he isn't doing it to annoy me (or at least, I don't think so!). I guess it's because throughout our relationship, we've always spoken English together and it seems to be a hard habit for him to break out of.

DS is 2years.2months. His English is coming along well, and he is starting to link words together and say whole sentences (albeit sometimes garbled!). He can easily repeat Norwegian words when he hears them, but he's just not hearing them enough of the time to retain anything. He's also at a CM's all week (approximately 55 hours a week sad) whom he speaks English with, so he needs all the help he can get on the Norwegian side of things!

MIFLAW Wed 22-Jun-11 10:31:19

Id he the only source of Norwegian? You mention "both your parents' languages" - is one of them norwegian? If so, could you become a Norwegian speaker for a year or so?

I know this isn't ideal, but I have seen it work (friend of my daughter's dad "became" French speaking alongside his wife to maixmise French use in the house when they were preparing their daughter for French-speaking nursery school.)

MIFLAW Wed 22-Jun-11 10:32:58

If not, you just need to lay it on the line to your ex - if he doesn't make it happen, it isn't going to happen. Then leave it at that (or else find a child-minding strategy involving a Norwegian speaker.)


EveHarrington Fri 24-Jun-11 08:14:46

The childminding strategy involving a Norwegian is nigh on impossible, bar getting a nanny! We used to have one of his family members living with us, but TBH, that did not work out, and I definitely do not speak Norwegian to even a basic conversational level!

Having said all this, after "laying it on the line" to him earlier this week, he is making a much more concerted effort to speak Norwegian to DS. Just have to make sure he doesn't fall back into bad habits!

ErnesttheBavarian Fri 24-Jun-11 08:24:10

What about a Norwegian au pair? Also having another Norwegian speaker in the house would encourage ex to speak Norwegian and also mean yr ds overhears Norwegian conversation, making it more real iyswim.

Have you ot Howe Ian DVD/tv. Not the same as real communication, but I found it helped w my dc

kelly2000 Thu 18-Aug-11 13:07:01

Is there a Norwegian preschool, or even Church in your area. I know the Danish Church in London has a mothers and todderlers and saturday school. You could also buy Norwegian children's DVDs, and try to see if you could make friends with Norwegian people with children the same age.

theyoungvisiter Thu 18-Aug-11 13:25:39

sorry - I have nothing useful to add to this thread but I wanted to say, I spent ages trying to work out what STBXH stood for and had decided it must be Stupid Tossing Bastard Ex Husband.

Before I realised it was clearly soon to be ex grin

As you were, but I thought it might give you a smile...

duchesse Thu 18-Aug-11 13:33:23

The ideal for raising bilingual children is that both parents speak their own mother tongue. That way they are able to successfully communicate crucial things like feelings. If your DH feels more comfortable in English (which surprises me if he is Norwegian) then that is the language he should be speaking to your DS. Otherwise he should stick to Norwegian.

Mjolnir Mon 22-Aug-11 13:55:07

I think men are just lazy and, with your son starting to speak and respond to English, your STBXH has taken the easy route of using the English your son is picking up rather than continue in Norwegian.

I’m not sure there’s a solution. Perhaps, rather than nagging/pressurising him you can praise him for when he does speak Norwegian. Do you have some Norwegian story books? Could that become a bedtime routine?

I suppose the only other thing I wanted to mention is speaking Norwegian when you are around. I just wanted to check you were happy not knowing what you STBXH and son were talking about – even if this means they are laughing or he is telling off your son and he is crying? It must be really hard to sit there quietly while they argue, shout, laugh, cry, etc and not constantly want to interrupt with “What are you saying, what is he saying?” That takes a lot of trust, and I wonder if it’s there with a STBXH?

MIFLAW Wed 24-Aug-11 11:53:09

"I think men are just lazy" - perhaps this is meant to be a joke, but it's horseshit, and offensive horseshit at that.

I am one of several dads I know who go to great lengths to maintain a minority language for our children.

Certainly, some parents are lazy about maintaining a minority language - and, undoubtedly, for some men it is harder (because they are the breadwinner and so out for most of the day, because in their homes mummy does bedtime, wipes hurt knees etc.) - but it's a massive generalisation to say that men don't pull their weight in maintaining bilingualism.

AussieCelt Wed 24-Aug-11 13:06:07

Miflaw, whether it's employment situations or other factors, it is a consistent factor in the decline of minority languages that, in mixed marriages between societal/minority language speakers, it makes a huge amount of difference as to whether it's the mother or the father who's the minority language speaker - mothers are far more likely to continue to speak the minority language with the children whereas fathers are more likely to speak the societal language. This has been empirically shown in studies on language death/decline in a number of minority languages.

So maybe not laziness, but for whatever reason(s), fathers are less likely to use a minority language with their children.

MIFLAW Wed 24-Aug-11 17:04:36

I agree that fathers are less likely to use a minority language.

I would also say that it might be an idea to look into why this is and what, if anything, can be done to encourage fathers to do more.

And that doesn't change my point one little bit - viz., saying it's because "men are just lazy" is unhelpful to those fathers and mothers where the father is not delivering, and extremely offensive to those of us who, as fathers, do maintain a minority language.

Schnullerbacke Fri 26-Aug-11 10:02:08

I think another issue for men can be feeling left out. I speak my native tongue to my kids and its their best language so to speak. In school they speak English so that has come along really well too. DH and I also converse in English which doesnt leave much room for his native tongue. They understand what he is taking about but are reluctant to speak it to him. He then gets frustrated because he cannot have proper conversations with them and then reverts to English in order to understand them. I keep telling him that it will take time and he shouldnt give up but can understand his frustration.

But hey ho, PILs are soon coming over (for three months but thats another story) so maybe they'll pick up some more language from them.

Just keep encouraging their father, maybe he can read to them his favourite childhood books.

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