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Too many days/week away from minority language?

(11 Posts)
stickygotstuck Tue 04-Oct-11 16:12:39

My DD is about to turn 3. Her bilingualism is roughly balanced at the moment.

We are an OPOL family, living in the UK.
DH's language is English (L1, majority)
Mine is Spanish (L2, minority)

I am her main source of the L2 and have tried very hard since birth to fit my work around her, so she gets a lot of exposure to L2. I have also gone/still go through the awkwardness and sideways glances at playgrounds, playgroups etc. So I don't want to go and spoil it all now! grin

Whenever possible, I have kept her nursery days (in English) down to 2 or 3 days a week.

My question is, is 3 too young to increase the English nursery days to 3 or 4, or would it be advisable to hold on a bit longer (or even until she starts school)?

I am trying to plan ahead for when her Early Years Ed funding kicks in. I don't want to loose out, but I don't want to dilute her L2 either!

Any experiences of this out there?

Thanks All.

Ciske Tue 04-Oct-11 16:18:19

For what it's worth, DD goes to nursery/English GPs 5 times a week, and only gets Dutch from me morning/evening and weekends. However, she speaks both English and Dutch very well.

I think it's more about how much you interact with your daughter when you're around her, and how varied that interaction is. We do lots of picture books to learn new words, role play games with her toys to learn phrases and of course lots of 'what's this' and 'did you see that' conversations when we're out.

I read somewhere that a child has to be exposed to a language at least a third of their time to learn it easily, so weekends + mornings/evenings should cover that.

By the way, I know what you mean about the sideways glances at playgrounds. I still feel like I'm being a bit rude or excluding people if I'm talking Dutch to DD in public. Even when I'm clearly not talking to them.

stickygotstuck Tue 04-Oct-11 16:35:18

Thank you Ciske!
Glad to see I am not the only one who feels like the man who walks into a Wild West saloon wink. I guess it cannot be helped, and I am stubborn and plough through regardless!

I read somewhere that the ideal ratio should be 60/40 (where 60 is L2) so go figure.

Both DD and I are ‘talkers’ and we do try to keep our interaction... erm... educational (she is sounding more and more like a pet experiment isn’t she?!)

Can I ask how old is your daughter?

Ciske Tue 04-Oct-11 16:48:49

DD is just two years old and has been talking short sentences for a few months now. She still mixes up words at times, but also has the funny habit of translating things for mummy and daddy if needed. So she'll ask me for her 'sap', and then turns to daddy for 'juice' to make sure he doesn't feel left out. grin

stickygotstuck Fri 07-Oct-11 11:05:52

Sorry I've disappeared for a couple of days - no Internet connection!

Ciske, my DD does the same which is very amusing to see wink

The reason why I am concerned about increasing nursery days is that we know two other kids her age, and they barely speak the second language.

They do understand everything and will respond in it if I pretend not to understand them when they speak English (which I have been doing with DD from day one) but they have to make a conscious effort to speak it, it does not come naturally to them. They also have the cutest English accent when they speak it too, while DD does not have an accent in either language.

This is all probably because their parents have not been so strict on the language usage as we have, but still, I worry we may spoil things but diminishing exposure.

Has anybody experience a loss of language 'competence' (if you can call it that at this age!) when your young kids have gone into nursery or school?

stickygotstuck Fri 07-Oct-11 11:06:51

*by diminishing exposure, I meant!

belgo Fri 07-Oct-11 11:17:41

Every child is different and I have found that I have had to make a lot of effort to help my 3 children (7,6, and 3) to become bilingual. Flemish is the majority language, english the minority language and because they have all been to creche and school (full time from the age of three), flemish has been their preferred language.

All three have been later then average in speaking, partly due to the eldest one having hearing problems (now solved) and the youngest one will need speech therapy.

What has made the biggest difference to my children is spending time in England with my parents and with other english children (they go to Rainbows and Brownies when they are in England), and the two eldest girls are fully bi-lingual.

How much time do you spend in your country (I assume Spain?)

belgo Fri 07-Oct-11 11:21:38

To be honest I have not been 'strict' in forcing my children to speak english. This is because that with dd1, she was so late in speaking (due to her hearing problem) that I was damn happy when she did start talking, that I didn't care what language she was speaking.

I am glad that I haven't been 'strict', I believe that children should be able to communicate as naturally as possible without having to think about it. The bilingualism has come eventually because of exposure to the minority language via the grandparents, and of course me.

stickygotstuck Fri 07-Oct-11 18:21:11

Thanks Belgo.

That's interesting to hear, and encouraging to know that your two eldest are fully bilingual now smile

Glad your eldest DD's hearing problems are now gone. When my daughter started speaking I was just happy she was talking too.
I had assumed she would speak later than monolingual kids and I was OK with that, but I guess I was slightly worried that if there were any issues with speech/hearing we'd take too long to detect them. But in fact she started earlier than most kids we knew.

Funnily enough, the 'strictness' is not an effort at all, it comes naturally to her whenever she is around other Spanish speakers. She seemed a bit unsure when she was younger but from around 2.5 she knows who speaks what and it her mind she obviously identifies each person with a language.

I personally feel extremely weird addressing DD in English, and she does not even register that I am talking to her if I do (usually by mistake in the middle of a conversation in English).

How old do you reckon a child has to be before L2 has been fully established and they won't 'forget' it/loose a lot of it?

stickygotstuck Fri 07-Oct-11 18:25:00

I forgot to say, we both to go Spain around 3/4 times a year, for two weeks at a time. That's as much as work allows.

My mum is the only remaining Spanish grandparent, and she is elderly. They get on like a house on fire but I can't possibly send DD on her own to spend say, a month in summer.

She does have two cousins in Spain, but again she only sees them when we visit. Hoping they can visit us next summer for a couple of weeks at least.

Do you send yours to Britain on their own, or are they too young for that still?

belgo Sat 08-Oct-11 15:16:28

I have never sent my children to England on their own, we usually go for two weeks in the summer and then a couple of five day trips. I might have already mentioned but they attend Rainbows/Brownies when they are in England, and other summer play schemes, so they are around English speaking children.

It has been an effort on my part to ensure my children have enough exposure to english, and I continue to do make that effort, as I want them to learn more 'academic' english (ie. the words they would learn in school geography and science classes for example) as well as having the day to day english.

I think in your situation it is perfectly possible for your dd to become bilingual naturally.

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