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What is the key to your children’s active bilingualism?

(38 Posts)
Maia290 Tue 19-Feb-13 00:48:42

I am wondering what is the key to achieve successful active bilingualism from our child. Is it by using strict OPOL? But this is difficult to do when you join groups, when you need to speak the majority language to the group and your children are around.
Or is it to only accept from your children the minority language, otherwise you pretend you don't understand?
How do you manage to use OPOL when you are with family/friends who don't speak the minority language?
How do you react if your child speaks to you with the 'wrong' language, or mixes languages?
My child is still very young, and he just says a few words in both languages, but I would like to have the right approach from the beginning and it would be useful to hear from parents whose children speak the minority language to find out what approach you have taken to achieve your child's bilingualism.

cory Sat 23-Feb-13 17:40:46

That was the sort of usefulness I was referring to, LordCopper. Old Church Slavonic is, I suppose, unlikely to become a great language of commerce, but no doubt has other life enhancing qualities. grin

UptoapointLordCopper Sat 23-Feb-13 18:39:51

Yes cory grin. Have had one too many conversations with people about economic usefulness of Chinese and a bit fed up...

kalidasa Mon 25-Feb-13 20:23:22

Watching thread with interest as we are right at the beginning of this - our son is three months old and we hope he'll be French/English bilingual. I am English, DH French, living in London but with regular trips to Paris as we have a flat there. I did some reading while I was pregnant and the plan is OPOL though in practice I find that I sometimes use French with him too (for instance I found myself doing so several times last week while we were in Paris). DH and I mostly speak English together as we met here, but sometimes French.

We are wondering about whether to subscribe to French TV, for instance. Have others done this?

ask786 Wed 27-Feb-13 17:01:36

Hi all, smile
I have a 13yr old, 4yr old & 2yr old, obviously school/ friends/ tv is all English, it's not necessary to sign up to certain tv channels for ur child to develop the language u speak.
The very best thing me & hubby did to get kids to be bilingual was to have a no English speaking rule at home. Kids will spk English & forget at times, but I don't reply in English then & remind them gently & it's amazing how my 4year old is able to translate what she was saying.
Does work a treat &can be hard at times to remember yourself but set it as no English speaking at home majority of the time & see the difference with their language development, it really works as my 13 year old only became bilingual when we set the rule when she was 9! So not too late to try, & definitely worth it now, good luck grin

dikkertjedap Wed 27-Feb-13 20:06:47

ask I know a few people who have adopted a similar approach to you and it seems to work for them.

We have chosen not to do so, because I am concerned that if I leave Dutch just to school and friends, that dc's knowledge of Dutch does not develop as much as I would consider necessary in order to do well academically. In order to do what you do, I think that you need to be satisfied that your child gets sufficient quantity AND QUALITY exposure to the language which you leave up to school/friends.

In our case we are not convinced the quality is sufficiently high. For example, we consider it important that vocabulary keeps expanding, including expressions, sayings, we found that these were only covered to a limited extent at school. We also consider it important that key books are covered in each language (famous children's books from each country in question, poems, country's history), again we were not convinced it was possible to rely on school to do this in the native language (Dutch). I therefore decided to cover both Dutch and English and my dh covers the third language (his native language).

cory Wed 27-Feb-13 23:32:25

I think it's very much a case of what works for your individual family.

Having one language only at home will really only work if both parents speak that language well, which isn't always the case.

We're a bit like dikkertjap's; not trilingual, but for various reasons I needed to cover part of their education in both English and my own language. Again to do with quality issues. Dd is very bright and showed an interest in English literature and drama from a very early age: dh though an intelligent man does not have that kind of education. I do and am well placed to coach her through auditions and discuss books with her in two languages; it would have seemed a pity if she had lost out on that.

fraktion Tue 05-Mar-13 23:13:57

I would say our framework is OCarerOL but if we are with DHs family the conversation will be that language etc. We are also at 22months starting to have a '(s)he who starts, chooses' rule although DS will switch nicely if DH says he needs to ask me/tell me something and vice versa.

I think if you want a truly educated bi/mulitlingual/cultural child you need to address schooling in all languages by the person best equipped to do that which may not be the native speaker.

That said OPOL or Inside/Outside are good foundations because they give you a ready made balance, opportunity and need which are all vital. If you don't you need to be very vigilant and proactive.

Bonsoir Mon 11-Mar-13 06:53:45

I agree with others and think that you first need to reason in terms of quantity and quality of exposure. OPOL delivered that for us at home. When it comes to education I think you need to be vigilant - my DD goes to a school where 3/4 of her day is in French but her English expression and vocabulary are still a lot better than French because I do a lot with her to expand her knowledge of English. I wish that DP could do for her French what I do for her English but it isn't going to happen!

GoodtoBetter Fri 22-Mar-13 20:53:22

We live in Spain. DS is 5 and speaks English and Spanish. I speak only English to him and DH speaks Spanish to him and DH and I speak Spanish to each other. DS is a bit behind his monolingual peers in Spanish, but he's much better in Spanish than English. He mixes a lot and will say something like "No puedo go a Granny's house today". (I can't go to Granny's house today). I never pretend not to understand (that would be silly, he hears me speaking Spanish to DH) but I do tend to repeat and rephrase and sometimes ask him to say it: "You can't go to Granny's house today, can you say I can't go?" etc. His comprehension is excellent in both. I also speak in English to him when we're with Spanish speakers. I never speak Spanish to him, although I do obviously speak Spanish to his little friends/their parents etc.

DS was slow to speak...only about 50 words by 2.5...but I don't think this was necessarily bilingualism's fault.
DD is 22 months and has around 15 words (almost all in Spanish) but can differentiate between the 2. Her nursery teacher (Spanish) said to her "Come here, DD" as a kind of joke and DD grinned at her as if to say "that's not your language" smile
I stressed a bit about DS' speech at one point but we aren't in a position to go back to the UK for holidays, so we do the best with what we've got (me as English speaker, books and TV i English) and what will be will be.

gabsid Sun 07-Apr-13 07:59:57

Amongst bi-lingual people I know I don't know another family whose DC use their second language as actively as mine. Many people say they always speak German to their DC but they answer back in English. I only know one family who uses 3 languages quite actively, but their DC speak English to each other.

My DC speak German to each other, always, even if they are out with DP who does not speak German. They will speak English to him but never to each other, and I always speak German to them. DS (Y3) said to a friend once that he always thinks in German, even in school.

I do OPOL with DC quite strictly and there was only one or two situations when DS started school when he spoke to me in English - I just let him repeat it twice and then said it back to him in German. It hasen't happened again, he always tries his best to speak German and sometimes if I 'correct' him (repeat a senctence back as a question with the correct vocab in it) he will immediately use it.

I always translated books into German when DS was little, but DS was never much into books. With DD (4), I read to her in English as well (but she knows I read and that its not language coming from me, but from the book), when we discuss what happened in the book it will be in German. I do that because DD loves books and I couldn't possibly keep up with her thirst for reading if I tried to translate it all. She is not at school yet and her first language is definately German.

We use German websites and watch programmes over the internet, and when there is a choice of languages, e.g with a DVD they both will choose German.

gabsid Sun 07-Apr-13 08:01:32

All DC are different though and you just have to keep your aim in mind and find the best way for you and your family to achieve it.

gabsid Sun 07-Apr-13 08:04:45

My DC associate a language with a person. Even if someone tried to speak a bit of GCSE German to them they would not use German with them. However, if someone convinces them that they are fluent they will use German for ever! We had that once.

ruthyroo Wed 10-Apr-13 06:21:54

For us, as two English speaking parents living in France, the key has been to put our dcs in the French state education system- no halfway house of bilingual maternelles etc. IMHO an awful lot of these places are geared towards French families who want their children to speak English rather than towards native English speaking children. ds1 is learning frenchvfrom the experts - french teachers and children. And I can honestly say that after a Rocky start he is genuinely enjoying having two languages both of which seem to be developing in very natural ways.

As he gets older his reading and writing in English is something we'll need to address though. We have a really good bilingual college here but his reading and writing needs to be up to scratch. Luckily mum mum is an ex primary teacher!

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