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Have I missed the boat with DD (3)?

(8 Posts)
Mumonahill Thu 14-Mar-13 13:01:28

DD has just turned 3 and I have found out that I am pregnant again. With DD I started off with very good intentions of bringing her up bi-lingual but due to various reasons slipped from OPOL very early on and now often speak English to her. Apart from visits from my parents couple of times a year, DD has no real exposure to my language (apart from me, of course). She understands most things I say to her but speaks exclusively English to me and everyone else. Apart from the odd word she has never spoken my language.

With the excitement of the new arrival I have a renewed interest in bi-lingualism and was hoping to make more effort in the hope that DC2 would turn bi-lingual. Have I completely missed the boat with DD? It would seem such a shame for DC2 to become bi-lingual and DD not and I feel quite guilty for not having made more effort with her. Can they still pick up the minority language from 3yo?

I’m not sure (yet) how I will resolve the issues that led me to abandon OPOL with DD but I do want to make an effort. Does anyone have any reassuring personal experiences to share? I wouldn’t be expecting absolute 100% bi-lingualism from either DC2 or DD (as I think our circumstances would make that impossible) but I would like them to have good spoken skills in my language.

droid400004 Thu 14-Mar-13 13:14:58

hi mumonahill, i have a similar situation with my DS, who is about to turn 3. I was hopeless at OPOL (Spanish). We spent a year abroad (in a portuguese language setting) and both me and husband spoke English, as he didn't have any other exposure to English between his 1st and 2nd years, and its hard to switch to Spanish now he is used to hearing me speak English. Now we are back in the UK and I really trying with him. I found some DVDs and books in Spanish, and make an effort to watch/read them with him. I've also found him a few playmates that speak Spanish (including one who's mum is great at OPOL and won't allow any English in her house). He rarely speaks any Spanish (I think he only has a handfull of words) but he does understand the basics when I speak to him. I'm also expecting, and also intend to try harder with DC2! I was brought up more or less bilingual in the UK, though mum dosn't speak Spanish exclusively with us. I've learnt most of my Spanish on extended trips to visit my mums family. I think even if you only teach your LO a small part of your language, that will give them such a great head start to learning more, and it will seem much more instinctive. 3 is still really young, and they learn like sponges at this age! Is there any chance of playdates with other families that speak the same language? I think hearing spanish spoken by other kids really got my son more interested in speaking it himself. I don't think 3 is too young at all, good luck!

moonstorm Thu 14-Mar-13 14:51:12

Just do it. And don't look back. Much easier said than done smile don't worry if it takes a while for it to begin. (Neither of my dcs began to speak the minority language before they were 3, but we just kept on and one day cracked it)

ruthyroo Fri 15-Mar-13 06:06:55

I don't think you've missed the boat. A linguist recently told me that around 6 is the age when children stop soaking language up and have to actively work at it. Ds1 was very nearly 3 when he started at French maternally coming from an all English speaking home. It took a while to click but now at 5 he is storming along in French and his teacher describes him as bilingual. Having said that you'll have to put a fair amount of effort in as its the minority language. All the things the pp's recommend are great ideas especially sticking with OPOL and finding other language speaking children to mix with.

cory Fri 15-Mar-13 08:39:53

It seems to me that you have a good foundation to build on if she already understands German. Next you need to invoke her goodwill to actively speak it. Perhaps she might like to teach the baby? Or could you find her some German friends? Has she been to Germany? Are there any special games that can only be played in German (be imaginative!)?

I was never 100% OPOL with mine and they still grew up bilingual. At times we speak more English, at times we speak more Swedish, there have been times when one child has rejected one language, and then the other, but we got there in the end through perseverance. Don't let yourself be discouraged if it takes a while: any German is better than no German.

I am sure it is not too late to pick up German at her, or indeed at any age. I was taught English as a foreign language (i.e. not by a native speaker) from the age of 6, and I consider myself pretty well bilingual.

Mumonahill Fri 15-Mar-13 11:48:57

German? The minority language is not German but a much less widely spoken one. Hence I wouldn’t necessarily expect 100% bi-lingualism from my DC(s) as my language is not exactly a “useful” one (in terms of work, future studies etc) and pretty much everyone in my home country speaks good English so there is no “need” for my DC(s) to learn it. I would just like my DC(s) to have a good understanding of it to appreciate the rather unique culture and history of my home country as well as the psyche of its people.

I know where you are coming from though, Cory, with bi-lingualism. I only learnt English at school until I came to live here in my early 20s and now consider English to be my main language, I work/play/love/dream in English and usually get mistaken for a native speaker - while I am starting to develop an accent in my own language (something my mum comments on) and often struggle to find the right words for things – probably another reason why I find it so hard to speak my language to DD.

My problem is that I can’t see my DC(s) ever picking my language up in later life (like I did with English) as they could get by perfectly well in English in my home country, with relatives etc. I know people who have lived and worked in my home country for 20+ years without ever learning the language…

Some of the above is probably why I originally ended up giving up on OPOL – no need for minority language in interaction with relatives, no playgroups, or indeed, playmates (except maybe in London but we live about 300 miles away!), no exposure through media, news etc.

I’m currently trying to think of ways in which to encourage the minority language, including being very disciplined in speaking it to DD on a daily basis. This morning she actually asked for milk in my language (though only after I had asked her if she wanted some so she was just copying the word from me) so maybe there is some hope, after all!

MisForMumNotMaid Fri 15-Mar-13 11:59:03

My DS's both learn't Welsh fluently post 3. My Welsh is very limited. We used CD's in the car, cartoons and DVD's, computer games online, school (which I appreciate is necessarily an option you have). Ds's were 3.5 and 5 when they started. DS2 did just 2 hrs 4 days a week to become fluent within about six months. Could you do something like your 1st language in the weekday mornings?

Isn't there a rule about its much easier under 6 to accept that language rules aren't rigid so under 6's pick up second languages faster.

cory Mon 18-Mar-13 09:21:44

Sorry, got you mixed up with another poster, MumOnAHill.

Is there no chance of interacting with other speakers? Do you meet relatives at all? Could you persuade them only to speak their own language to your dd? My Mum has an MA in English but she has never spoken it to dc.

For my dc, what really made the difference was spending some time in my country.

Lots of good suggestions from MisForMum.

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