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Too little too late?

(9 Posts)
Tryingthisagain Sun 08-Sep-13 18:12:34

I have to children, DD who is 5 and DS who is 3. I am Russian and my DH is English and we only speak English at home. When we had both children I started speaking English to them as it was more somehow convenient and felt right as we didn't want to exclude DH from conversations (DH only speaks English). The only exposure to Russian language was when my parents would come over for about 2 weeks a year as my parents only speak Russian.
When i had DS my mom came over for about one month and DD (then 2.5) picked up some basic words, like Come Here etc.
I work full time and both my kids went to an English-speaking child minder for the age of 8 months.
A few weeks ago during summer holidays we went to visit grannies for two week back in Russia and i started talking Russian to them. They are picking it up well, bearing in mind how little exposure they had previously. Even though they are replying to me in English, i can tell they understand some bits.
It is difficult for me as at 3 and 5 they are good talkers and it is a bit weird suddenly start talking in a language they don't understand and cant express themselves. I do try and say most of things in both languages constantly repeating myself, but sometimes forget and start speaking English especially when they are naughty etc. I work full time and only speak to them in the morning and after work, which is totaling about 4-5 hours a day.
Is it too late and my children never be bi-lingual and they are both too old to start from scratch? If you are in similar situation, how long did it take you for your kids to reply to you in your language? How not to push too hard so they will refuse to speak/listen in Russian?
Please share your stories and any advice is very welcome. Thank you!

cenicienta Sun 08-Sep-13 22:05:09

In my experience you have to forget about worrying about excluding others and just speak your own language to your dcs as often as possible.

In our family I speak the minority language to dcs most of the time, even when other people around don't understand. Our dcs are 6 & 4 are both fluent in both languages.

I also think it is useful to have DVDs in different languages so they get used to hearing different languages.

If you are hesitant to speak your first language with the dcs, even if that is because you want to be sensitive to others, they will interpret that as embarrassment and will also be embarrassed to speak it.

cenicienta Sun 08-Sep-13 22:15:24

I forgot to say that when you are all together with you husband English will be the common language so he won't feel left out. But when you're alone with them try to speak your mother tongue, providing translation for them when they don't understand.

Tryingthisagain Sun 08-Sep-13 22:26:22

Maybe that is one of the reasons why i was hesitant in the first place. I am quite shy and always try to blend in and don't stand out. But I am getting there, and speaking Russian to them is getting more and more natural for me, even when we are out and about.

cenicienta Sun 08-Sep-13 23:10:16

While in country A where I am the minority language speaker, I find that people look very strangely at me in the street, at school etc and I've even had people ask wether I translate for the children into language A so they understand. I think people think children are born automatically speaking one language!

My dh gets very embarrassed whenever we go to country B where his language is the minority one, so he will automatically start speaking my language to the children, which is bad for them as they copy his mistakes also pick up on his embarrasment and won't speak language A whilst in country B.

In both countries both dcs are considered to be native speakers.

I am a native speaker of language B and fluent in language B but I feel so much more comfortable speaking to my dcs in my mother tongue.

I recently met a couple of ladies in the UK who really struggle with English but would rather speak that to their dcs than their mother tongue. Both said they consider English as superior to their own language. I think that is really sad!

cenicienta Sun 08-Sep-13 23:11:21

"fluent in language A"

cory Mon 09-Sep-13 07:51:32

The problem with being embarrassed and not wishing to stand out is not only that it cuts down on the opportunities for practising the language: it is also giving the message to your dc that being bilingual is something to be embarrassed about. That is precisely the message you want to avoid: ime the biggest obstacle to child bilingualism is their fear of being different from their peers. As an adult you have to counter with the message that this is not a source of embarrassment but a source of pride to you and other sensible people. Not by preaching at them, but by the way you go about it.

NomDeClavier Mon 09-Sep-13 08:00:16

In a way you're lucky that you're speaking a fairly high status language to them - this will make it cooler as they get older so you may find their desire to learn actually increases, and certainly by the time they're in their late teens/early adulthood they'll be grateful that you tried. It needs to start now though with you and your DH valuing the language.

Speaking another language is all about shades of ability. It ranges from can't speak it at all to completely bilingual, but once you pass a certain point it will be possible for your DC to become fluent even if growing up they aren't what others would consider truly bilingual.

Exposure and need are the keys. They have to hear enough varied yet consistent Russian to get a handle on the language and expand their understanding and they also need to feel the need to speak it.

Are there other Russian speakers you could find locally? A Russian Saturday school? Maybe even a Russian speaker nanny or babysitter.

Tryingthisagain Mon 09-Sep-13 09:27:42

Thanks to everyone. I do feel that it is pure laziness and convenience to blame. I have got a lot to catching up to do now.
I had to go back to work full time rather soon at time it was important for me that my kids start talking sooner hence not introducing another language.
I don't really know anyone Russian speaking here so the only exposure was me talking to my family on Skype. Russian school didn't go down well and we stopped going after three times. A Russian speaking after school nanny would be ideal but so far i haven't found one. Any Russian nannas here? smile
At the moment we are playing with My First 1000 words in Russian and other picture books. I am planning to introduce Russian children's films.
Any other advice on day-to-day activities/games i could introduce on this level?

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