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Anyone not teaching kids your home language?

(11 Posts)
donutlunch Sat 07-Jun-14 23:24:38


I wondered if anyone foreign mums here have actively chosen to teach English over your native tongue.

My reasons are many, but I am quite surprised at how unusual this seems to be and how it is frowned upon by both English and foreign parents alike.

I am aware of the alleged benefits of multilingualism but not really convinced. Anyone else here share this view?


Sarrasin Sun 08-Jun-14 12:13:31

Hi donutlunch, I'm not teaching my first language to my children, because they are anyway growing up bilingual in a 'third' language, and because I now consider English to be my mother tongue.

Not sure what I would do otherwise - I would want to encourage bilingualism, but in practice it would be difficult. Probably I would look for a Saturday school.

I would want my children to have at least the same opportunities as I had growing up, and being bilingual is one of those. An easy A-level at the least!

madwomanacrosstheroad Sun 08-Jun-14 12:50:32

I did both. With my first child i was on my own and we travelled forward and backward quite a bit so it seemed the natural thing to do.
when i met my partner a few years later we had every intention of continuing, however around that time my son started to refuse to speak my language in public as he had been teased and wanted to be like everyone else.
Also with having a few more kids and travelling becoming much more difficult and expensive my language started to be less and less relevant to the children and we are now in the situation where they havehad a good degree of exposure, understand a bit and have a good pronunciation.
one of them has choosen to do my language at school, another one has opted for another language.
i do feel however that my eldest properly bilingual child has struggled more with the emotional aspects of language and he would still say he sometimes does not feel 100% at home in either language.
for us it works to use English as the operational everyday language and encourage the children to learn later.
there also is the issue that i have by now spent more than half my life in an English speaking country and have to admit i would find it difficult to constantly switch. I have no problem with my own language but really have to concentrate if i want to write something sensible and would often automatically fall back into English with friends who share my language talking about day to day events.

noramum Sun 08-Jun-14 21:50:51

We don't but friends do. They are a German/Turkish household but the parents speak English. At first both spoke their mother tongue to their children but quite soon with start of nursery (6 months for both children) they realised that the input was too limited.

They discovered that the children's passive knowledge was too limited to understand what the parents are saying.

I think both children know a bit but in no way like our DD who is raised bi-lingual fairly strictly and can speak if she wants (to us but hardly in public unless we are in Germany or with Germans)

I think it has to work and if circumstances are difficult this should be accepted. Saying that we have a friend, US with German mother (war bride) and he says he regrets that his mother didn't teach him German or about the German culture. He thinks he is missing a bit of himself. He is married to an Italian and he was the one who insisted on raising their children bi-lingual because of his own experiences.

donutlunch Sun 08-Jun-14 23:13:21

Hey, thank you all! You've addressed the points that I've found to be the obvious problems, like the emotional issues of being seen to speak differently around peers, too little practice and the transferring of a cultural package rather than the language alone.

I do like the option of class later on, which may or may not stick but could be their own project. They'll probably rebel and go backpacking to my home country anyway!

As Nora says, it has to work for everyone. Its just a bit daunting to have so many people share unsolicited opinions with us about it!

The real clincher for me is that I love the English language: it is far richer in its complexity and depth than my native tongue and has attached to it a wealth of resources that will serve whatever interests our kids have. Plus the literary tradition (I have a PhD in English) is too good to wait till school years for.

Thank you again for the experiences you shared, it helps to see real-life scenarios. Good night!

Greythorne Sun 08-Jun-14 23:20:24

Sorry, no I cannot ever imagine not passing on my own language to the DC. I can see some downsides but he'll would freeze over before I did not speak my language to my DCs.

halfdrunktea Mon 16-Jun-14 08:31:41

Whilst I understand your reasons and you have to do what works for you, I would just bear in mind that although your children may not appreciate a second language while they are young, they may resent you for not bringing them up bilingual when they are older.

My dad never spoke to us in his mother tongue and I remember visiting his extended family aged 13 and finding it so frustrating I couldn't understand anything and some of the relatives seeming to imply it was my fault I couldn't speak it.(Nearly all his relatives speak good English bit obviously they don't chat to each other in it).

Obviously you have the option of learning the language in adulthood and choosing to spend time in the country, but you're likely to always have a foreign accent and it's not the same as having been brought up bilingual from birth.

Ellle Tue 17-Jun-14 00:29:22

Raising bilingual children is by no means an easy feat.
It requires work, effort, constantly keeping the minority language up there, not to mention the financial cost.

Being in England means that any book or DVD that I want for my children in the minority language costs at least twice as much as the same product in English.

This is what I believe: you do it because you love doing it. Because it is no chore to you to speak to them in the minority language, but a joy. Because you enjoy it so much that you don't even think of it as being a daily work and effort. Because you are constantly amazed at how they acquire both languages simultaneously and can switch effortlessly to speak either depending on the interlocutor.

If you are not passionate about it, I don't see how it would work. I have met people like you who are raising their children in the majority language (English) despite having a different mother tongue or being multilinguals themselves. I have heard their reasons for that, and despite not sharing them, each to their own.

Whether you decide to pass on your mother tongue language to your children or only speak to them in the majority language, you will always find those who have something to say about your decisions or do not share the same opinion.

But as long as you are acting on what you believe is right for you and your circumstances, who cares what others think of it? You just have to get used to give the same answer/explanation over and over whenever anyone questions what you do. Whether you are defending the benefits of bilingualism in your family, or playing down the supposed benefits of it based on your experience.

Regarding how others could tease your child for speaking another language or your own child wanting to blend and be the same as his peers, everyone's experience will be different and it also depends on the child. We have been lucky that at first we lived in such a multicultural city that the children monolingual in English were actually the minority. Upon meeting someone new it wasn't uncommon to ask what other language did they speak to their child at home. And now that we have moved to the countryside, the fact that my DS is bilingual has been nothing but a source of pride at his school. He is always receiving compliments on it, hearing things from his teachers like how they wished they could speak another language like him. His friends from school know he can speak another language at home, but do not think about it much, and certainly do not tease him for it. My son is proud that he can speak two languages and is trying to learn a third.

By the way, I also love the English language. All I ever dreamed of when I was a kid was living in an English speaking country, even dating and marrying an English speaker! No idea why. It was sort of a dream I could never even imagine would come true. By the time I had my first child it had been almost 10 years since I had been living abroad and had mainly used English as my main language. My own language was certainly rusty by then. But I was determined to raise my own children bilingual. And since the very first moment I met my baby, as I heard my mum talking to him in the minority language I got used to it and eventually it felt strange to do otherwise.

Good luck with whatever you decide.

Aditya4 Wed 13-Aug-14 18:44:56

Despite it being a frustrating process at times, my parents brought me up to be bilingual and I am very grateful that they did as I do think it has been an advantage in terms of gaining employment (although I do not directly work in the languages domain). Of course, it also helped me communicate with my relatives who do not speak English. I know other people with multicultural backgrounds whose parents did not teach them both languages and their relationships with some family members disintegrated due to a language barrier. That seems a shame to me.

LondonForTheWeekend Tue 19-Aug-14 10:24:12

We are, via a roundabout route.

DH and I are both native English speakers. We then moved to another non-English speaking country and the children learned the local language there. We have now moved a further country/language and we have decided to keep up the second language - at the expense of the third. They attend school in their second language and I think they will be bi-lingual as adults.

If we move back to the UK I will definitely make sure we keep it up. Having invested so much already.

justwondering72 Wed 20-Aug-14 21:14:24

I think that if English is your mother tongue, and you are living in a non English speaking country, it would be very unusual to not teach your kids English. However, if your mother tongue is not English, and not valued in the same way English is, it might be easier to let it go, in favourite if the majority language.

We are two native English speakers living in France. English is our home language, French is the language of school and friends for our children. There is no way I would not have spoken English with my children,for all the emotional reasons mentioned above, and also because English is the language that everyone wants to speak / understand. I know of families with parents who have other languages, Arab for example, which are not valued in the same way English is, and they have let the lower status language drop in favourite of English.

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