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Does anyone have experience of teaching a 6yo two different languages from scratch?

(12 Posts)
redandyellowbits Mon 09-Jun-14 21:27:19

DH and I are both Indian but we come from different regions and speak totally different languages.

We speak I'm English with each other and don't have any family living in the same city and so the children don't really ever hear us speaking our own languages unless we are visiting inlaws. DH and I have a very basic-limited understanding of each other's languages.

My eldest child is 6 and has a basic understanding of our languages, and would like to know more. DH would like her to start language lessons in his language, and I am keen on her learning mine too. So ahe would do one language class on Saturday mornings and one on Sunday mornings.

I'm concerned that this is alot to take on at age 6 - her siblings are aged 4 and 1 and also have a basic understanding of both languages.

Does anyone have experience of teaching a second/third language later on, and not from birth? Any advise on making this easier for DD would be very much appreciated.

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 09:49:08

Sorry about the (iPhone) typos!


SaveTheMockingBird Tue 10-Jun-14 10:02:27

I'm interested in any responses you get OP. My mother tongue is not English either and I'm fluent in both my mother tongue and English (actually can read and write much better in English) and I have a 5.5yr old and a nearly 4yr old and I really really regret not talking to them in my mother tongue from birth. My DH is English though, and also my parents speak fluent English, so there has never been a need for the DCs to learn my family's mother tongue. I'm thinking whether it's too late to start teaching this language now and expect them to learn it to a level that they can speak it with me and with each other. I'm envious of all the bilingual DCs out there, and there are a lot of them in our area and really feel like I've missed out with regards to speaking my own language with my children.

DrankSangriaInThePark Tue 10-Jun-14 10:11:01

It's never too late!

It is probably too late for them ever to become bi/trilingual though, but fluency is important too and there is no reason why at those ages, that they shouldn't gain fluency, especially if there is extra input from family members.

The only way they could become bilingual at this stage would be if you adopted blanket-coverage OPOL, whereby each parent spoke exclusively to the child in his/her language. I'm not sure how that would work with older children tbh. (I imagine they'd just roll their eyes, and say "just say it in English mum!"

Never too late to get highly proficient in another language though! Good luck!

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 12:09:34

Hi savethemockingbid I am the same as you - there has never really been a need for the children to learn our languages as my parents also speak English to the DC unless I remind them not to.

My inlaws speak only in their language, and my eldest DD now hates talking to her grandma because she struggles to understand her and reply.

I don't think we will ever achieve blanket coverage as DH and I are too used to speaking and articulating our thoughts in English, so it always takes a concerted effort to speak in our own languages, and this then fizzles out after a while.

I would love DDs to have fluency (I'm not sure I understand the difference between bi/trilingualism and fluency though?), but highly proficient would be great.

The thought of doing two language classes every weekend makes me shudder. I think it would become very intense and they would hate it, and in turn hate the languages we are forcing upon them.

overthemill Tue 10-Jun-14 12:14:09

I agree that full bilingualism is probably hard now but fluency definitely. My DH started learning French from small baby (his dad was brought up in French speaking Belgium) and he is fluent, at 6 he started learning Latin and Ancient Greek and he is very very advanced (can you be fluent in a dead language?) he went in to German and French I level (fluent in German now after 6 months living there ) and is now very proficient in modern Greek Italian and Spanish - but they are all easy languages he says! I think the French from babyhood 'opened his ears ' to languages

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 12:18:15

Started learning Latin and Ancient Greek aged 6!! shock

Did he enjoy learning? Was it all via lessons?

wannaBe Tue 10-Jun-14 12:18:27

I went to live in South Africa aged nine and was sent to an Afrikaans speaking boarding school where nobody spoke Englis and I didn't speak Afrikaans). There you had a choice, you either learned the language or you didn't make friends. I am fully bilingual, to the point that Afrikaans was in fact my first language for a long time because I spent more time speaking it than English.

What I would say though is that for children to become bilingual it is vital that they speak the languages not just in classes or a learning context but in every day life, otherwise they will just be their second language that they have some understanding of iyswim.

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 12:20:04

I hated learning languages at school, so I am impressed by anyone who can learn languages fluently via lessons rather than in real-life.

I think that's part of the problem, I have a mental barrier to them sitting in classes every week, but I can't see any other way they will learn. Certainly not from the dribs and drabs we speak.

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 12:23:07

wannaBe I think that's the root of the problem, we don't live near any family, so the most they would speak would be conversations with me after school, or on the phone to my Dad (when I remind him to speak in our language!)

DH only really sees them in the morning before school and so not much opportunity for language practice there either.

Most of our friends and family have children our age who don't speak their mother tongues at all. It's becoming a dying trend in the children of second-generation Indians. I guess a class would help.

overthemill Tue 10-Jun-14 12:29:35

He learned French to start with by everyone speaking French at family mealtimes ( not sure how mil coped as she's not great at French) and progressed to conversation lessons with someone with his siblings. Then once at school aged 4 French was taught (I now confess my DH comes from an entirely fifferent social background from me) as a lesson but French still at mealtimes at home. They still do this. It really really annoys me....
Latin and Ancient Greek taught at his prep school. And later his private school (minor, same one as griff Rhys jones went to - they sound identical to me!). German and French o level at school as was Latin and Ancient Greek though he did though to a level and at university as he did classics .

He loves it and drives me insane - he's trying to learn Danish at the moment (it's just bad German don't you know) but I admire his love of learning! 2 of Our kids are linguists (dd1 at uni doing French) and youngest gifted and talented at languages doing 2 at gcse. Middle dyslexic son can barely mumble in English!

Conversely, my bil who is native Spanish speaking (Caribbean) wouldn't let his 3 kids learn Spanish as he thought it would disadvantage them growing up in east coast USA. They all learnt from about 5 and are now fluent. One is also fluent in Rumanian where he has lived for last 5 years.

I'd go with it - I know lots of kids who do mother tongue lessons as well as Arabic . It helps them to learn.

redandyellowbits Tue 10-Jun-14 12:35:06

Wow 'overthemill* your DH sounds very impressive, as do your children!

DD turns 7 in September which is when classes start locally. I will enrol her on both languages and just hope she doesn't hate it - she's not great at doing homework and wanting to learn/challenge herself out of school.

I will go into this hoping for them to have basic conversational skills, and anything more is a bonus.

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