Mixing languages?

(8 Posts)
MeadowHay Fri 08-Jan-16 19:38:15

Ok, me and partner are just ttc at the moment, so I'm just generally thinking about what we may do in future. My partner's native tongue is English, and he speaks a little French too - enough to get by and communicate but that's it. My situation is a bit more complicated; I was brought up with two languages, Farsi and English, sort of a loose OPOL technique, my dad speaking Farsi and my mum English. However by the time I started school my English vastly overtook my Farsi and my Farsi is sort of akin to my partner's French - enough to communicate and get by but that's it, and I can read very basic things like menus and young children's books but nothing harder. I also speak French, at around B1 level, I am studying it at uni alongside my major.

I know that is is probably almost impossible to raise any children of ours bilingual considering I'm not even bilingual after my parents' attempting it! But all the same, languages are really important to me, they are such a useful skill and I really want to do the best that we can to encourage exposure to MFL and proficiency where possible even if it's just laying ground work for them to then pick up French again in secondary school. However I do not speak French fluently so I think OPOL is just not going to be possible for us. Would it be confusing for a baby if I spoke French to them sometimes, and English to them other times? What about if I was speaking French, and then didn't know a word and spoke that in English in a sentence? I want to teach them French but obviously don't want to make things worse by confusing them.

I assume with regards to Farsi, if my dad just wants to speak that to the child, and I just speak it with the child when he is there, child will be able to associate Farsi as 'language we speak with grandad' and that it won't confuse them? Obviously this will not lead to some magic bilinguism but I think some exposure to a different language will improve ability to learn foreign languages and can only be a benefit, right?

Sorry for this mammoth post, hope someone has some advice for me. I know I'm thinking about this super early but it actually is pretty important to me and I am considering taking up extra lessons in either French or Farsi considering my budget won't stretch for both...hm.

DesertOrDessert Sat 09-Jan-16 18:02:55

Difficult. Where are you living?

We were in the UK when the kids were born. English is the only language I can attempt to be fluent in. DH was brought up in a different language, but in the UK. So home life was language A, but schooling was in English. His English is stronger than his "mother younger". We have done OPOL, but A is much weaker in the kids. DH struggled with songs, nursery rhymes etc in A, and that had an effect on how much background language was picked up.

Id go for whatever language you are most likely to include in life. So if holidays are likely to be with your Dad, go for Farsi. If your living or holidaying in France, go for French. I don't believe it's the actual language that is important, more the fact that there is a second language.

Good luck!

amyboo Sun 10-Jan-16 09:52:54

I think you'll struggle to get any kind of second language going to be honest. If your partner doesn't speak decent French and neither do you then how are you going to do OPOL? Presumably you also don't have any other sources of French such as books, TV, family members, friends or activities in French? In which case, you're attempting to teach a young child a language from birth when you (admit) neither of you speaks it well, and your child is never going to have the chance to use the language anyway.... I personally wouldn't bother. My kids were born abroad, went to creche from 5 months fulltime in the country's language, and DS1 still wouldn't speak a word of that language till he was about 3.5 even though most of his exposure was to that language. DS2 mixes languages loads - if we weren't able to separate them - i.e EN at home and the other language at school - he get in a terrible mess. It takes more than a few words of a language at home to make a child learn that language (as you freely admitted from your own childhood!).

MeadowHay Sun 10-Jan-16 14:06:00

Will be living in UK, probability of holidays in France higher.

Not planning to do OPOL, thought that would have been obvious from my post. No illusions of bilingualism as I also already said in my post, but still a desire to introduce MFL to the children as young as possible, surely that can only be of benefit to them? As they will all be studying some MFL at school eventually. I think some basic language skills are always useful sorry, you don't know when you may get the opportunity or the desire to use them. Even being able to say basic words whilst on holiday is in my experience appreciated by people and enjoyable. I think you are misunderstanding my ambitions. smile

Books and films are doable, will seek out if there are any language "classes" or anything for little ones in my area because that would be super useful. Friends and family unfortunately not for French, no, although obviously my dad speaks Farsi fluently as do a number of my friends/family friends.

Ancienchateau Sun 10-Jan-16 14:21:30

I think it is really hard to achieve bilingualism unless you speak one language at home and another at school/out of the home. However I do know of french families where one parent speaks french only to the kids and the other english only, then they go to french school with a high level of english. This involves a lot of hard work on the part of both the kids and parent (especially the parent who is not english). These children aren't bilingual but they do have extremely good English.

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Wed 13-Jan-16 10:58:02

I think your Farsi plans are good - DC won't be bilingual but could grow up with a good passive understanding of Farsi as long as you visit weekly or more often. My husband's adult cousins are pretty much fully bilingual (though not bi-literate) through spending entire 7 week school summer holidays every year between age 4 and their mid teens in Croatia with Croatian relatives even though their Croatian parent only spoke German to them.

I don't think your French plans have a hope tbh - I live in Germany but my German has just been assessed as B1+ (my kids are bilingual - born here) but I don't even think I could keep the kids' German up if we moved back to the UK without (German) DH for some reason, let alone teaching a child my non-fluent second language from scratch without living in the country.

However you could play French radio in the house, watch kids programmes in French (just buy DVDs and select the French option - ceck before buying in the UK as obviously which extra language is a menu option varies), look at French books together - buy French children's books which come with CD from French Amazon and let the DC listen to the audiobook at bedtime after their English story (you could even read the same story in English then put on the French audio book to listen to as they fall asleep if you are that organized in advance). If you do all that from babyhood combined with longish holidays in France your DC will have the "music" of French as a background and pick some passive understanding and then, if you can continue it into toddlerhood and preschool years might start to use words (try to take holidays where they will play with French tits - for example Eurocamp - not just adult attractive isolated gite holidays where they will only speak French in shops and restaurants - though that's good too as they hit school age). They won't become bilingual even with all that, but having another language "in the background" can only be good especially for their accent when they come to learn French more formally.

I've found that on holiday in Italy my DC were happy to watch familiar TV programmes in Dutch (they speak English and German) and to try to understand when under 4 or 5 and actually believe they understand, I think if they have a bit of a "way in" they are content that their understanding isn't 100% at that age as they are still learning their own language so as long as you start early your DC probably won't get upset at having another language radio/ story/ TV even if they don't totally understand. However I'd be prepared to scale back to just French radio if they started to become frustrated once they were verbal.

The brains of children exposed to more than one language develop differently to monolingual children, so exposing your DH to Farsi and French in this way will probably be very positive, as long as you do it regularly and frequently and for prolongued periods, even if they don't start prattling in 3 languages it could help build the connections that make acquiring another language later come more easily grin

Schwabischeweihnachtskanne Wed 13-Jan-16 11:03:33

Holidays where your very young children might get a chance to play with French tots not tits blush blush

MeadowHay Fri 15-Jan-16 13:08:16

Haha, I was wondering about that!! :')

Thanks, very helpful, that's all I can really hope and aim for. I'm not in a position to raise children bilingually but I do really want to encourage language learning right from the start. smile

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