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Would you allow child to learn language you don't understand? & Can I teach child language I am still learning?

(20 Posts)
RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 12:09:29

Sorry, I couldn't get the title shorter really!

I am currently learning Spanish and hoping to have a child in the next year. I'm ramping up my Spanish lessons and learning and am hoping to reach B2 by the end of the year. Would that be enough to raise a child with the OPOL approach from the start or is that a silly idea? I do intend to get better obviously but I think B2 is a difficult enough goal for this year. We would be visiting Spain at least twice a year in future and I expect that when they are older they'll go with family too so they will be exposed to native Spanish there and I would look into other ways to continue exposure at home.

The other thing is that we will be living with my parents for the first year realistically, and will live close by after that. My Dad speaks another language (native speaker, failed to teach my sisters or I as children though) and I would like him to speak to my child/ren in that language, but I've been told that I'm mad for wanting my child to know a language that I don't know. I can only think it'll be a positive thing? I do intend to learn this language, I'll probably start learning whilst living with parents, but I wouldn't want to waste the opportunity to expose my child to the language in their first few years.

vvviola Tue 01-Mar-16 12:14:39

I think it would be very hard to teach a child a language when you are still learning it - at least from the OPOL perspective.

But I can't see any problem with learning a language you don't speak. When DD1 was 18 months old we moved to Belgium. My French is awful, DH had none. Within 6 months DD1 was practically fluent due to the French-speaking creche she was in. Other than her occasionally getting exasperated with DH for not understanding something when she couldn't remember the English word, we had no problems. My biggest regret is that when we left Belgium, we weren't able to keep up her French.

But, how often will your Dad see your DC? I think daily immersion is the best way to go, especially if you aren't speaking the language at home also. (Or would you consider learning your Dad's language instead?)

vvviola Tue 01-Mar-16 12:16:46

Sorry, missed the bit about living with your parents. Yes, if he is willing to speak only in that language to your DC, I think it would be a wonderful idea grin they could even act as translator for you if you visit the country, as DD had to do for me at one embarrassing incident when I got locked out and had to ask a neighbour for help

MyBreadIsEggy Tue 01-Mar-16 12:20:08

I posted on another bilingual thread the other day - my DD is only 10mo, but I speak to her in English and Polish, and DH speaks to her in English and Thai. I do not speak much Thai and my husband doesn't speak much polish, just the basics really, but I still say some things to DD in Thai when DH is not around. Just simple things like "cat" and "cow", and DH does the same with Polish when I'm not around.
I agree with PP that if you are only now learning the language and don't have a native speaker in the house, it could prove to be a difficult task to teach a child the language. Unless you carried on with learning, and enrolled the child on toddler language classes??

RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 12:34:09

I expected I probably wouldn't be good enough whilst still learning for OPOL, but I was hoping somebody would come and say "Yeah! I did it and with frequent native-speaker contact they were fine!" grin Oh well, I can throw it in there still to expose them to it I'm sure!

I did consider switching to learning Farsi (Dad's language) but having switched from French to Spanish last year I didn't want to give up Spanish as I seem to being doing well with minimal lessons so far. I will likely ramp up my Spanish now and then drop those lessons back down to once a week at that point to just keep me developing it from a firm foundation of it, if that makes sense?

I think I could convince Dad to speak Farsi to my child, especially if I'm living with them. I do plan to take advantage of that and learn myself whilst there so hopefully I'll understand the basics by then.
Very amusing that you had to use DD as a translator vvviola grin

Are you and your DH both bilingual or in a similar boat to me Bread? Lucky child to have access to three languages if the former!

We'd have to travel a bit for toddler classes in the language, I'm moving to an area that's very... shit multiculturally. Unfortunately. To a town that's very actively "against the immigrants" so to speak, but there's a small city nearby where there seem to be some classes for children in Spanish. I'll have to wait and see how that works out. By moving there though it will mean that down the line we would be able to afford an au pair at some point whose main job would be speaking Spanish to the child, though I'm thinking four/five years from now! I'd happily have a Spanish nanny one day a week for language learning but that would be difficult to find due to lack of multiculturism.

MyBreadIsEggy Tue 01-Mar-16 12:46:20

yes Rattie we are both bilingual. DH speaks English and Thai, and I speak English and Polish. DD already says "mæ" over and over to me which is the Thai word for "mum", or if I'm busy and not giving her attention at that precise moment she gets louder and says "mama!" instead! grin She's also started calling my mum "baba", as the polish word for Grandma is "babcia" and we always refer to her as "babcia" not "grandma" or "nan".
It's wonderful to see your child learn to speak in your own language, but even more rewarding to see them learning to differentiate between two or more different ones!

RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 12:49:53

Haha, that's funny and also interesting how she switches! I wish I'd been raised bilingually, I think it was a combo of my Mum's family saying we'd be confused and my Dad just not being bothered, my elder sister was bilingual until 5yo, then just forgot it all when my Dad stopped teaching her. Shame really. I love languages but only know one myself so I'm hoping to foster that in my children whilst they are young and will have more opportunities to use other languages!

MyBreadIsEggy Tue 01-Mar-16 12:53:08

Rattie it's great that you want to have bilingual children! Remember that a child's brain is like a sponge! So the younger they are when they learn a language, the more they will absorb smile I just hope that my DD carries on with all three languages and doesn't just stop. My friend is English but married a Dutch man. Her two girls were bilingual from the start, but once she turned 3, their youngest DD refused to speak English and would only speak Dutch! Luckily my friend had learned Dutch and was fluent, so could still communicate with her DD! She would speak to her in English, and her DD would reply in Dutch! I really hope that doesn't happen with my DD!

georgiatraher Tue 01-Mar-16 12:53:15

I've been thinking of this recently. My DH is Chinese and speaks Cantonese and feels strongly that our children should also learn it. I am trying to learn, but struggle to find the time to practice.

I don't like the idea of my son/daughter being able to speak a language I don't know.

One idea I've seen are some bi lingual play groups in the local area, which help both children AND parents learn the language with nursery rhymes etc. Something to look into on the Spanish side?

weegiemum Tue 01-Mar-16 12:57:12

My Dc have all been educated through Gaelic medium so all are fluent in a language that my dh and I don't speak (though I tried, I really did!). I don't have any issue with them speaking a language I don't know, I'm just glad they've had the opportunity to become bilingual!

RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 13:08:13

Bread I know, that's why I want to get it in early grin I did a lot of research on bilingualism when I was younger as it really interested me (still does!) And being exposed to preferred languages in the first few years makes it much much easier to learn it. I was thinking about it again recently as I've been doing a lot of pronunciation training for Spanish and struggling with certain things. I still can't roll my r's on demand but it's something I learnt to do with a lot of practice in December!

I had a neighbour until recently who was mixed race, I think Morrocan-French? But she spoke English, French and Arabic whilst her husband spoke English, German and a third language that I can't remember. They did OPOL with Mum speaking French and Dad speaking English to their toddler twin boys. Shortly before they left I was chatting with her and they were moving to Switzerland, so the Mum was switching to Arabic and the Dad to German, the idea being that they would frequently continue with English and French between family and nursery/school. It was amazing really! I was very jealous wink

Your poor friend! I hear that happens often with bilingual children though and that they switch to preferring another language. My boss was telling me that somebody they know was Russian and had a daughter who was about 8-10yo when she moved here, daughter quickly refused to speak Russian any more so during the English school holidays she was sent back to her grandmothers in Moscow and to her old school where she spent her school holidays going back to school just in a different country! She then spent an additional year there after GCSEs to get her Russian equivalent exams, but it kept her bilingual!

georgia I'm desperately trying to find Spanish speaking groups or groups for Spanish speaking parents in that area and struggling. Thew closest things are in the nearest city but even then it's sparse. My go-to in these situations is but that has nothing either, it's a tad depressing! I'm moving from a very mixed city with tonnes to do relating to other languages/cultures and I'm a bit saddened by it really.

RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 13:09:40

weegie Thanks, that' nice to know smile I can't think of an issue with it but some people have been horrified by the idea and it made me wonder if I should have an issue with it! But then there are tonnes of kids in this country learning English in schools who don't have parents who speak English, so surely it's no different?!

MyBreadIsEggy Tue 01-Mar-16 13:13:39

To be fair, I stopped speaking Polish outside of my house when I was in secondary school, purely because there was a massive stigma attached to Eastern European immigrants in the town I lived in sad some of the bullying I was subjected to at school was horrible. My brother got into numerous physical fights with the English boys - they didn't like him purely because he was Polish hmm
I started speaking the language outside of the home again when I reached the later years of high school and just didn't give a shit anymore grin

emilybohemia Tue 01-Mar-16 13:18:44

My daughter speaks fluent Czech. Mine is crap and quite basic. She spoke it from when she learnt to speak, when I spoke none. I think allowing them to learn a language you don't know so well is fine, but they benefit best from a fluent or native speaker.

RattieOfCatan Tue 01-Mar-16 13:49:34

Bread That's sad sad I understand it though, there is a similar attitude in the area I'm moving too. It's a UKIP area, surprise surprise. I was told to "Go back to where you come from." a couple of times at school, despite the fact that I've always lived in England and never even visited Iran hmm

sashh Fri 25-Mar-16 11:55:49

've been told that I'm mad for wanting my child to know a language that I don't know

90% of deaf people have hearing children. If they are sign language users their child will get no spoken input from parents but will learn spoken language from wider family.

As for translating - I met a colleague in a supermarket, she is deaf and a BSL user so we were conversing in BSL, but her small child (small enough to be in the trolley seat) insisted on translating what his mum said in to English for me.

noramum Tue 29-Mar-16 15:17:57

I don't like the idea of my son/daughter being able to speak a language I don't know.

I find this sad. I would never stop the other parent to teach my child his language, regardless if I speak/understand it or not. I think as a parent you not only give the language but also the culture. You also give the ultimate possibility to speak to relatives. Not teaching means you take away 1/2 of your child's personality/heritage and all opportunities he/she may have later in life.

We are both German so it doesn't apply to us but I have friends where one parent does not speak the partner's language but none put a block on OPOL.

RattieOfCatan Fri 29-Apr-16 12:52:00

ssash that's really sweet! BSL is another language that I've started to learn in the past but had to give up the classes. I'm hoping to get onto a level one course in September 2017 again as I'd love to properly learn it! It's one of the few languages where it's hard to find online resources or teachers who teach online, not that I've looked in a little while.

LanguagesDad Thu 22-Jun-17 10:33:41

Personal and professional answer from me here.
1) I'm married to a Spanish speak and our two kids (11 and 6) are both completely bilingual. The fact that my Spanish is still rubbish (I try, I promise), is irrelevant. I think it's great they know things I don't because we don't create our child to be versions of ourselves.
2) My business is language teaching and we run language clubs in primary schools. For this reason I spend a lot of time meeting and talking to parents. I have yet to meet one who wouldn't like their children to be bilingual in one or two other languages. And yet there is no political will for the UK to catch up with the rest of the world. KS1 and KS2 allows for no more than 30-45 mins languages a week! Anyway, I'm happy to answer any questions. I won't advertise my company because it's clearly not appropriate here.

user1471451913 Tue 27-Jun-17 14:36:59

You should definitely let your dad teach her his language. More languages can only be a benefit but if he is not seeing her very often she might not learn much.
My kid is or will be bilingual when she starts talking and she will be expected to learn two further languages in primary school. I speak one of these languages quite well and i'm learning the other.

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