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What language should I speak to the baby?

(14 Posts)
Lentejita Tue 13-Mar-18 14:14:00


I've recently discovered I'm pregnant and DP and I were wondering what language I should speak to the baby.

We're both Spanish, living in Spain, but my father was English so I was raised bilingual. The issue is that English is not my strongest language, I would consider Spanish to be my mother tongue as I've always lived in Spain and the only English input was from my father.

I'm fluent in English but I make mistakes and have a slight accent, and since my father died when I was 17 (25 now) I rarely speak it anymore (sometimes at work, or when I phone my English family).

DP would like me to speak English to our children as he sees the advantages they would have being bilingual. I think it's a good idea however I know I am more fluent in Spanish and I don't know if that would be an issue?

Any bilingual mums who can relate to this situation or anyone who can advise? smile

bigdicnibba Tue 13-Mar-18 14:52:31

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Branleuse Tue 13-Mar-18 15:13:19

I think it will be much harder than you think to talk to your own child consistently in a language that is neither your mother tongue, nor the community language.

Its often hard enough when youre fluent and it IS your mother tongue if its not the community language

bassackwards Tue 13-Mar-18 15:19:55

If your spoken English is as good as your written English, I think you should feel confident speaking it with your little one smile

Or use both languages! It doesn't have to be one or the other. I know many bilingual households

elQuintoConyo Tue 13-Mar-18 15:22:25

Does your partner speak English? My half-Irish/half-Spanish Bil is bilingual but his wife is Spanish and she didn't like the thought of their dc and dad having a private language, of sorts, because she doesn't speak English at all.

DH is also, obviously, Irish-Spanish and I am British. We speak English in the house with original-language tv (Dora, Paw Patrol etc undubbed) and he speaks Spanish (castellano) and Catalan at school and with his friends.

I have friends here who are: dad half Catalan half Dutch (also speaks Castellano, French and excellent English), mum: Belgian French, (also speaks Castellano, Catalan, English). She, and she only, speaks to her two sons in French and so far they have a native level (ages 12yo and 4yo). The dad understands French but doesn't talk to them in French. I think sometimes in the house they flip between French/Spanish/Catalan!

It depends on how supportive your partner could feel, or how isolated. But it can definitely work.

gussyfinknottle Tue 13-Mar-18 15:46:50

Surely you should speak in the language you use. My Polish pal lives in the UK. Only has English TV on. Speaks to her kids in Polish at home but in the playground generally English. And sometimes at home in English if English people are there.
The kids do fine with both although their main reading and writing skills are generally English only. They can, I guess read Polish as well as speak it with a few grammatical flaws.
Writing the other language is always the hardest.

OhSoTotallyLost Tue 13-Mar-18 16:06:51

I grew up bilingual (English/French) but after the age of about 16 when I stopped speaking to my mum in French all the time my French became advanced/fluent rather than truly bilingual. I live in the UK, kids dad is British and the only time I ever really spoke French was visiting my grandma for a week every couple of years. I tried to speak French to my son when he was younger but I'd just instantly slip back into English without even thinking about it. It's hard to speak your second language unless there's someone else around you that speaks it to I think. I've pretty much given up trying to speak French to them now however I do sing to them in French so they know a few words/hear the sounds regularly at least. I'm hoping that might make it easier for them to learn when they are older.

If you can make the effort to speak english to your child I would give it a try though.

Lentejita Thu 15-Mar-18 10:43:17

Thanks all for your replies! I get it's going to be hard sticking to English only, but I'll give it a try. DP doesn't speak English but is going to be supportive as he really wants the kids to learn the language. Do you think kids can get confused if their mother speaks to them in two languages?

BexleyRae Thu 15-Mar-18 10:48:55

My SIL is German and speaks English and German to her son, he's 3 now and I think because she has always done this he sees it as normal and speaks happily in both languages

gussyfinknottle Thu 15-Mar-18 11:53:42

My friend speaks both Polish and English to her children (mostly Polish) but the children-both academically strong- seem to work it all out for themselves. Admittedly they are exposed to English 24/7 (not literally!) because they live here. She told me they can generally understand spoken Polish. Less so with written Polish but pretty good. They can speak Polish with the odd hiccup on gender and case (it's a Polish thing). They can't really write it very well.
They usually spend at least a couple of weeks a year in Poland on holiday.
I would suggest songs and endearments will sink in really well. I guess talking to each other depends on subject and context.

halfwitpicker Thu 15-Mar-18 12:07:25

I'd make the effort with it if you can. Just English cartoons, songs etc at least will make a massive difference. Give them a base to build upon.

DH is French, I'm English and I speak only English to the DC'S. My French isn't good enough for me to speak to the DC'S anyway, plus they get enough French due to their environment being Francophone.

Mamabear12 Wed 21-Mar-18 10:42:58

Where there is a will there is a way. Commit to speaking English to your baby from day one. The more you practice, the better, more confident and natural it will be. I managed to teach my daughter over 200 words in French, when I do not even speak it fluently myself! I basically started learning it while teaching her. She has now entered a French bilingual school and is completely fluent to the point French people assume one of us at home is French. Get as much English in as you can now, because once your child starts school Spanish will over take. In fact, do not be alarmed if you only speak English to your child and dc only knows English for the first few years, because once your DC goes to school, spanish will completely take over within months. You could also get a live in English speaking au pair to help with this if you don't feel comfortable. This will give you practice as well.

littlemisscomper Wed 21-Mar-18 10:52:42

I was born in Germany, to British parents but they had been living over there for 8 years. They moved back to the UK when I was just 5 weeks old. I wish and wish that they'd spoken German to me in my childhood. Not exclusively, that would have been weird as they were British, but throughout the day teaching my words, and repeating what they'd said in English in German so I would have grown up with both languages. I was never able to absorb it as a teenager at school but if they're spoken it consistently to me throughout my childhood I would be bilingual now, which would have been really helpful to my employ-ability.

Mamabear12 Thu 22-Mar-18 19:38:25

It is not as easy littlemisscomper as speaking words occasionally through childhood. Even parents that speak to their kids exclusively in the minority language struggle, as they usually reply just in English. It takes quite a lot of effort and exposure for one to be truly bilingual. I am talking minimum 20 hours a week of exposure and actually getting the children to respond in the language. However, all is not lost for the poster if she just sticks to English only and increases her own knowledge as she teaches her baby. She should actually start now singing to her baby in English while in the belly. Sounds extreme, but its a good way to start the habit.

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