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Brought up bilingual? What are you doing with YOUR kids?

(18 Posts)
AuntyVi Wed 03-Sep-08 00:03:52

Hello there, I'm new to this board but stumbled across it today and interested as I was brought up bilingual (English/German, but living in England). I know my mum would love me to bring up DS bilingual too, and she speaks to him in German so far (he is only 9mo though so he isn't talking himself yet of course! and she only sees him infrequently as they live several hours away); but I didn't feel this was an option for us as 1) my German is pretty fluent in certain contexts but certainly not native (I have an English accent, am quite rusty and also my vocab is a bit limited to contexts I am used to), 2) DH speaks no German and 3) it just wouldn't come naturally to me to talk to DS in German, it would have seemed very artificial and forced and I don't think I could even have managed it. But I am still a bit sad to think he won't get the same opportunity I had, and that he won't be able to speak to my mum and other relations in German unless/until he learns it as a 2nd language later on; and I would like to do what I can to at least "get his ear in" if you know what I mean. So would love to hear from any other mums in similar situations, and find out what if anything you are doing to at least get some benefit from your 2nd languages! Thank you.

annasmami Wed 03-Sep-08 09:42:03

If speaking German to your DS doesn't seem 'natural' to you, you could always play German CDs (nursery rhymes, songs ets) and let him watch German DVDs as he gets a little older. Perhaps there is also a German Saturday School near you (they normally take them from age 3).

I'm interested in your experience because we are in the same position as you were growing up. My dh (English speaking) and me (German speaking) are raising our dc bilingually. So far, they are doing really well - speaking to me in German despite doing well in (English) school. We do, however, expose them to as much German as possible, with DVDs, Saturday School and they've just spent 3 weeks in a German Kindergarten as a 'Gastkind'. And dh is learning German so that he at least understands what we are talking about smile.

I do wonder, however, how good their German will be longer term and if they will ever 'rebel'.... I really hope they will be proud and regard it as 'cool' to speak more than one language, but you never know what peer pressure can do.... I'd therefore love to hear you experience growing up in a similar situation!

Weegiemum Wed 03-Sep-08 18:22:47

We are bringing up our children bilingual (English/Scottish Gaelic) as we have the option of Gaelic school.

One of the main reasons for choosing this is that dh is half German (his Dad) but his Dad never spoke German to him, and he is monolingual and resenta it.

Neither of us actually speak much Gaelic but as they are in immersion schooling dd1 (8) and ds(6) are as fluent as native speakers and dd2 (4) is doing well.

I would say that bilingualism is a gift well worth giving your child, if you can.

AuntyVi Wed 03-Sep-08 20:19:05

Annasmami, I think you have a good chance of it "working" for you as it sounds like your kids are getting lots of practice! At home we spoke German with our mum and sometimes had German songs on cassette etc., she also taught us to read German before we started school (which actually enabled me to teach myself reading in English before school too, gave me a good head start!) and I loved to read books in both languages. However we didn't get much practice outside home, apart from a couple of weeks with the relations in Germany every 3 years or so - no Saturday school, no DVDs etcetera. Also, we spoke English between the 3 of us kids - what do your DC do? I am the eldest, so I was used to always speaking to mum in German by the time the other 2 came along, and I still do now; and although I am a bit rusty, I do find when I go over there it comes back pretty quickly. BUT over time, my younger brother and sister got very lazy - they would still understand what my mum said, but more and more they replied in English; the result is that now they can't have a phone conversation with one of their aunts without getting into a fluster! I do think that's quite sad and I think they are also kicking themselves a bit now for not taking advantage more. I don't think pressure from other kids was a factor, more just laziness or sometimes rebelling as you say. And it probably did make a difference having older sibs who spoke English with them. I don't really know how to prevent that, except by giving as much "outside" exposure to German as possible, but it sounds like you are doing that; if they get to watch German programmes and spend time with other German-speakers they probably will have more interest in speaking it, and be less likely to give up or rebel. They might also be happy once they get to school that they can essentially get one "free" GCSE or A-level with little or no effort! smile Ich sollte dies eigendlich auf Deutsch schreiben, nicht wahr! Gute uebung!

Sounds like you are doing well too WM. I don't think we'd manage the full OPOL thing with DS, but at least I hope to do what I can to make it easier for him to learn eventually.

Mammina Wed 03-Sep-08 22:11:39

AuntyVi, was just reading your comment about getting a 'free' GCSE/A-level - make sure that they read a lot of German too and not just speak it - I know 3 people who were bilingual English /French - spoken French was fluent, like a native, but they had real trouble at school because they couldn't write it - only phonetically

good luck, I think it's a great thing to do

fourlittlefeet Wed 03-Sep-08 22:25:55

I'm in the same boat, wasn't brought up totally biligual, but my accent is pretty flawless, and grammer pretty useless, so feel totally unconfident speaking German to the little one. I've got the German music cd's and a couple of books which I read to DD. We sing things like Hoppa Hoppa Reiter, which she sings back (as much as a 16 month old can), so it does interest her.

MmeLindt Wed 03-Sep-08 22:34:14

I am in the same situation as Annasmami, DH is German, I am British and our DCs are bilingual, we live in Germany.

We have a sat dish so that the DCs can watch British TV and I really think that has helped a lot. Not just watching English DVDs (which they get bored of) but havign a range of programmes to chose from.

Could you get German TV where you are? Kika is good.

annasmami Thu 04-Sep-08 10:50:00

MmeLindt, yes German TV is a great idea. We've just moved, but are hoping to put up a satellite dish soon. Apparently you can receive pretty much all the German stations here in via the Astra 19.2 E satellite for FREE (no subscriptions). And yes, Kika was very popular with my two this summer in Germany smile.

AuntyVi, sounds like your German is better than you say wink. But I completely understand that the environment (school, friends, siblings etc) has a strong influence and I too find it hard sometimes to stick to German... Perhaps you could try to have regular 'German sessions' at home when you sing or read to DS and maybe even your dh will learn a little. I actually 'send' my dh along with the children to Saturday School (they have adult classes there too) grin.

malfoy Thu 04-Sep-08 10:52:00

brought up bilingual french/ english not bothering with the children seems unnatural/ too much like hard work.

admylin Thu 04-Sep-08 10:58:26

My dh was brought up bilingually and he didn't want us to pass any of his languages onto the dc as we live in Germany and they speak English at home (fluently) - he always felt he never really mastered one language and so the first 4 years of our dc's lives we only spoke English with them. Then we sent them to German Kindergarten where they learned all their German and are now fluent and in German schools.

Must admit they're sad that their dad didn't speak atleast one of his languages to them from birth because now they want to learn butit'll be hard work. German is so difficult to learn so if you can, you'll be doing your dc a big favour by teaching them.

MmeLindt Thu 04-Sep-08 11:21:41

If you go for the Technisat Multytenne (I think that is the right name) then you can receive both German and British TV stations with one sat dish.

annasmami Thu 04-Sep-08 21:37:02

Thanks, MmeLindt, I'll look into that!

I like the photo of your daughter with her Schultuete! I miss that tradition - our ds (4) actually had his first day in school today (Reception) and I had considered getting him one but then decided against it as he would have been the only one...

Portofino Thu 04-Sep-08 22:09:11

We're english and speak english at home but dd goes to a french school. We try to mix things like dvds and books as in she has some in english and some in french.

I wonder sometimes that french is becoming her "first" language as she sometimes is very hesitant in speaking english - lots of uummms etc as if she is translating in her head - though her vocabulary seems good for 4.5 (as far as I can tell). " Mummy can you please assure me that you will not forget to feed George (the cat) before we leave for school....)

I also worry that she isn't as eloquent in french as some of her friends. I guess this is just one of those things - I read once that children can initially be behind but that actually the very fact of being bilingual opens up neurological pathways in the brain (ooh er - and I've had wine) which helps with later learning, where monolingual kids don't have this.

Obviously she is following a standard curriculum in french but won;t start Primaire until 6.5. She knows her letters and numbers and can write them down. I'm concentrating on starting to spell in English and want to ensure that she can read and write fluently in english. For the french part i will leave this to the school.

DH and I are quite well educated so hope to cope with reading/writing/english history and literature etc but I am prepared to enlist outside help later on if we think it would be useful.

saramoon Sat 06-Sep-08 14:47:09

I speak English to our dds (2 and 3) and my DH speaks Arabic to them. They speak English but seem to understand Arabic and can speak a bit. Think at some point they will go to an Arabic school as they spend more time with me so English is def their first language.

Anna8888 Sat 06-Sep-08 14:57:46

I'm English and my partner is French and each of us speaks our own language to our daughter. I speak French to my partner, so she has a role model for someone switching languages constantly at home. He speaks English and can understand everything she and I say to one another, so we don't have to repeat conversations.

She goes to a bilingual French-English school (with the French NC).

james79 Sat 06-Sep-08 20:07:53

Hi, my mum never spoke Spanish to me as we moved to England when i was nearly two (she speaks Spanish and English)-her argument being that no-one else spoke Spanish and she wanted us to 'fit in'. I am now a mother of two and have tried to learn Spanish so that i can teach my children as she only sees tham once a week and then we get chatting in English anyway IYSWIM! I would urge you to raise them in a bilingual environment,my mum regrets it hugely as she can see how much i struggle now and how much i would want my two to be bilingual. Your children will thank you for this gift later on. I know families where the children speak 3 languages and have no problem at all switching.

lilQuidditchKel Tue 09-Sep-08 19:29:13

I'm sorry this will be a bit rushed as I don't have much time at the moment, but I have a German DH and we are raising our kids bilingually. DS is 2.5 and just starting to speak, sees a therapist to help him. DD is 15 mo and babbles Deutinglish (!) all the time!

It's helpful to us to have some DVDs (Thomas, Bob the Builder) in German, story books which DH can read out loud in German, and noisy toys which 'sing' in german. Plus we have met some other German/bilingual families nearby who expose us to more German. It will be a struggle for us to keep up the German exposure as it's unlikely we will send our kids to German school (I am trying hard but simply won't be able to bond with my kids' school if it's 100% German).

I wish there were bilingual schools!!!!!!!

Rebe Wed 10-Sep-08 09:26:09

I really understand when you say it doesn't feel natural.

My DH is Costa Rican and tries to speak to my DD in Spanish much of the time but although I speak fluent Spanish I struggle with my DD (2) as she is so much more responsive when I speak to her in English!!

We read her Spanish books and sing to Spanish Nursery CDs but would live to meet with other Spanish speakers who have children so it feels less forced.

I was brought up bilingual (English/ Dutch) and it's helped me in all walks of life - from socialising to studies.

Keep up the good work!

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