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Homework, reading and being bilingual

(15 Posts)
Pitchounette Fri 19-Sep-08 13:48:11

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Walkthedinosaur Fri 19-Sep-08 13:59:17

I'm having a similar problem with my DC's, although we are an English speaking family, but they are in French school. I read the stories in French, but I comment on them in English and discuss them with him in English as I personally don't have the vocabulary skills to discuss it in French. If there are words we don't understand, then we get the dictionary out and learn them together, so far it seems to be working. I don't think discussing it in English is a problem because the story was read in French but the discussion we're having shows that they understood the context of the story in a second language. DS2 is in MS and he absolutely refuses to speak any French at home, it's English only, although his teacher tells me he understands and uses French at school so I presume he's distinguishng between the two different places and using the two different languages.

The problem we are having with spelling is DS made huge progress over the summer holidays with his English reading, but I taught him phonetically and now he's trying to apply the same rules to French. So he has absolutely no problem with words like ami, un, la but huge problems with de, des, le etc. We've had to discuss the different sounds of the French alphabet and I used the names of the children in his class and how differently their names would be pronounced in English because of different letter sounds. I think he understands and we approach the reading now by saying tonight it's French or tonight it's English. I'm hoping it's something that he will overcome naturally as his reading is more established in both languages, but I must confess until this week it was a problem I hadn't foreseen.

I think to try and use the French sounds when reading French words and the English sounds when reading English words that way they will come to recognise the difference.

cory Fri 19-Sep-08 18:13:42

I speak English to them when helping with their homework. Though this afternoon when lecturing dd on the St George cult (medieval history) I found I automatically slipped into Swedish when I got to the rather splendid St George statue in Stockholm cathedral.

They don't seem to get at all confused by my speaking English. But then I did sing to them in both languages when they were little as dh can't carry a tune, and I am doing most of the bedtime reading in both languages as I am, frankly, better at reading aloud. Not a problem. They've always thought of it as English and Swedish, not as Mummy language and Daddy language iyswim. Monolingualism is something other families do.

slng Fri 19-Sep-08 19:48:11

I've only ever spoken mandarin to my two, but ds1 has just started school, and we have picture books to read. I discuss them with him in mandarin. I have also started telling him correct versions of English (like "we were" rather than "we was") since no one else seems to notice or bother! (It would drive me up the wall otherwise.) The plan is to teach him English in chinese - read English words in English, discussions in Chinese. I don't think it will be a problem <optimistic emoticon>. DS1 has never ever mixed his languages. DS2 does a happy and cute confusion to me but not to anyone else, so I assume he also knows what he's doing.

Takver Fri 19-Sep-08 20:43:47

Walkthedinosaur my dd has a similar problem with spelling - she's in welsh medium schooling, but like your dc has run ahead with english language reading. In school they don't work or read at all in english till year 3, but it seemed a shame to discourage her as she loves books (& from a lazy parent viewpoint it is a godsend!). She can read fine in Welsh, but is really struggling with spelling in either language - we think after some exploration that it is because she's in a tangle as to the different vowel sounds in the different languages. Because they aren't meant to be reading in English yet, its not something they deal with in school. I'm not sure what the answer is - we have been talking a lot about the different sounds, but no idea yet whether it is helping.
I wouldn't worry too much Pitchounette about mixing languages - I think it is quite a natural thing to do, if you listen to a Welsh conversation you will often hear half an English sentence dropped in where it expresses the speaker's meaning more clearly, and from what I have read this is very common in multi-lingual societies.

slng Fri 19-Sep-08 20:54:14

Takver - about mixing languages it is true that in Malaysia we never speak a complete sentence in one language. It bemuses visitors. On the other hand one gets lazy and just use the easier language to describe something and never find out what it is in the other languages ... I have to consciously NOT do this with the children.

annasmami Fri 19-Sep-08 22:02:02

We're in a similar situation, with me (German) and dh (English) raising our 2 children (6 and 4) bilingually in England.

I generally speak to them in German, daddy speaks to them in English and they go to English school (dd in Y2, ds in Reception).

When they bring English books home to read, we read the sentences in English and we comment/discuss the story in German. It has become totally natural for us and does not appear to hinder or confuse them at all. My dd is actually amongst the top readers in her class and is very good with her English spellings. So I definately don't think that bilingualism hinders her in any way, I actually think it helps children to learn.

So I would continue to talk to your children in French, even if the homework they do is in English. After a while it will become totally natural for you both and it certainly won't confuse them.

Othersideofthechannel Fri 19-Sep-08 22:10:29

DS has just started getting homework in French. We talk about it in English but for spelling I use the French sounds and alphabet. He is 5.6 and can't read more than a few simple words in either language but understands that certain letters are pronounced differently depending on the language. It doesn't seem to be a problem when the context is clear (eg school homework).

Tagada Fri 19-Sep-08 22:22:51

Hi Pitchounette,

DD1 is in year 1 and is just starting to read properly. I am just introducing reading in French (with French books), but agrees to read her English reading book if Dad is not around, seems to work OK actually, spelling is all different but she doesn't know so is learning it.

All my 3 kids do understand whatwever I say in French and seem to take it in their stride that one of their parent speaks French and the other one English.

As for what they are speaking themselves, they are happily mixing French and English in the same sentence, which I accept with no comment whatsoever, for instance my 3 year old has this lovely saying when I say to him in French that I love him, he says "I t'aime you" xxx

Pitchounette Sat 20-Sep-08 15:44:03

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Anna8888 Mon 22-Sep-08 11:40:44

Pitchounette - we are not at the homework stage, so I have no personal experience to go by.

However, I was advised a long time ago to sometimes read to my daughter in French right from the outset if one day I was going to be helping her with homework in French. Since this is likely, I have always read books in French to her if she chooses one from her bookcase. The reason for this "preparation" is to avoid the scenario where a child absolutely refuses to speak to its mother in its father tongue when it will be going to do homework in the father tongue in due course.

Actually, I am not personally very worried as (a) my daughter has always seen/heard me switching languages in front of her (b) my French is pretty good so I don't think I will be harming her by doing homework with her.

But I agree that it is a complicated issue. I am already encountering difficulties - for example, if I want to know what is going on in my daughter's French class, I need to get my DP to ask her the questions, in French. She finds it too difficult ATM to deal with complex questions in one language about something new that has happened to her in the other language. But she is fine switching language when the issue is a simple daily task.

jessia Mon 22-Sep-08 14:07:54

I never used to mix (I mean read Polish books) until I was perfectly sure that the DCs had the languages well separated in their little heads. If they chose a bok in Polish they were sent off to DH, or if he wasn't there I would pretend I couldn't read that one and they accepted that no problem. But now they are a bit older (though neither reading independently yet) I do on occasion read Polish books aloud too if asked. But again all discussion, comment etc is in English.
What I'm dreading is the homework in subjects like maths, sciences etc, where I was a complete failure from an early age and haven't got any idea how to refer to most concepts in either language. Let's hope DH never has to spend much time working away... (we are in PL, kids in PL edu system, and he is the Polish one)

Pitchounette Wed 24-Sep-08 08:31:57

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cory Wed 24-Sep-08 18:46:33

Pitchounette IME a book for a 3yo is bound to be harder than the academic stuff. IMO this is the real test of language proficiency.

Pitchounette Thu 25-Sep-08 10:19:04

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