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So for those with DPs/DHs whose native tongue is different to yours

(17 Posts)
Bleh Wed 07-Oct-09 10:59:19

and you didn't speak it until you met, how long did it take you to learn/be able to communicate, and how did you decide who speaks what languages to your DCs?

I'm currently in a serious relationship with a Frenchman, until we started dating, I had never learnt a word of French. I am learning now as we go over there a lot, most of his friends/family have limited knowledge of English, so it makes sense for me to learn. I have been thinking if we have children what would happen. I would like them to be bilingual (my uncle married a French woman, never learnt french, she never spoke to the DCs in French, which I think is a pity).

cory Wed 07-Oct-09 11:09:55

I started lessons in Swedish conversation with dh the moment we got together (my English was already pretty good). When we took our first holiday together after a year, he decided only to speak Swedish for the whole fortnight. It was like travelling around with a toddler, by the end of the trip I began to feel his behaviour was going that way too. grin

But it's paid off in that he can at least follow a conversation round my family's dinner table and keep up his end, even if not very correctly. And the dcs are not learning bad Swedish off him; they seem to be able to hear that his accent is bad and "you don't say that, Daddy".

To us, having both parents learn each other's languages has been immensely beneficial. It means we really can speak both languages at home and noone will feel left out. And the fact that dh is positive towards the minority language is probably the single greatest factor in keeping the dcs happy to use it.

Bleh Thu 08-Oct-09 10:28:19

Hm, a French only equivalent to your holiday sounds like a good plan, though I might just limit it to a weekend or something.

That's the thing - I can kind of understand what's going on in French, unless they start speaking really fast, but would like to be able to respond in French and understand more than that they are somehow talking about cheese. Good that your DCs are teaching him!

I have tried to convince my parents to learn French (not going well), but his do speak some English.

frakkinpannikin Thu 08-Oct-09 20:05:10

My DH2B is completely bilingual and his family are functionally fluent in English. My parents speak no French, I dropped French as soon as I could! But, those differences aside, given that I had very schoolgirl French...

We only spoke in English for about a year because we met in England so I never really acknowledged he WAS French IYSWIM. Moving to France drastically improved my French and I'm now pretty fluent, although still finding speaking a bit of a struggle sometimes and my accent is not so good.

We will follow the OPOL method, I think, especially as we are likely to be living in a country where the majority language is a third language and we will have good support from both sides of our family to keep the languages up. We did toy with the idea of speaking the minority language at home but decided against it.

OrangeFish Thu 08-Oct-09 20:07:12

My exh talks all the time to DS in his own language, I do in mine and he gets English from school.

So far the one that is winning is the one he speaks at school...

Bleh Fri 09-Oct-09 10:08:28

What's the OPOL Method?

SimplyWantsAMagicWandPlease Fri 09-Oct-09 10:15:37

I think it stands for "One Person One Language" so that everyone chooses the language that they'll use to speak to the children and they stick to it.

RacingSnake Sat 10-Oct-09 22:09:48

I met DH (French) when we lived in Germany. I spoke virtually no French and he spoke no English, so we spoke German for the first few years. We moved to England and he learnt English, which he now speaks very well although he thinks he has no accent grin. Since DD's birth I have been working hard on my French and now support primary teachers teaching French. We both try to speak French to DD although DH always speaks English to me. I am trying to teach her German phrases and she inists on saying 'beep' a lot. (Inventing her own languages?)

MmeGoblindt Mon 12-Oct-09 08:27:48

We started in English as I knew no German. within a year or so I was speaking German and at some point we switched into speaking German. I don't remember when, it must have been gradual within the first two years.

I speak English with the DC, DH German and they do to French speaking school.

Yes,yes, learn French. Even to be able to understand your partner's family and friends. You will feel more part of his life and family if you do.

MmeGoblindt Mon 12-Oct-09 08:32:56

OPOL is one way of doing it, but not the only way.

We do a mixture, sometimes I speak English sometimes German sometimes even a French word sneaks in there. The DC speak both English and German fluently and rarely mix languges, only really if there is not a direct and easy tranlation of a word, eg. "Ich pretend ich bin ein Hund" as the translation for "pretend" is much longer.

I said "ici!" to the dog the other day

Shitemum Mon 12-Oct-09 10:52:29

OPOL stands for 'one parent, one language'. Each parent speaks their native, or strongest, language to the children.

When I met DP I spoke no Spanish but his English was excellent.

A couple of years after we met we went to live in Spain. After nearly 20 years there I am now fluent tho my grammer is still a bit rubbish.

Since we were so used to speaking English@home, when we had the DC DP spoke to them in English.

This was great while we were living in Spain as it meant the DC English was very good.

However we have now moved back to the UK and DP has had to start speaking more Spanish to the DC. He is still in Spain sorting out loose ends but will be here before the end of the year. I mean to speak Spanish@home once he's here so the DC are exposed to as much as possible. It won't be easy as English@home is so ingrained but we are determined that they dont lose their Spanish. The DC are 6 and 3 yo and were both at fulltime Spanish-speaking infant school in Spain from the age of 2.

It is usually not advisable to change strategy like this but if we don't then their Spanish will fall by the wayside...

My advice to the OP would be to learn French and then do OPOL once you have DC but if you bring them up in an English-speaking country then you will have to work hard to expose them to as much French as possible as, from what I have seen, when the father is the speaker of the minority language eg French in the UK, the DC get far less exposure to the language than if it is the mother or main carer who is speaking it to them.
Obviously if the father is a stay at home dad then this isnt such an issue.
good luck!

invlanderen Mon 12-Oct-09 13:13:56

Í´d recommend learning French seriously on a part time basis, like with the OU or French Institute, pricy but more effective and intensive than an evening course. I think my voaculary has increased a lot as I learn with my dc, but I did speak the language well enough within a few years... Motivation is everything, whatever hard work you put in will pay off sooner or later. Good luck!

Pitchounette Mon 12-Oct-09 14:57:34

Message withdrawn

belgo Mon 12-Oct-09 15:01:21

Definitely enroll on a french course. There are loads around.

I was with dh for four years before I started to seriously learn dutch, because it's almost impossible to find a dutch class in England.

It was only when I moved to Belgium and started learning dutch full time and then working full time that my dutch improved loads.

belgo Mon 12-Oct-09 15:01:56

It's great to be able to understand what my children are saying to me, and what my in laws are saying!

ChopsTheDuck Mon 12-Oct-09 15:05:23

I wish I had made more effort at the start. dp speak gujarati, and our dts only understand very little, and speak even less. I still only get the gist of coversations rather than really understanding it.

I do think if I had made more effort to learn gujarati the dts would have had a better chance at it.

I'm now considering going to classes with them.

RacingSnake Tue 13-Oct-09 19:49:58

Great idea! It really is never too late.

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