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practical question about bilingual dc and conversation with other language speakers

(26 Posts)
June2009 Sun 25-Oct-09 19:27:59


The current situation is this:
dh is british national, bilingual greek/english, only speaks english to dd.
I am french national, bilingual french/english and only speak french to dd.

My question is as follows, do you always speak your mother tongue to your dc regardless of who you are socialsing with?

dd is only 4 months old but I already find myself in situations where I'm with dh, dd and other english speakers and I find it a bit weird to speak only french to dd in that case, knowing that the others do not understand what I am saying.

I think this is because if I am with a french speaker and some english speakers we automatically switch to english (politeness maybe).

What do you do?

frakula Sun 25-Oct-09 19:31:47

Not being in this situation yet I plan to speak my usual language to DCs and translate if necessary.

Does your DH speak French? How do you feel about speaking French to DD if he doesn't understand? And why is it any different when you're with other people if you don't speak French together normally.

June2009 Sun 25-Oct-09 19:39:26

dh understands the level of french I talk to dd and I do talk french to dd in front of bil and sil even though they do not speak french, but they have also been brought up bilingually so that situation is normal to them.
I don't know really why I feel a little unsure in other social situation to be honest, just wondered what other people did.

AnnieLobeseder Sun 25-Oct-09 19:42:38

Dh always speaks Hebrew to the DDs, no matter what the situtation. Why do other people need to understand what you say to them anyway? He often speaks to other children in Hebrew without realising, then corrects himself and speaks to them in English when they look blankly at him! grin

June2009 Sun 25-Oct-09 20:08:16

ha, that happens to me, I have found myself talking to other english children in french...
The blank stare of someone who you have just talked to in the "wrong" language is priceless. grin. Happens every christmas when we have both families together round ours and we have to translate everything.

Shitemum Sun 25-Oct-09 22:26:08

you just have to get used to repeating everything in the other language - in your case English- it becomes automatic after a while.

cory Sun 25-Oct-09 23:35:10

no, we would use the language that means anyone who might reasonably expect to take part in the conversation would feel included

this means that my English dh speaks Swedish when looking after ds and his monolingual Swedish cousins, and when ds has his English mates over I speak English to the whole bunch

(so much easier to yell at them all WHO PULLED THIS PICTURE OFF THE WALL?)

at an English-speaking dinner party, say, I might address the odd remark in Swedish to dcs (if it was of the parental type, and nothing to do with the adult guests), in almost the same breath as making English conversation to the adults

we code-switch a lot as a family anyway; you could say being bilingual is our family language

hasn't led to any difficulty for dcs in keeping the two separate when around monolingual people

MIFLAW Mon 26-Oct-09 11:27:29

There is another very similar thread to this somewhere, and I seem to remember opinion was split.

My own view is that I speak french to my child, end of story.

I am happy to translate for others; I am happy to "keep it simple" for peoploe who speak a bit but not much; but I am not prepared to confuse my child to save an adult's finer feelings.

The majority of what I say to my child is not the concern of others anyway, so I don't really see the problem in most cases - unless I ma mistaken and they are actually on tenterhooks wondering whether she wants a biscuit or not!

Geocentric Mon 26-Oct-09 11:32:40

When my were small I only spoke English to them, and translated for others around. But that's because we started them on English only, and then introduced Portuguese when they started nursery (we're in Brazil). As their Portuguese improved I began slowly to speak more and more Portuguese when out in public. Now they happily switch between languages when needed.

Over here, though, speaking English is considered oh-so-clever-and-posh so no one ever minded!!

SorciereAnna Mon 26-Oct-09 11:38:53

You will soon get used to speaking French to your DD even when surrounded by non French speakers. Keep on practising, and on with the good work!

It is actually very condescending to others to automatically switch language - you are assuming they cannot understand you and you may very well be mistaken.

June2009 Mon 26-Oct-09 14:56:44

mixed views then, thanks for your replies!

I must have a million question about raising children bilingually but this question was quite specific and I have not had time to have a look at the other threads yet.

Pitchounette Mon 26-Oct-09 16:17:33

Message withdrawn

June2009 Mon 26-Oct-09 17:16:14

Does anyone know what that thread was called by the way?


Pitchounette Mon 26-Oct-09 19:33:47

Message withdrawn

shelinka Wed 28-Oct-09 09:16:58

I'm a native English speaker living in Israel, dh is Israeli. I speak English to the dc's, dh speaks Hebrew, dh and I speak a mixture of English and Hebrew to each other.

I used to speak English 100% of the time with the dc's, but now I switch to Hebrew when their friends come to play, just so the other kids can understand me.

AnnieLobeseder Wed 28-Oct-09 17:17:09

Waves to Shelinka - where in Israel do you live? We're in the opposite situtation now that we live in the UK. The DDs understand every word said to them in Hebrew but DD1 won't speak 'Daddy language'. And DD2 doesn't even speak much English yet! I have friends still in Israel in your situation.

cory Wed 28-Oct-09 23:26:06

I think sticking to one language at all costs must be a lot easier if your children are all very young or if you don't have much contact with other children

just to take one example: ds is having his (very belated) birthday party on Sunday: we will be invaded by about 10 excited little boys, none of whom understand a word of Swedish

the party will include party games, a treasure hunt led by a ghost (!) and an ice hockey game tournament

it would be very awkward if the party game rules had to be explained twice, first to the guests or then to ds, or if the ghost had to moan first to the others in English and then in Swedish to ds; and that's before we get to the difficulties of having to double-referee the ice hockey (a very fast-moving game), translating every utterance so that nobody thinks the referee is treating them unfairly

shelinka Thu 29-Oct-09 06:41:08

Shalom Annie! We're in Yokneam, I work in Haifa. I have a few friends in the same situation here too - ex kibbutz volunteers mostly.

I know what you mean about the dc's understanding everything but not speaking. The DC's understand everything I say, and will happily watch DVD's in English, but getting them to speak in English is like pulling teeth! I keep telling dh that we need an extended holiday with my parents in the UK, so they can just be immersed in English. It's as if they need a switch in their brains flicked!

June2009 Thu 29-Oct-09 07:40:00

I remembered the kind of ituation that prompted my question.
Some english speaking gives something to the baby and I want to say to the baby "say thank you to x". Seeing that I only speak French to the baby I wondered wether to say this to the baby in French or in English, since baby does not speak and this is really directed to the english speaker.
(I know I could just thank the person directly...)

thanks for the link to the thread, I'll have a look!

AnnieLobeseder Thu 29-Oct-09 20:14:23

Aplogies for hikack - Shelinka, I'm an ex-volunteer too. Scary how many of us there are! grin. I have a nodding acquaintance with Yokneam; a good friend lived there for a while (anothe ex-volunteer) and I lived in Haifa for a year, studied there for 3 years.

Every year we go to Israel to visit DH's family, and are immersed in Hebrew while we're there, so every year we hope DD1 will start speaking it, but no joy so far. I think next time we go we'll get DH's family to pretend they can't understand her when she speaks English....

Pitchounette Thu 29-Oct-09 21:02:24

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cory Fri 30-Oct-09 09:13:49

Incidentally, like Pitchounette, I have never found anyone to be offended by dcs and me using Swedish either, though it's a language that it's pretty well guaranteed that noone will understand. And my dcs are not in any way embarrassed about it; not even the near-13-yo. So I've been spared that.

It's more about the practicalities, when you are dealing with a horde of children rampaging through your house. Or at parents evenings, when you are discussing things with your child in front of the teacher who also needs to understand; or when you are helping older children and their friends with homework- and they are all contributing to the discussion.

But I am still completely relaxed about speaking the minority language when we're out and about, and certainly not worried that it will damage their street cred (I'm afraid my take on that would be, 'stuff your street cred!').

pillowcase Fri 30-Oct-09 09:33:32

I think you just fumble through when they're babies, and because they don't answer back, it may seem strange to onlookers. Of course in the situations you mention eg with teachers in school, I think it's necessary to carry on the conversation in English. However when the kids are properly speaking Swedish and you speak it all the time, then it will simply seem wrong to speak English, so even if you have to in one situation, you'll soon revert back to Swedish.

My dcs are french/Eng speakers and we live in France. When their school friends are here and I'm asking what they want to drink I'll ask it in French, but if it's a more complicated request, I'll ask the friends in French and my DCs in Eng. It just seems more natural.

However the 'street cred' thing is not something to ignore. I'm frequently heard speaking English to dcs in shops and then the assistants will assume I speak no French.

cory Fri 30-Oct-09 09:40:47

pillowcase, my dd turns 13 next week and is not only properly speaking Swedish but reading the classics in Swedish and contributing to online forums in Swedish

it still doesn't seem wrong to me to speak to her in English from time to time

particularly as I am the person who also helps her with her English homework and does her drama practice with her (I'm a lovely Romeo, I am grin)

and discussions with her friends are also more involved and complex than they were when they were little

Pitchounette Fri 30-Oct-09 18:08:27

Message withdrawn

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