Bringing a kid up bilingual

(17 Posts)
purplemurple1 Sun 28-Jul-13 12:17:28

OK, I'm preg with our first and wondering how this will work really.

I don't speak swedish well so OH and I speak English at home with each other, OH's family speak Swedish with me when I am with them although a lot of them can speak Eng to an extent. Once the bb is 1yr he will go to the local nursery/school and speak Swedish there.

So I'm wondering is it really as simple as we talk Eng, other people speak Swe and he will learn both or do we need to be more active in teaching him Eng so he learns it properly?
Should we get Eng TV channels so he is watching some young kids TV in Eng?

(My dad was from abraod and I don't speak his first language so i'm just not convinced it will work!)

OP’s posts: |
MrsGSR Sun 28-Jul-13 12:47:38

I have no personal experience, but have some friends in your situation.

One lives in Germany, English speaking dad, German and English speaking mum. Goes to an English speaking school but speaks both fluently and is great at figuring out who to talk which language to.

My twin cousins live in France. They go to a French nursery but their parents talk English at home. They also speak both, and know when they come to visit us to speak English!

Young children have really good language skills, they pick up languages much easier than adults. My aunt just used to talk to her twins the same way she would have if they were only learning English, and it worked for her!

Nellie2477 Sun 28-Jul-13 15:09:32

I was born in Spain to English parents. They spoke in English to me at home and I went to an English school. Everything else around me (including TV) was all in Spanish and I am therefore fluent in both. My parents did nothing special to teach us one or the other language. Kids pick up languages so easily!

WidowWadman Sun 28-Jul-13 15:12:56

There's a whole bilingual subforum somewhere here on MN - we're raising our kids bilingually - live in UK, I'm German, husband English - I only speak German to the children, also have German books, CDs, DVDs etc. English undoubtedly is their dominant language, but the German is definitely there, too.

Rosa Sun 28-Jul-13 15:16:29

Aother bilingual family here. Both dds are bilingual the youngest does a bit of a mixture of both right now . We speak in dh language at home where we live but have books, tv and dvds in English. DD1 reads and is starting to write in English and we are going with the flow and not pushing things. They absorb so much more than you think.

nickymanchester Mon 29-Jul-13 13:16:25

As others have said, there is a bilingual subforum that will also give you other threads to look at.

What a lot of people do, and we did this as well, was to have one parent one language when we were speaking to the DCs

The biggest problem we found was maintaining the minority language at home.

Now that we have returned to the UK, my DH is concerned that our DCs will lose their language ability, much as you say that you no longer speak your father's first language.

So we are working on maintaining their language skills - even if they are a bit hmm about having to do it.

vikinglights Mon 29-Jul-13 19:17:09

If you have the c-more kids channel and set the language to finnish you get it in english......

Its actually pretty easy to keep up the english at home until they get older and you find your house is constantly full of their friends who don't speak english


BaskingTurtle Tue 30-Jul-13 00:21:56

I'm English-speaking and my children went to daycare in Sweden.

In your specific situation, you don't have to worry about the children and English, because 1) you are the mother and speaking quite a lot to them,most likely, before they get to daycare, 2) swedes love English, English is on tv and in the songs on the radio and they will hear it all the time and 3) they get it is school very early, so any teaching that needs to be done will be done there. If you were in another environment I would worry about keeping up your language as the minority language, but not in this case.

Best of luck! (Lycka till!)

NomDeClavier Tue 30-Jul-13 00:38:31

I think English is the easier minority language to have tbh because there's a lot out there and people are very encouraging, in general, of bilingualism with English as the additional (non-community) language.

It's harder the other way round but still perfectly possible.

The key is to find, at each stage, the 'rules' for each language. That can be OPOL, one at home and one outside, whoever starts the conversation chooses - whatever works. We started with very strict OPOL because I wanted to establish both languages at home from the start but that's now relaxed as DS has started talking and expressing his preferences but if I notice one language sliding we'll reinstate OPOL and take it from there.

scottswede Tue 30-Jul-13 17:00:26

Also live in Sweden. Came here from UK when kids were 2.5 & 4.5. Dh is Swedish but never spoke Swedish in UK to them. Within 6-8 months both were completely bi-lingual. Dh speaks Swedish to them and I English. They switch automatically now. I was told by kids day-care teacher to NOT speak Swedish to them, as I was also learning the language I would inadvertently teach them bad Swedish. Great advice. Kids have friends whose mother is English speaking but insisted in speaking Swedish to them while she learned also. Needless to say they speak both languages badly. Your little on will learn naturally as he will be in a Swedish enviroment at dagis as he learns to speak anyway.

themaltesefalcon Tue 30-Jul-13 17:11:09

The biggest problem we found was maintaining the minority language at home.

With bells on.

purplemurple1 Tue 30-Jul-13 20:29:30

Cheers, sounds easier than I'm expecting, they don't get English lessons until they are 10yrs old in our local school, but I'm sure with DVDs, TV shows, books etc we can expose them to Eng lots at home.

I'll be back at work a few months after he is born and travel qutie often for work, so won't be the main person talking to them during their first yr (time spilt between me and OH), figure OH shouldn't try and teach them Eng as they will then get his bad habbits.

I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when we get to it though, and speak lots of eng when I am with the bb.

OP’s posts: |
nickymanchester Tue 30-Jul-13 23:08:26

figure OH shouldn't try and teach them Eng as they will then get his bad habbits.

Very true

ZZZenagain Wed 31-Jul-13 11:07:58

I think that will work out fine and yes, get some access to English language TV when your dc is a bit older or even just use DVDs. Probably Swedish versions of films made in English will have both versions on them. There is so much available for dc in English (books, audio books, DVDs, songs, etc), it would be unlikely for your dc not to be proficient in English. When dc starts at Swedish nursery school, I would continue reading bedtime stories in English. When my dd was small, she liked to play audio books while she pottered about playing with lego. I think she learned a lot of them off by heart. Don't forget songs. You can get sing-along CDs to drive you all nuts in the car for instance.

I do spend an awful lot on ordering books in English. My dd devours them and it does build up. There is not much available in English really where we live, certainly wouldn't have been sufficient IMO to build a really extensive vocabulary equivalent to that of well read and educated native speaker, so you do have to put some effort in it IME.

peacefuleasyfeeling Wed 31-Jul-13 11:28:14

I'm trying to do the reverse; bringing up my DDs to speak Swedish in the UK (DP English). It went well with DD1 while she was learning to speak (we did Sing and Sign and sort of doubled up on the languages), but as her speech really took off, she got too impatient with the minority language and whereas she still has a Swedish vocabulary of nouns and verbs, she has no grammar to speak of and couldn't really string a sentence together. She seems to think of it as "Mummy's Secret Language", as she rarely hears it spoken elsewhere. A recent lightbulb moment has been finding Swedish cartoons on YouTube, which is capturing her interest. I'm hoping to revive my efforts now DD2 has joined us. Good luck!

LoveSewingBee Wed 31-Jul-13 13:52:39

I think that it is really hard work to ensure that your kid is truly bilingual. Mind you, IMO many kids who are labelled as bilingual are not truly bilingual. They may be able to play with kids in both languages or have a general conversation, but don'task them to do numeracy/literacy/history/geography etc in both languages.

Singing is really good, pronouncing the words very clearly though, and stories, focusing on vocabulary.

I don't think that TV itself is very helpful as it encourages passive rather than active language. I prefer stories, games, activities etc.

ZZZenagain Wed 31-Jul-13 15:32:04

I am not sure how old your dd is peaceful. Have you considered working through a book with her so that she acquires the grammar? Something like Swedish as a second language materials used for foreigners in Sweden. Obviously if she is only 5 or 6 this would be inappropriate but there may be good material available in Sweden which would work for age 12 plus.

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in