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Is/has anyone raised their baby bilingual?

(22 Posts)
ladymia Fri 26-Oct-12 14:27:54

I am finding the idea of it quite daunting and I keep wondering if it's a good thing to do or if it will slow him/her down with regards to learning to speak etc.

This is our first, in case that's not obvious grin

How did you go about it?

HazleNutt Fri 26-Oct-12 15:09:15

not personally yet, pregnant with DC1 who will be raised tri-lingual. But I know a lot of bi- or tri-lingual kids and while indeed they often start talking a little bit later, I have not seen any other issues.

I was brought up bilingual and was talking about this with my mum as I've recently found out I'm pg.

There was a period when my mum questioned if she'd done the right thing - as I would get confused between the languages - but it didn't last long and is probably a natural part of the language learning process that is more obvious in bilingual kids.

The key part that she'd found worked was that as the mum speaking the minority language was easier than couples she knew where only the dad spoke the minority language. (In the old fashioned days when mums were more likely to be with the kids all the time!)

I never had trouble with the english language - because I lived in England and went to far more events/activities/functions where english was spoken, but if I hadn't had the constant chattering with my mum at home in Polish then I probably would have struggled with the Polish. My step brothers apparently were very worried I'd never speak english - but it was unfounded! And apparently my dad was very cute when he tried to say things to me in Polish!!

Although I'm second generation and my Polish isn't perfect, I consider I am bilingual and will be attempting to do the same for my kids. I think I need to get my mum to remind me of lots of Polish songs and nursery rhymes!

matilda73 Fri 26-Oct-12 15:24:33

Our little one is 2 and it hasn't caused any issues, she speaks French with the childminder and English/French at home. Her little friend is happily picking up Hindi, English and French. The only thing to avoid is being taught a language by non native speakers as she'll pick up mistakes, so choose a childminder who is a native speaker of the language you want her to learn. If you're non English speaking at home then an English speaking nursery is a good way to get the English going, she will very rapidly pick it up. Children don't get confused and their language development isn't delayed by growing up bilingual. There is a good book full of research that we read called "Raising a bilingual child" it's not that practical though so have a good look at amazon for other ideas.

TwinMummy30 Fri 26-Oct-12 15:25:55

my twins are tri-lingual. started talking in sentences in my mother language at around 20-24 months and in DH's at around 30 months. They are nearly 5 now but since they started school reply in English almost every time sad but understand everything in other 2 languages. They make a bit of an effort when speak to our families but it's only over the phone so it's just 3-5 sentences sad. Hopefully when the baby is born they will start talking again in our languages as we told them the baby doesn't understand English smile
We haven't got any friends who could speak to them in my or DH's language so it even more harder, they don't want to watch tv or listen to any songs other than English.
I don't think 3 languages slowed their speach in any way if so I remember people saying how fast they were learning.
Keep strong and speak only in your language to your DC,. Good luck

ladymia Fri 26-Oct-12 15:26:19

This is what worries me a bit.

The other language is German.

I speak German, my OH doesn't speak it he has a very, very, very basic understanding of it.

So I will be speaking a language to my child that my OH doesn't even understand and wonder if that will be a problem.

Also since we live in the UK, the child's primary language (assuming I will be speaking to him/her in German and that will be it as I will be off work for a year so have the most interaction with the child) So having a primarly language that is different to English worries me?

AnnaBegins Fri 26-Oct-12 15:31:07

If you look on the Language/Bilingualism topic on here you'll find lots of parents in a similar position. Good luck!

amirah85 Fri 26-Oct-12 15:35:43

Mine are 4 1/2 and 2 1/2,both of them tri-lingual,we just been talking to them in our own respective language from day 1,they got english from listening to us and other people.they both were quite early talkers

Cies Fri 26-Oct-12 15:38:24

I'm British, living in Spain, and we're bringing up ds with English and Spanish at home, as well as Galician at school and sometimes out and about.

My sistuation is different to you as Dh does speak quite good English, although never with ds. DH's English has improved since ds was born, as he hears so much of it around the house.

Also in our situation English is a desired language in Spain - everyone wants their child to speak it, so we only have very rare negative reactions to ds speaking English as well as Spanish.

In your case, I'd go for it of course, but be prepared for some ignorant people to question you and say things like "who needs German anyway" etc. Just stick to your guns. It would help if you could find other families who speak German too. I had to be proactive, and set up an English playgroup in my city, which has been a lifesaver.

Ds has developed both languages at a pretty average rate. In our bilingual group there are examples of kids at all stages of the spectrum - as in everything children develop at their own rates.

It's actually the norm all over the world for people to be multi lingual - the UK is unusual in this regard.

Have a read through the threads on the language/bilingualiam topic to be reassured more. smile

ladymia Fri 26-Oct-12 15:39:34

I did not even realise there was a whole section on this! thanks smile

It's good to hear that so many people have done this it makes me less anxious

weegiemum Fri 26-Oct-12 15:43:27

My dc are bilingual but only from nursery age (3). Dh and I don't speak their 2nd language (Scottish Gaelic) but everything at school (including office staff) is in Gaelic and they're all fluent - as fluent as ds's best friend who was bilingual from birth.
Look at the language/bilingual topic. Theres loads of help there.
It's an amazing gift to give your dc. My dh's dad is German, but I speak more German than dh does! I really with fil has made that effort but 1) it was the 70s, no one was bothered about it then and 2) fil is a bit crap really!

ContinentalKat Fri 26-Oct-12 15:51:03

We have a similar setup, ladymia, but my dh speaks German very well. From the beginning (dcs are now 8 and 6), we practised "one person one language" (opol), and it has worked out very well.
There is a very active German group where we live, so I could take them to Krabbelgruppe and would not struggle on on my own all the time. By the age of 3 mine were both perfectly bilingual.

Once they started school things changed considerably, and English has become their main language. Their German is still ok, but compared to a German child the same age it isn't as good.

I try to keep it going with frequent trips to Germany, German DVDs and music, books, etc. I haven't braved teaching them how to read and write properly yet...

Do you have any German groups around you? There are also quite a few Deutsche Samstagsschule around.

Good luck smile

Pi1978 Fri 26-Oct-12 15:53:45

Also since we live in the UK, the child's primary language (assuming I will be speaking to him/her in German and that will be it as I will be off work for a year so have the most interaction with the child) So having a primarly language that is different to English worries me?

I know a couple of people with bilingual children and they find the opposite problem. By the time their children start going to school and nursery and have English all around them, they find it quite hard to keep the "primary" language going as English really starts to take over.

BikeRunSki Fri 26-Oct-12 16:02:26

My sister is in France, married to a French man and their kids have been raised bilingual (with a decent splattering of Italian too). Also my brother in a Welsh speaking/teaching part of Wales. Both have said that their DC (2 each) spoke quite late, but when they did they were comfortable in both languages. But then my English-only DS didn't say much until he was well over 2, so maybe we are just late talkers.

KMR281 Fri 26-Oct-12 16:32:36

hi, sorry not read other replies, apologies if am repeating anything. My two (8y and 5y) are both bilingual - german & english. Both are fluent in both. What we did was - DH (German) speaks only in german to them, I speak english (we live in Scotland, so I guess actually they are tri-lingual - english, german and scots...). They tend to watch german TV. I read to them only in english, and DH in german. WE have some german friends, and this seems to be enough. We (well, DH) is now trying to help DS1 with reading in german, and he's totally getting there - we wanted to get english reading and writing established, then bring in the german. They are honestly fluent in speaking german, and thus far better than I am. I think it's a great thing to do - they don't have to learn the other language, it just soaks in! Mine didn't speak any later to be honest, have been chatter boxes from the get go. Only tip I would give you - the most prevalent language (eg for us, english) will dominate, so the other language needs to be a bit helped - DH always made sure he asked questions where more than just ja/nein was required as an answer. Kika will help you too! Have friends were mum is german, dad is english speaker, and the dad doesn't speak german - all of their kids totally fluent (living in scotland too). Just be firm and speak to them in your own language, and it'll work out well. Maybe your DH could learn at the same time?!

AlisonDB Fri 26-Oct-12 16:34:50

I live in Holland, both myself & DH are English, our Dutch is basic, and we can understand most of whats said, and make ourselves understood, etc...
However we never speak to our DS who is 5 in Dutch as we both have an English accent over our Dutch and we don't want him learning our mistakes.

He has been in a Dutch speaking school just over 1 year,
He is now pretty fluent in Dutch, and comes home speaking to us teaching us new words,
I also know lots of friends here whose children are being brought up bi & tri lingual,
The advantage these children have never ceases to amaze me, and I am very jealous of their ability to learn a new language with such ease and without inhabition,
My son now loves languages and we have friends who are Italian, Spanish & French, and he will often ask them "how do I say this......"
His ability to retain what is said and is able to repeat it days after they have told him.

Swanlike Fri 26-Oct-12 18:50:39

Yes, it's going to be interesting as I am English and my dp is Portuguese. He will be doing the second half of my maternity leave and so hopefully the baby will start to pick up some words from him as they start to speak. My in-laws don't speak English so it's really important that our baby learns for that reason, even though their primary language will be English. I think we will need to get some Portuguese children's books and DVDs to help too - I am hoping to learn at the same time!

Ghoulelocks Fri 26-Oct-12 19:39:44

Personally I'd say use english sparingly at home. All mine became english speakers very quickly at school/ nursery and quickly dropped their 2nd language at home. If it wasn't for VT (Russian facebook) they'd never use it!

fraktion Fri 26-Oct-12 19:51:52

DS spoke quite early and is fairly advanced in both languages so there's no real reason to suspect a significant delay. It's actually often not delay if you add the 2 together, it just seems like it when you evaluate one language. It's very important to look at language ability holistically with bilingualism.

I speak the minority language, we're considering introducing a third too as DH is trilingual but we live in the country that speaks his mother tongue but I worry that would be DS's only exposure and their relationship is partly defined by French now...

It's a huge gift but it takes work. It also takes a willingness to re-evaluate from time to time. OPOL is working well now but we may need to be more flexible in the future, if we find English is slipping too much I may need to do 'HOPOL' (hardcore OPOL!) and maybe if we moved we'd need to rethink so don't just take the status quo for granted.

Interaction is so important. Encourage productive skills in the minority language from a young age and try to find other speakers to reinforce what you're doing smile

Teapot13 Fri 26-Oct-12 19:58:36

I can see how you might think it would be a problem to have a significant part of your child's life taken up in a language your DH doesn't understand, but it would seem a much bigger problem to me if your child doesn't speak your language.

Lots of children are raised bilingually and they do fine. It does take discipline but it's worth it.

Aside from cultural/faamily concerns, there is lots of evidence that it's beneficial to brain development to learn two languages from the start.

Yika Fri 26-Oct-12 20:00:59

Bilingualism is also good for brain development in other areas. I seem to recall reading that bilinguals do better in maths and music. They also pick up subsequent languages faster I think, having a confidence and facility with more than one language. So even if they don't learn both languages perfectly you'd still be doing them a favour. They also have access to more cultures, more history, more options in terms of education and profession etc. I believe there is some delay in speech production initially. My DD, 25 months, is bilingual in English (me) and French (XDP and nursery) and not yet speaking in sentences, but she has many words in both languages and understands both perfectly.

TwllBach Fri 26-Oct-12 20:09:03

I'm living in a very welsh part of Wales and am aware that should I have children, they will need to be bilingual. The schools are bilingual at least. I also teach in a bilingual school and have yet to see any disadvantages for the children. I think it's a wonderful thing to give your children.

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