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Questions about bringing them up bilingual

8 replies

Elf · 30/11/2002 19:32

We are very excited about the fact that we are going to go and live in Spain (near Barcelona) in January. DD will then be 15 months old. Dh has no Spanish and my conversational level is very rusty but will no doubt come back and we are very keen to learn.

With regard to DD, I would like to ask any mumsnetters with bilingual children a few things. As our Spanish is going to be pretty basic and probably with pretty laughable accents for a while, should we not speak any Spanish to DD? She won't be going to a nursery type place until she is probably three, but I am hoping that we will find music, swimming classes etc as we have been doing here. Will that sort of thing be enough for her to pick up the Spanish? We hope to socialise with ENglish and Spanish people, but until she goes to nursery or school or whatever, I wonder if she will have enough opportunity to learn?

Any tips or information would be gratefully received, thanks.

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pupuce · 30/11/2002 21:36

I would suggest you stick to English with her.. she will pick up Spanish when she socialises.
My kids are being brought up in 3 languages DH's mother tongue, my mother tongue and English... well DS (3 yo) speaks English and understands my mother tongue well... not so hot with DH's mother tongue because he tends to speak English or French with DS....
I have done a bit of reading up on this topic because of our situation and have consistently read that you should speak your mother tongue to your child....

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SnoobyKat · 01/12/2002 08:31

Not an easy question but I agree with Pupuce. I also have read that you should only speak to child in your native tongue. Both DH and I are fluent French speakers and although we lived in France many years and DS was born there, by definition we are not bilingual so we only spoke to our son in English unless we were in the presence of French speakers. The only way for the child to become bilingual is to interact with the native speakers around him/her, other children, school etc. The key I believe is to expose them to the language as much as possible so that their ear adapts to the "music" of the new language. (Though everything I have read says not television) The best I believe is having a native speaking nanny/babysitter etc.

Just as an aside, our 14mo DS (we now no longer live in France so have spoken little French in his presence for over a month) did not seem perturbed when we suddenly swapped to French on meeting some French speaking friends recently. It was evident that something of the language had penetrated and he seemed more than happy to play alongside their slightly older son and he quite happily responded to simple commands when addressed in French, which surprised me greatly. I am very happy to have met some French speakers to carry on the language, and I have brought a nuber of French books with us, we also have some French music so I hope keep the language alive before he goes to school and has to start over again.

HTH Good Luck with your move.

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Lucy123 · 01/12/2002 10:58

I live in Spain and would second what Elf has said. We have a Spanish cleaner/childminder 3 mornings a week (so I can work) - dd doesn't speak yet but she hears lots of Spanish from her and English from us.

Even if you don't get a childminder, the Spanish love babies and your dd will hear lots of Spanish from women in the street!

But generally I wouldn't worry about it. Even if she doesn't get much Spanish beforehand, she'll pick it up at the nursery (though I'd be inclined to practice instructions/greetings with her in the weeks before she goes). Overall though, speak English to her as it will minimalise confusion.

buen viaje!

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Lucy123 · 01/12/2002 10:59

whoops - that would be I second what Snoobycat has said.

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MalmoMum · 01/12/2002 21:00

15 months seems like a good age, we are doing tri/bi lingunialism too. Your child will get to hear more spanish and get used to the sounds like getting used to hear a different tune.

English is such a predominant language these days that I wonder if the traditional notion of always talking to your child in your own native tongue always holds. I think things have changed very much in the last 20 years. I don't think it matters what your Spanish is like but I do think it would so you no harm in trying to do the basics you can manage in Spanish to her now.

Ds1, 2 years and 2 months is speaking pretty much equal Swedish and English. He understands his father speaking Norwegian and replies in Swedish. When we go to play group I speak to him in Swedish so that the other children know what is happening and include him.

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webmum · 02/12/2002 13:16

Our dd is also growing up bilingual, but we do not speak english to her unless there's people around who would not understand us. I've read that it is easier for the child if the same person sticks to one language only so they're able to identify say mum:english, dad:spanish and the same goes for situations, if say english is spoken at home and spanish at nursery. This is said to make it easier for them to understand that it's 2 different languages and which is which. (Otherwise it can be quite confusing, they wills till talk both languages, but it might take them a bit longer)

I remember there has been anotehr thread on this subject some time ago, try doing a search on mumsnet, there may be some more advice.

Good luck

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megg · 02/12/2002 14:49

Dp's sister lived in Belgium, spoke only english at home and the three children went to a Dutch school so had to learn to speak Dutch. At home they tended to speak english but when playing were overheard to speak in a crazy mix of dutch and english. They now go to an american school (which is a shame as they are not so hot on languages there) and had problems with the youngest (8 at the time) who was translating all his lessons into dutch then into english, into dutch again and then into english again. No wonder the poor love was confused. The eldest one is trying to keep her languages up and can now speak four fluently.

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Elf · 03/12/2002 19:45

Thank you everyone, it is reassuring to hear from others who are doing this. It's something I always wanted for my child/children but never thought they would have the chance. I'm sure she will be fine - naturally she's a very bright cookie Thanks again.

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