I'm wondering if anyone has any experiences they can share either as children or parents in a home where the parents have different native languages. Specifically, what steps were taken to ensure the children grew up speaking both languages well? There is no shortage of literature on this subject, and via Google and can find plenty of perspective, but I was wondering if anyone who posts here had any insight to share as well. What strategies were employed to expose the child to both languages, rather than just the primary one of the household? Any experiences people might share would be great to read about.
My brother and his wife are raising their kids with English and Burmes. English is primary, but Burmese gets sprinkled in here and there, mostly for common words like grandma/grandpa, hot, hurts, hungry. They know these words in both languages, and will use or respond to either one equally. The kids are still too young to put together full sentences, so I don't know what the strategy will be later on.
Growing up bilingual is incredibly beneficial later in life, and not just because you know two languages. I am no neurologist, but I've read/heard a lot about the benefits to brain development and cognition. There is a great podcast called All In The Mind that has a few episodes on this subject if you want to look them up.
I grew up in a multi-lingual home (I speak three languages). My parents and everyone around me spoke Marathi at home, and that was what they taught me. I picked up a whole lot of English and Hindi from watching TV and listening to cricket commentary to the point where I was reasonably fluent in both languages before I was ever formally taught either one.
I think the TV and the newspaper are very powerful tools in this regard. If you're in the United States, you've got English covered that way. As your kids start with school, they will get further exposure to English. The responsibility of the native language then falls on the parents, as well as the responsibility of instilling a desire in the children to *want* to be multilingual.
I don't have any children, and I probably won't have any for at least some time, but this is the blueprint I would follow, and hope that my kid picks up the benefits of knowing more than one language as he goes along, so his desire for learning a non-English language does not wane.
Originally posted by used2bcoolI think the TV and the newspaper are very powerful tools in this regard. If you're in the United States, you've got English covered that way. As your kids start with school, they will get further exposure to English. The responsibility of the native language then falls on the parents, as well as the responsibility of instilling a desire in the children to *want* to be multilingual. (edited by used2bcool on 11.9.13 0943)
Couldn't agree more. Also, using a family living in the U.S. as an example, if both parents can speak the foreign (for want of a better term) language, then that should be the language of the household, at least when the children are around. So, the kids are essentially immersed in the language at home. I know a lot of couples that do this. I also know some who didn't do this (because it is hard to do) and now really regret it because their kids are not bilingual and have a lot of trouble communicating with their grandparents. In addition, it's good to enroll the kids in some type of language school or hire a tutor so that they can read, write and learn grammar.
Another good strategy, particularly if one of the parents doesn't speak the foreign language well, is to divide it so that each parent has a language they speak to the child. For example, one couple we know is a Peruvian married to a Korean. So, the dad only speaks Spanish to their daughter and the mom only speaks Korean to the daughter. As an aside, the dad doesn't speak Korean at all, but the mom speaks Spanish, and they speak Spanish to each other. The daughter has picked up English from school, tv and friends. When she talks to her dad, she speaks Spanish, and when she talks to her mom, she speaks Korean. It's pretty cool to see. In fact, I know some other couples that do this as well.
One other thing to keep in mind is that kids in bilingual, and especially trilingual homes, generally speak later. It apparently takes a bit longer for their brains to process multiple languages. So, it can be a bit disconcerting when friends' kids are speaking at an age where yours aren't. But, when they do start speaking, they do so multilingually.
Bottom line is that it's harder on the parents, and it can delay speech development in the kid. But I think it's worth the effort. Good luck!!!
I'll just add that what people are saying here fits with what I learned in my chold development classes. Basically, when young children have an important relationship in a language, they usually learn that language well.
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