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How do you talk to your kid at the playground?
Thread poster: Elizabeth Adams

Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 07:47
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
Jun 16, 2004

I'm trying to do the OPOL thing because my stepmother, who is a linguist, says that it is best. And my husband was raised bilingually in a family that DIDN'T do OPOL and he never learned the ML.

So anyway...

We live in Moscow, and when I speak English to my son at the playground I feel like we're missing out on the whole social experience that goes on. Parents don't come up and talk to us because they are shy and think that I might not speak Russian. I'm wondering if the same thing will happen later on with kids: will my son always be playing by himself because his mommy talks to him in English?

What do you do at that age where your kid plays with other kids but you are kind of hanging around policing the situation? Do you speak the ML to fit in or stick with the mL because that's how your kid knows you best?

Am I making too big a deal of this? (probably)

Elizabeth
Mom to Sergei (10/01/04)
Me: English, Dad: Russian

[Edited at 2004-06-16 18:22]

[Edited at 2004-06-16 18:23]


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Alison Schwitzgebel
France
Local time: 16:47
Member (2002)
German to English
+ ...
You have a very advanced little boy!!! Jun 16, 2004

Just six months old, and he's already hanging out down at the playground!!! Wow!

We sometimes have the same problem with our English-speaking kids in Germany. Not in our village, because everyone here (all 180 souls) is on first-name terms with us, but when we go to other playgrounds in other towns.

What we do is to directly address the parents in German - to say something like "that's such a cute dress she's wearing" or whatever. It gets you talking to the other parents - and talking to people is important if you spend most of your day cooped up in an office staring at a computer screen. And it makes them realize that you speak the lingo.

FWIW

Alison


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Graciela Carlyle  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
difficult question Jun 16, 2004

Elizabeth Adams wrote:
What do you do at that age where your kid plays with other kids but you are kind of hanging around policing the situation? Do you speak the ML to fit in or stick with the mL because that's how your kid knows you best?


Hi Elizabeth,

It's a difficult question.
I am Argentinean and my husband is British, my kids (10+11) are Argentineans.
We've been living in England for 3½ years now. They've adapted very quickly and smoothly.
I talk to them in Spanish as much as possible but they refuse to talk in Spanish when there's people around ("we're in England and everybody speaks English, so we speak English" - their words). When we go to Argentina, they speak Spanish "because everyone speaks Spanish".
The fact is that they don't like to be heard speaking in a different language. It's their way to blend in and I accept that.

On the other hand, at home, many times I have to pretend I don't understand English because I talk to them in Spanish (they understand) but they reply in English !!! and I want them to talk in Spanish !!!

Anyway, I think it's necessary to find a balance, where they learn and speak both languages and don't feel out of place or embarrassed in any situation.

My 2 pennies
Grace.


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RHELLER
United States
Local time: 08:47
French to English
+ ...
decide on your priorities Jun 16, 2004

Dear Elizabeth,

I am a U.S. citizen and my husband is French. My sons were born in Paris but we came to live in the U.S. when they were just 3 and 5.

You are right about the social situation. It will have an impact and some of the other kids might think your kid is a little odd. I wouldn't let that stop you; your child will develop a part of his/her brain which might, otherwise, remain unchallenged.

Parents must make a decision and stick to it. My sons (19 and 21) still speak French because we made it a priority. Their grandmother and cousins speak very little English, so it is important.

They both studied additional languages as well. Being multi-lingual, as we all know, is a valuable asset.

Good luck!


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Fabiana Papastefani-Pezzoni  Identity Verified
Romania
Local time: 17:47
Member (2003)
English to Albanian
+ ...
ML....... Jun 16, 2004

I speak in Albanian to them because, first of all this is what they speak best, second because this is what it comes first to me (and them some times), even though when we are all together there (my Italian husband too) they speak in Italian to us, even though my husband speaks some Albanian. Confusing, ha?

Kids get to mix with each other any way, so this is the first reason to stop warring. Second, just as Alison said, you get to say something to the parents, either in the local language if one speak some, or in English (or other) and see if they speak it, too. In my case, in Kiev, Ukraine, my kids would start speaking in English to other kids (my girls are 6 and 3 and a half) and even if no one happens not to speak any English, this doesn't seem to really bother them. They get to handle it some how. Isn't this marvelous?

Speaking each of the parents the ML? Yes, definitively! This is the only way to preserve the language to the kids. But believe me, it is not just that. It is also cartoons, films, games, books, traditional/cultural elements to be introduced to them occasionally, clothes and all that staff. Just talking will start not being sufficient and he/she will more and more speak the other language, the one used at school, the one that the other friends speak, and so on. I have now learned that.

Fabiana


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:47
Member
English
+ ...
Stick to your plan! Jun 16, 2004

Would be my advice. Nobody should ever feel uncomfortable about speaking their own language to their own child. No matter where they are!

I don't know how Russians react to freigners speaking another language in their presence, but the Catalans here in our village have been very supportive of my efforts with Jana and at the playground they are more likely to be agog when Jana understands me and speaks back to me - than offended.

As for interaction with other kids - well, that'll come naturally as your wee one develops mastery of the local ML.

Don't worry, the gift you are giving your child is worth far more than any perceived criticism.


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Jesús Marín Mateos  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
Bilingualism Jun 16, 2004

I thought the whole point of being bilingual was to be able to speak to people who speak different languages...
In the playground (AND EVERYWHERE!!!!!!) I speak to my son and daughter in Spanish and when someone comes round I speak to them in English....and in turns I speak Spanish to my children and English to whoever I am with....it's not a problem and I am actually proud of it and want my children to be proud of it too...what would you be bilingual for otherwise??
Jesus.


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Larissa Dinsley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 15:47
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
an advice from practice Jun 17, 2004

Elizabeth,

From my understanding, OPOL means you have to speak English to your child but it does not mean that you have to speak English with everybody else if your son is around. You can speak to other children on the playground in Russian. It does help! Kids are normally incredibly curious and do try to be helpful.

Just wait until he starts talking and you'd be surprised how smart little kids are with languages.

Our 2 year old daughter now can diffirentiate between Russian and English and actually translates! When I tell her something in Russian, she immediatelly repeats it in English to her father saying: "Mama said such and such" and vise versa. When she sees something new, she would ask both of us in turn "What's this?" and "Êòî ýòî?"

Ititially, she spoke Russian (her ML at the time) to children but gradually worked it out that they do not understand her and now talks to them predominantly in English (she still mixes the 2 languages occasionally). We also think it is important that she is aware of the fact that she can speak 2 languages as early as possible. We actually tell her that mama speaks Russian and papa speaks English. We would say "Mama says ðûáêà and papa says fish".

The whole process is extremely fascinating. When we play in the park with other children I may tell her "Ñêàæè ìàëü÷èêó ïðèâåò" and she would go "Hello, boy"!

However, it can get complicated and you will have looks from other children (and parents!) when they realise that you are speaking a different language between yourselves. In such cases, I would try to make an effort to tell kids who are playing with us what's going on. There will be lots of opportunities for socialising when children actually get active on the playground.

It also helps if your son is frequently taken to the playground by his Russian speaking father or grandmother as it is easier for them to help him to make friends with Russian speaking kids.

And, finally, if you stick to the same place, people will get to know you which makes things a lot easier.

About myself: I am a Ukrainian married to a Brit and living in London. And we spend most of our 'play time' in Greenwich park which is absolutely beautiful!

Larissa
Mum to Sophia (17/03/02)
OPOL
Mum: RUS, Dad: ENG


[Edited at 2004-06-17 00:38]


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:47
English to Spanish
+ ...
On the Border Jun 17, 2004

It's not so much of a problem. Spanish at home, English at school and both in the community, at least on the U.S. side. The problem is that until recently there has been no emphasis on teaching both languages in the schools, just teaching English and negating Spanish. An encouraging sign is that at least some programs are now starting to that end, but they are still limited.

Despite that, our daughter, now an adult, has turned out to be quite competent in both languages.


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 07:47
English to French
+ ...
relax! Jun 17, 2004

you're right, you're worrying too much. in my own very international family, everybody speaks all the languages they're comfortable with. some of us kids are now bi- or trilingual adults, others are not, and our children are the same way. basically, I don't think any method will keep a child from learning languages.
Sarah, OPML


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Kit Cree  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:47
Member (2003)
French to English
+ ...
cultural curiosity Jun 17, 2004

maybe there's a cultural difference here - Berni's experience in cataluña is similar to ours on the other side of the country. i think the spanish are very open and curious and, in my experience, will come right up to us and ask us which language we're speaking and an hour later we're still watching our kids and chatting away. it helps that many areas of spain are increasingly bilingual (with regional languages) so the whole '2 languages at the swings' issue isn't so serious. also kids start learning english at 3 here so many kids want to try it out on us!

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snowhite
Local time: 15:47
English to Croatian
+ ...
Bilingualism protects the brain against the ravages of age! Jun 17, 2004

An interesting article...

Language is brain food
From The Times
June 15, 2004

LONDON: Learning to speak a second language does not just broaden the mind – it can also protect the brain against the ravages of age.

When bilingual people age, their brains decline much slower than
those who are fluent only in their mother tongue, it was reported yesterday in the journal Psychology and Ageing.

The research was done in Toronto, Canada, where about 11 per cent of the population are bilingual.

Bilingual older people have faster reaction times than those who
speak only one language and are less easily distracted while
completing mental agility tasks. The findings add to growing evidence that taking part in activities that stretch the mind has a lasting effect on brain health.

Previous research has shown that hobbies as diverse as gardening, ballroom dancing, crossword puzzles and chess offer a measure of protection against Alzheimer's disease, dementia and other age-related cognitive decline.

These conditions are also less common among people with a high level of academic achievement.

The study found multiple languages significantly improve performance at an older age. Further experiments are planned to investigate
whether learning a language to a level short of bilingual still
protects against age-related cognitive decline.


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Martine Etienne  Identity Verified
Belgium
Local time: 16:47
Member (2003)
English to French
+ ...
Try to be understood by most people around there Jun 17, 2004

If you want to have a social life and if you know the language spoken at the playground, then speak with your children the language that will be understood by most people otherwise people will not come to you. I personnaly consider that it is not polite to talk in a language that the surrounding persons do not understand.
Learning languages, being bilingual is not that much important if when you are out, you are not understood....
At home, do as you feel comfortable.


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Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:47
French to English
mental playground scuffles Jun 17, 2004

No problem here at all. My kids are at a local school (Carnac in Brittany) and the same playground has half Malgache, Argentinans, Dutch and English kids. They all muck around and play in French. Roughly half of each class also does Breton. And next year, they are offering German from 8 years and up. No complexes here about speaking in any langauge to my kids. In any event, it's basically jibberish from my mouth whether it's English or French!

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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:47
Member
English
+ ...
Politeness? Jun 17, 2004

Martine Etienne wrote:
I personnaly consider that it is not polite to talk in a language that the surrounding persons do not understand.


I think you have a point when someone is nodding towards you or pointing at you and saying something in another language that is obviously a comment about you. But when you are trying to achieve the goal of encouraging your child's bilingual skills and you are only talking to your child - it is really nobody's business but your own what language you speak in. After all, isn't it considered impolite to listen to others' conversations in whatever language they speak?

(Though here is Catalunya people shout the most intimate details at the top of their voices! I have heard comments like "And my bastard husband was with that bitch again last night!" shouted over the hubbub of our local bar. Here they haven't discovered the phenomenon - well known in England - that the quieter you speak the more chance you have of being listened to)


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