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Thread poster: dessivt
dessivt
English to Bulgarian
Jul 28, 2006

I need an advice from all the experts in this forum:it's about my daughter who is 4-years-old,born in the United States and speaks and understands English on a satisfactory level;I am a Bulgarian native and I am fluent in English;my husband is a Czech native and is also fluent in English.We currently live in the Czech Republic where my daughter goes to pre-school where they speak Czech language only.I don't speak Czech and my husband doesn't speak Bulgarian.We communicate in English,but I speak Bulgarian and English to my daughter and my husband speaks English and Czeck to her...so everything is a big mess.Please tell me is our approach correct?I prefer English to be the main language for my daughter but she doesn't speak well in neither one of all three.
I would appreciate every reply and advice from you,
dessivt


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Paul Peeraerts
Local time: 11:21
German to Dutch
+ ...
Golden rule Jul 28, 2006

There is a golden rule that is very easy. Always speak the same language under the same circumstances. E.g. you _always_ speak Bulgarian to your daughter when you are alone with her; your husband _always_ speaks Czech to her when he is alone with her; you always speak English to one another (even if the daughter listens); etc. One circumstance = one language.

But don't mix!


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Richard Creech  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:21
French to English
+ ...
An Opportunity Jul 28, 2006

Your child is in the enviable position of being able to acquire several languages naturally. Evidence suggests that children in multi-lingual environments will acquire all the languages that they have substantial contact with, although their language development may seem somewhat slow relative to their monolingual peers in the early years (they will catch up though). If you want English to be your daughter's primary language, you may want to consider enrolling her in an English-speaking school.

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Stephen Rifkind  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 12:21
Member (2004)
French to English
+ ...
No free lunch Jul 28, 2006

We speak Hebrish in the house since my wife is fluent in English also. The rule I head is bilingual, not to mention trilingual, children begin speaking later. If you are comforable with that, its fine. No more than 3 langauges.

Good luck.

Stephen Rifkind


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 03:21
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Agree with Paul Jul 28, 2006

Paul Peeraerts wrote:

There is a golden rule that is very easy. Always speak the same language under the same circumstances. E.g. you _always_ speak Bulgarian to your daughter when you are alone with her; your husband _always_ speaks Czech to her when he is alone with her; you always speak English to one another (even if the daughter listens); etc. One circumstance = one language.

But don't mix!


I agree with Paul - a child needs to know what the 'rules' are, otherwise it becomes too confusing. You and your husband can each speak your own language when you are alone with her. When the three of you are together, you can speak English. As both Richard and Stephen have pointed out, in trying to deal with three languages at once her language development may be a bit slower.

Having said that, if your daughter wants to express her feelings or tell you a story "hot off the press" in the "wrong" language, don't correct her - let it be. Your relationship with your daughter and her feeling free to express herself are much more important than how many languages she learns.


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Catherine Bolton  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:21
Member (2002)
Italian to English
+ ...
Not always the case Jul 28, 2006

I certainly agree that learning several languages at that age is a wonderful thing!
Richard Creech wrote:

Your child is in the enviable position of being able to acquire several languages naturally. Evidence suggests that children in multi-lingual environments will acquire all the languages that they have substantial contact with, although their language development may seem somewhat slow relative to their monolingual peers in the early years (they will catch up though).


That said, every child is different. I was told that my daughter (I'm American, her dad is Italian) would start talking later and have more difficulty. Not true. She made mistakes like "spugna" for spoon (it means "sponge" in Italian) and would say "I went at home" (prepositions are always tough!), but spoke very early, and switched languages according to the speaker.
The one rule in the house, though, was that I never spoke to her in Italian (still don't, and she's 19!). I've found that if she initiates a rapport in one language it's hard to change to another. I think this is probably true in general.
My daughter even sends me text messages in English, because it simply doesn't occur to her to text ME in Italian! Mom = English and Dad = Italian.
FWIW,
Catherine


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ahmadwadan.com  Identity Verified
Kuwait
Local time: 12:21
English to Arabic
+ ...
Risky options... Jul 29, 2006

If I am in your place, after askign advice from colleagues I'll consult a specialist, otherwise my daughter may become a victim of wrong experiment.

Best wishes
Ahmed Wadan

[Edited at 2006-07-29 08:21]


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Eva Middleton  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:21
German to English
consistency is the key Jul 29, 2006

I agree with Paul here - I don't think 3 languages are a problem per se but you do have to be very consistent, otherwise it all becomes a mess and could be detrimental.

I would not assume that a language delay is inevitable and would look into it more - I have 3 (bilingual) children and the two typically developing ones do not have a language delay in their main language. The other one has a hearing impairment and a learning disability so she's allowed to have a language delay.

There are quite a few books now on multilingualism - 'growing up with two languages', 'the bilingual family' etc., and whilst their main focus is obviously on bilingualism, they also cover trilingualism.

the main problem - in my experience - with calling in the professionals, i.e. speech therapists, is that most of them have no experience of multilingualism and tend to view it with unjustified suspicion.

Paul Peeraerts wrote:

There is a golden rule that is very easy. Always speak the same language under the same circumstances. E.g. you _always_ speak Bulgarian to your daughter when you are alone with her; your husband _always_ speaks Czech to her when he is alone with her; you always speak English to one another (even if the daughter listens); etc. One circumstance = one language.

But don't mix!


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Refugio
Local time: 02:21
Spanish to English
+ ...
Paul is right for several reasons Jul 29, 2006

As a teacher with extensive training in bilingual/multilingual issues, as well as the mother of five bilingual children, I offer you my advice with the caveat that each child is unique. First of all, children should always (where possible) hear at least some native language input. She will get native Bulgarian from you (when the two of you are alone together) and native Czech from your husband (when the two of them are alone together or in social gatherings where Czech is spoken).

Since you and your husband communicate in English, you should continue to do so when she is present, and address her in English as well during family time. If you want English to be her main language, you will probably have to enroll her in an English-language school or get a native-English-speaking nanny. You don't say how long you plan to stay in Czechoslovakia, but if it will be permanent or for a long time you might want to think twice about trying to make English her main language at this time. She will need to interact comfortably with her peers, especially if she is an only child. She can always get up to speed in English later, if you go back to the United States or to another English-speaking country.

In the United States we see many parents who are fluent but non-native in English, attempting with the best of intentions to speak only English to their children. No matter how fluent they are, however, there is usually less richness and conceptual depth in their English than in their native language. If deprived of native-language input (from whatever source), the child's cognitive development would be slowed and those wonderful early-learning years at home would not be used to greatest advantage. They would miss out on the folk tales, the proverbs, the wordplay and humor, the rhymes and rhythms, the quirky idioms that exist in each parent's native language.

Do remember, though, that each child is different. Some thrive on variety, some need the security of structure. Since you say that your daughter "doesn't speak well" in any one of the three languages she is exposed to, she probably needs structure and consistency. But three languages are not too much! The four-year-old brain is capable of amazing things! Just be sure to factor in her four-year-old emotions as well, and to talk with her about the language situation. She herself will probably provide you with a lot of insight.


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George Hopkins
Local time: 11:21
Swedish to English
Paul is right Aug 21, 2006

Children are able to learn several languages in a natural manner -- with the possibility of achieving that very rare skill of translating to and from the several languages concerned.

My wife is Swedish and I am English and when our children were small the the prevailing advice in Sweden was one language only. So we spoke only Swedish at home. Something that I have come to regret.

My daughter, who is a music teacher, also teaches English.
My son is a freelance translator, English into Swedish.
Just think of the missed possibility.
His child (another on the way) will probably learn three languages from the start.
Wonderful.


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