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Romanian-American little boy and worried mom
Thread poster: syracusa
syracusa
English to Romanian
+ ...
Sep 15, 2006

Hello everyone,

So refreshing to see all these people from my terribly missed Europe! ... (though I am still not sure how active this forum is).

I need to ask some advice and opinions regarding my 1 year old son's situation.

I am Romanian, husband is American, we currently live in the USA - with me desperately hoping that we will one day be able to move across the ocean - and we are raising our son bilingual.

My problem is that I believe he is not sufficiently exposed to English and that he may have problems once he gets out into the "larger world" (kindergarden, preschool, etc).

First of all, I work full-time and my son spends all day with my mom who, obviously, speaks Romanian to him. In the evening he also hears me talking a lot of Romanian. When my mom will leave in November he will stay with my sister during the day who will come to replace my mom. Again, lots of Romanian.

Second of all, my family is very, very talkative.
Typical Romanian, constantly verbalizing everything, with tons of opinions, questions, inquisitive, temperamental, yes...even critical when appropriate (and darn proud of it) - well...you get the message.

For Lord's sake, if there is anything we are good at - talking it is!!

On the other hand, my American husband is the complete opposite of that. He is not a very verbal person, he is more of a doer and a fact-based speaker. (Talk about cultural stereotypes...).
He only communicates the minimum necessary and rarely speculates or throws opinions out there. He grew up in a family where the typical messages were "keep opinions to yourself", "everyone and everything is nice hence no need to comment on anything", "if you don't have anything nice to say just don't say anything at all"...and the like. Conversations in his family are painfully superficial...and I usually have to push him to get "deeper" into a dialogue - which he is capable of but does not come to him naturally.

Needless to say such ideas, attitudes and ways drive me up the wall and have even become somewhat "weak" points in our marriage. He is a wonderful man in so many respects but I must say that we are completely incomaptible when it comes to the amount of speaking we do.

The problem is that recently I have become worried because
I think Alex, our son, should hear waaaay more English than he does from his dad.
I just feel that he doesn't label, verbalize or describe nearly enough to our son so he can be exposed to the right amount of English.

As for Alex, he just turned one and is already saying a few words and understands tons of them (but of course, in Romanian).
In English...probably nothing.

People keep reassuring me that he will go to daycare/preschool and will learn English there but I am afraid that by the time he starts daycare (at about 3), he will be behind other kids when it comes to English and the last thing I need is for him to start his little "social life" feeling "lesser than" or "different from" the rest.

I could, of course, speak to him in English too (I speak it at native level) - but I don't want to because I am afraid he will mix up languages and it will get even tougher.

I want him to understand that mom is Romanian, she speaks Romanian and this is how things should stay.

Please let me know what you think! Am I worried for nothing? Is it true that daycare will take care of everything when it comes to English?

After all, if there's one language that anyone needs to know darn well in today's world, it is English. Am I doing my son a disfavor by exposing him so much to Romanian and so little to English?

His dad is trying hard to speak more but it is simply not in his nature to be as talkative as we are.

Thank you so much for your thoughts!


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Claire Titchmarsh  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:46
Italian to English
+ ...
Chill ! Sep 15, 2006

Hello, I also have a little boy called Alex, he is also 1 but all he does is make dog and cat noises, so please don't worry!!!

I think you're very lucky to have the amount of input of Romanian that you do, living in the US. It will mean that your child really will be bilingual.

I have the opposite problem, I am English and live in Italy but none of my family do. The only exposure my children get to English is through me, and also by incessantly playing English nursery rhymes and reading books, DVDs etc. My daughter who will be 3 in a few months is surrounded by Italian speakers all day but still speaks English when she feels like it and has a very wide vocabulary.

Also, less is more. You learn languages in bite-sized chunks, so if your husband is less communicative and tends to use one-liners, you'll probably find your son picks them up very quickly.

You'll probably find that as he gets a bit older and you go to the park with other children etc. he will get more used to hearing English, so it won't be a total shock when he goes to playschool.

Good luck!


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Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:46
French to English
Stories... Sep 15, 2006

Hi syracusa,

I don't have kids but I have discussed this topic with a lot of people and I myself grew up bilingual - I don't remember a time when I didn't speak both languages.
Personally, I think once your son starts daycare or school he will be so exposed to English that he will improve in leaps and bounds. Their minds are like sponges at that age! He might even have a Romanian accent at first, but it will quickly disappear.

One suggestion I have: if your husband doesn't like talking, perhaps he could compensate by setting aside a special (English) story reading time every day?


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Marie-Céline GEORG  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 00:46
English to French
+ ...
Don't worry, he'll learn English very fast Sep 15, 2006

Hi,
If your son is only 1 year old, I don't think you should worry about him learning English. Even if your husband is not very talkative he's not completely silent with his son, is he? So your baby is already familiar with this other language and as soon as he spends time with other people he'll start learning it without worrying about it.
Maybe you'll have some surprises when he's 4 or 5 years old and starts refusing to speak one or the other language with some people just to annoy you, but this doesn't last
Then he will shift from Romanian to English according to the person he's talking to. If people don't mix both language, he most probably won't mix them either.
So relax and enjoy your little boy!

Marie-Céline


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Don't worry Sep 15, 2006

My bilingual son survived and will be starting university soon. I always spoke English with him, but he picked up Swiss-German when he needed it in pre-kindergarten. Natasha's idea that your boy's American father should read the good night story is great. My husband did that in German and our son profited from this special time with Daddy in many many ways - not just linguisitically. (It was also a nice break for me).
But, dear Syracusa, try not to pine for home, but make your home where you and your family are at the moment. I wasted a year that way, life too short.
Best wishes from Switzerland
Linda


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syracusa
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you so much Sep 15, 2006

Thank you so much for your replies, I really appreciate them. I didn't expect them so quickly !

Claire Titchmarsh wrote:
Also, less is more. You learn languages in bite-sized chunks, so if your husband is less communicative and tends to use one-liners, you'll probably find your son picks them up very quickly.


Actually, I am aware of this aspect: ther fact that babies need one-liners and clear, articulate pronounciation. It's actually my mom and I who do a lot of this. My husband is the one who rolls together the few phrases that he tells him.
He plays with him a lot and is very, very affectionate with his son (he is a great dad, emotionally speaking) but he just simply forgets to E-NUN-CI-ATE.

He goes "blah blah blah" guickly - and done. Or makes funny, squicky noises with him but not too many words.
Go figure...:)

natasha
... if your husband doesn't like talking, perhaps he could compensate by setting aside a special (English) story reading time every day?


I am trying to get him to do that more often - but that usually falls on me and my mom too because we are the ones putting him to bed, etc. We'll have to do a better job with "daddy reading time".

Marie-Celine wrote:
Maybe you'll have some surprises when he's 4 or 5 years old and starts refusing to speak one or the other language with some people just to annoy you, but this doesn't last


I wouldn't be surprised given Romanian is not a politically powerful or "status" language.
Here in the US Spanish is practical to know, French is "oh, so up there"...(but "shows" better for girls than for boys), German...is well, German (good European stuff to know)..but Romanian? One of those "who???" languages...
Let alone many Americans ask me what kind of language Romanians speak.
But I don't want to start with my US-related rants.. that's a completely different story which probably should go to another forum.

But if you all are saying that he will do well with English too, I feel better.
By the way, anyone has had to deal with verbal incompatibilities with the spouse?
I mean, one of you is a major talker and the other is more of a ...one-liner, concise, to the point, not into debating or speculating, etc? ...

Thank you again so much.


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Henry Hinds  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:46
English to Spanish
+ ...
The problem will be the opposite Sep 15, 2006

As soon as your son gets out there and starts learning English, he will do so very quickly and will probably start to reject and forget Romanian. Therefore, you may have to take him to Romania for periods of time later for him to maintain it.

We raised a bilingual daughter (English and Spanish) - Nothing but Spanish from Dad, Mom, Aunt and much Spanish in the community with all media, TV, etc. in both languages because we live on the US-Mexico border, on the US side.

As soon as she got to school she learned English quickly, however she is now an adult and we continue to communicate in Spanish only. She is educated in English but fortunately her level of Spanish is much higher than most of her peers raised in Spanish-speaking homes.

Being bilingual is something natural in our part of the world, and believe me, those who are not are at a severe disadvantage!


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syracusa
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Keeping up the "lesser" language Sep 15, 2006

Henry Hinds wrote:

As soon as your son gets out there and starts learning English, he will do so very quickly and will probably start to reject and forget Romanian. Therefore, you may have to take him to Romania for periods of time later for him to maintain it.

We raised a bilingual daughter (English and Spanish) - Nothing but Spanish from Dad, Mom, Aunt and much Spanish in the community with all media, TV, etc. in both languages because we live on the US-Mexico border, on the US side.

As soon as she got to school she learned English quickly, however she is now an adult and we continue to communicate in Spanish only. She is educated in English but fortunately her level of Spanish is much higher than most of her peers raised in Spanish-speaking homes.

Being bilingual is something natural in our part of the world, and believe me, those who are not are at a severe disadvantage!


I definitely intend to keep up the Romanian. We go home to Romania every year and we also have my family visit over here. My sister is applying for a Master's here in the US so I hope to have her here too - so he will hopefully continue to hear lots of Romanian.
On the other hand, our longer-term goal is to relocate to Europe (at this point I would go ANYWHERE in Europe, granted we can find appropriate jobs).
If that happens, who knows what the language challenges will be? ...Either way, I am looking forward to getting that opportunity.


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Olga Dubeshka  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:46
Russian to English
+ ...
are you talking about me ? :) Sep 15, 2006

HI syracusa,

And first off let me assure you - you are not the only mom in US with this problem !!
I have been wrecking my brain for the past 19 months , since my son Evan was born, on how to raise him equally bilingual .

I am from Belarus ( almost neighbors !!, and my husband is american . However, I want to tell you : your situation is really better than mine ! I wish my son would speak russian.
But, alas, my son speaks English only, no matter how many russian books I read to him. I try to talk to him in Russian, but it really is hard (I have to almost force myself to) since I have absolutely no family here, and the few RU friends here have almost forgotten their russian ! I truly feel like I am loosing the battle in trying to make Ru stay alive in my house. I am afraid my son will never speak Ru , at least not well, and it makes me feel very bad...

You , on the other hand, have a wonderful opportunity to
make sure your child has roots of your native language deep in his childhood. I would much rather have it this way, because knowing how much exposure to English your son will receive in daycare /preschool , I guarantee you he will be speaking "american" in a jiffy! Hopefully, Romanian will not suffer because of that.

As any pediatrician will tell you , kids have an incredible ability to learn/absorb ANY language or info with great speed. Do not worry about it so much! If you do feel your baby could benefit from learning some English, may I suggest "Seasame Street" , or some other kids TV shows.
Also, you can join YMCA club or "My Gym" , or just visit playground regularly - he will hear plenty of English there,
even if mostly from you talking to other moms.

Your husband, BTW, has a "strong silent type" syndrom, that my husband also displays. I figured it is just who he is , and forcing him to "talk" is fruitless. BTW, many men simply
hate / do not like babytalk, and even more men simply do not know what they should talk about with their 1 yr. old sons ( I know, I know, how hard can it be ...but men are simply differently wired than we are). My husband has no idea how to read kid`s books , and would rather watch football with Evan... But I figured some ways to get him to spend "quality" time together : something physical , something that includes ball, soccer, running , jumping, building blocks or even "horsee - husband" ... Also I regularly send the two to visit "Barnes and Nobles " kids section that has a huge train set or to a park. I think men are more "hands on ",and would rather do 100 push-ups then talk of feelings and such (at least that`s what my husband is like!) We can try to change them , but...at the end we just manipulate them

I hope you will find smth. that will help you . In the meanwhile, all the best to Alex ! I am sure he will do great.
And also , you have inspired me to start putting more effort into making sure Evan knows his АБВГД too !


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Liliana Roman-Hamilton  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:46
English to Italian
Not to worry Sep 15, 2006

Hi Syracusa

I have a 100% Romanian father, my mom was Italian, but she was born in Ploiesti from an Italian family and she lived in Romania until she was 14 (then, when the communists took over, she and her entire family had to leave Romania and go back to Italy because they could not maintain their Italian citizenship in Romania).

My father has always spoken to me in Romanian as still now, after 38 years he's been living in Italy, his Italian is very very scanty (he is a loner, not very sociable and he has never attempted to learn Italian in a decent way, just the basics). My mom on the other end would always talk to me in Italian even if she could speak Romanian perfectly, so I grew up speaking both languages.

When I started school, Italian became my leading language, but I can still understand Romanian perfectly and speak it very well.

I can only join the other colleagues in reassuring you not to worry, Alex will learn English perfectly once he starts school, it's normal. He'll have schoolmates and friends, and he will still always maintain the knowledge of Romanian, as it's something he has acquired naturally since he was born. If he speaks it with you and your relatives, I don't think he'll lose the knowledge of the language.


Sarutari din California!


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Sophia Hundt  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:46
Russian to English
+ ...
I agree Sep 16, 2006

I expect that would happen as well.

Henry Hinds wrote:

As soon as your son gets out there and starts learning English, he will do so very quickly and will probably start to reject and forget Romanian. Therefore, you may have to take him to Romania for periods of time later for him to maintain it.

We raised a bilingual daughter (English and Spanish) - Nothing but Spanish from Dad, Mom, Aunt and much Spanish in the community with all media, TV, etc. in both languages because we live on the US-Mexico border, on the US side.

As soon as she got to school she learned English quickly, however she is now an adult and we continue to communicate in Spanish only. She is educated in English but fortunately her level of Spanish is much higher than most of her peers raised in Spanish-speaking homes.

Being bilingual is something natural in our part of the world, and believe me, those who are not are at a severe disadvantage!


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xxxTatiana Nero  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:46
Russian
+ ...
mom of a Russian-American Alex, 5 Sep 16, 2006

Hello syracusa

Your talkative and opinionated Romanian family is a huge asset for your son in terms of natural language environment. You will have a lot more trouble keeping his Romanian alive than teaching him English. English he will pick up on his own without any help, Romanian will die without enormous efforts on your behalf.

I speak from experience, I have 3 bilingual children, 2 I brought from Russia (at the age of 11 and 5, respectively), they picked up English in no time, took me a lot of effort to keep their Russian alive.

Alex was born in America, grew up in a bilingual household, but his first language is still English because of daycare and school.

--

There is a support groups where parents of bilingual (or multilingual) children exchange their problems and advice:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/multilingualmunchkin/


Good luck!

Tatiana


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Stephanie Mitchel  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:46
French to English
Another helpful site: Sep 16, 2006

http://www.multilingualchildren.org/index.html

I'm *trying* to speak only French to my 15-month-old son, and I'm bringing him to a French-language playgroup, and so on, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be an uphill climb once his world gets oh so much bigger than Mommy and Daddy (who speaks English only). Sometimes I think I'm nuts to be doing this, but I'm pretty stubborn. Since he hasn't said any official words yet, I don't know which he'll gravitate to first.

Here's to experiments!

Stephanie.


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ViktoriaG  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:46
English to French
+ ...
Make sure he gets as much Romanian as he can Sep 17, 2006

I'm not going to repeat what others have said before me in detail. Suffice to say that once his little world broadens, he will be exposed to much more English than Romanian. The paper is in English, so is the TV, so are the billboards - and all his friends will be English-speaking, even if many of them will be of another origin.

You need to make sure he gets perfectly fluent in Romanian before he goes out there, and you will also have to keep practicing with him once he's out in the open. Otherwise, strange as it may sound, he will eventually lose his Romanian. Buy him books, videotapes and expose him to Romanian language AND culture as much as you can. Travel with him to your country as often as you can afford. You only get to do this once, and if you fail, you will not have a second chance - kids grow up fast.

Good luck!


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syracusa
English to Romanian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Maintaining the "lesser" language Sep 18, 2006

Olga Dubeshka wrote:
Your husband, BTW, has a "strong silent type" syndrom, that my husband also displays. I figured it is just who he is , and forcing him to "talk" is fruitless. BTW, many men simply
hate / do not like babytalk, and even more men simply do not know what they should talk about with their 1 yr. old sons ...


Deear Olga,

Thank you for your post. Everyone wrote such encouraging notes, now I really do feel better.

I am sorry to hear that you are having a hard time keeping up the Russian. I just happen to be one of those people that care A LOT about "root preservation". This is why I was determined from the beginning to speak Romanian to my child.
I had only a brief period after coming to the US when I imagined - like the young, inexperienced thing that I was - that complete "assimilation" into a new culture is actually possible. Maybe it is for some people but personally, I don't believe it. Trying to completely assimilate and just leave your old cultural "self" behind (language included) wreacks such havock on your personal identity is not even funny. At least that's what happened to me when I attempted it.

I love English as a second/foreign language (and I dare to say I know it very well) but my "self" will never be "English". This is when I realized that Alex will have to communicate in Romanian with his mommy or else.

I think that the key to maintaining a low-status language in the middle of the all-powerful English territory is to have family and friends around from that particular community.
We are making special efforts to have my family here as often as possible and we go to Romania virtually every year. I have also been making efforts to meet other Romanian or half-Romanian couples in Atlanta with kids. One of them (she is Romanian, he is French) we met at the hospital when I was giving birth to my son. Theirs was born right across the hallway, 4 hours before ours. Now we have become friends - and we hope that the little boys will grow up to be friends too. They are both spoken Romanian to by their mothers.

So I am hopeful when it comes to Romanian. But my father keeps telling me that he is afraid that he might be bullied by kids when he gets out in the world and he will only know Romanian and too little English. He keeps saying how kids are so cruel ...so he's the one who planted this "not enough English" fear in my head. So much more that I am the type capable of ...I don't know what... if it ever came to having my son bullied by other kids.

As for my husband...well... not so much the "strong, silent
type", because he is a very sentimental, sweet, affectionate man (so we're not talking "tough cowboy" here). It's just that he never mastered the art of conversation. Otherwise, believe it or not, he does more baby talk than I do with our son. Go figure.

Where do you live?





[Edited at 2006-09-18 13:49]

[Edited at 2006-09-18 15:07]


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