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Thread poster: Milos Prudek

Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:16
English to Czech
+ ...
Feb 27, 2007

Hi,

About a year ago I launched a site dedicated to bilingual upbringing. The site is regularly updated. I would like to invite everyone to visit bilingualbaby.eu and share ideas how to improve the site.


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Kobe Vander Beken  Identity Verified
Peru
Local time: 15:16
English to Dutch
+ ...
interesting, but... Feb 27, 2007

Interesting site, but I wonder where you got the information from. I've heard a lot bilingual education, and it interests me, since I have a three-year-old son who we (me and my wife) are trying to raise bilingual. We are applying the OPOL-method, or One Parent One Language method.
You state that by using this method the child will be perfectly bilingual and that it will learn both languages equally well. I am not sure whether this is correct. Since my son is in an early stage concerning language acquisition. However, I notice that my son tends to speak one language better than the other, i.e. the language of the country he lives in, and the language I always speak with him. Since his mother is the only one who speaks Spanish with my son I notice that the acquisition of that language goes much slower. I can imagin that if my son keeps going to school in Belgium, and thus be educated in Dutch, his Dutch will always be better than his Spanish.
There is another theory that says that bilingual people do speak both languages at a very high level, but that they never acquire the native level for any of their two languages. It is said (and studies have been conducted regarding this) that a monolingual native speaker's level will always be higher than a bilingual native speaker of a certain language...
What are your opinions? Is this true or not?
How do translators, many of whom are bilingual, feel about this?


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:16
Member
English
+ ...
Keep at it OPOL pays off in the long run Feb 27, 2007

Hi Kobe,

I have been there and done that. My daughter was in my care for her first year and her first words were uttered in English. Then, when she went to nursery, Catalan took over. Staying with Grandma brought on her Spanish and she chats to Mum in that tongue.

As she seemed to have stopped developing her English (despite obviously understanding it when I spoke to her) I became distraught and considered abandoning my efforts.

However, the good people on the Bilingual Families Mailing List encouraged me not to give up and so I kept plugging away despite any obvious results for the next two years.

Then a holiday in Britain led to Jana having to interact with English kids to have someone to play with in the street and... guess what... it had all been on hold in that little brain of hers. Within a fortnight she was chatting away to the kids in English and has spoken that language to me ever since.

Has she a native level? I guess not, but as she is only eight and we are currently on the third installment of Harry Potter as our book at bedtime... Well I am more than happy with her progress.

By keeping at it I have achieved my dream of communicating with my child without having to use a language which although I am fluent in, I will never be 100% at ease in.

Keep at it.

BTW - as I understand it, bilingualism is the norm in most of the world.


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:16
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Bilingualism is the norm Feb 27, 2007

Berni said: "bilingualism is the norm in most of the world."

This fact cannot be overestimated. It means that most people in the world are bilingual. Monolingualism is the exception, not the norm.


Interesting site, but I wonder where you got the information from.

Scientific studies, both printed and quoted on the web. A book by a language scientist who brough up his two kids in his second language.


You state that by using this method the child will be perfectly bilingual and that it will learn both languages equally well. I am


Yes, provided that a good method is chosen, that it is applied consistently, and many other details that cannot be summed up in one sentence.


concerning language acquisition. However, I notice that my son tends to speak one language better than the other, i.e. the


Of course your son speaks the language he is surrounded by better. If Spanish is disadvantaged, it must be supported. You will find detailed info on my site Bilingual Baby but in short: lots of Spanish books, lots of Spanish movies, let the child watch Spanish TV, lots of time spent by Mum talking to him, bring a Spanish babysitter, take a trip to Spain when the child is 3-4 years old, let the child talk to his Spanish grandparents.

I talk to my son in English. There are no English speakers at all where I live. You will find samples of his speech on my site - click on Real Stories, click on Ondrej.


There is another theory that says that bilingual people do speak both languages at a very high level, but that they never acquire the native level for any of their two languages. It is said (and


An ancient theory, completely discredited by recent studies.


What are your opinions? Is this true or not?


In my opinion bilingualism can be achieved if the parents work at it. If they do not work hard enough, or something happens (divorce, move to another country, another mishap), bilingualism will be passive or it will disappear.


[Edited at 2007-02-27 17:26]


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Anne Koth  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:16
German to English
Those studies ... Feb 27, 2007

Kobe_vb wrote:
There is another theory that says that bilingual people do speak both languages at a very high level, but that they never acquire the native level for any of their two languages. It is said (and studies have been conducted regarding this) that a monolingual native speaker's level will always be higher than a bilingual native speaker of a certain language...
What are your opinions? Is this true or not?


I doubt it - at least, there have been enough studies saying the exact opposite to suggest that it isn't absolutely certain! Here's one example:

"Studies of intelligence have shown that bilingual children perform better than their monolingual peers in a range of
tests, while comparisons of bilingual and monolingual students’ performance in school subjects, such as literacy,
numeracy and science, show that bilingual students who have had the opportunity to develop both languages
in an academic context (e.g. Scottish children who speak Gaelic and English and who attend Gaelic-medium primary
schools) perform at least as well, and often better, than their monolingual counterparts." http://www.cilt.org.uk/key/trends2005/trends2005_community.pdf

My children (7 and 9) speak German at the same level as their peers; my daughter regularly gets top marks in her German lessons and my son got a "Klasse" (also top marks) in his first report! In their second language, English, they don't have as wide a level of vocab, but we are currently reading book 2 of "Lionboy" as their bedtime story (that should be next on your list, Berni) and they have no trouble following the story, even if I do have to explain the odd word such as "crimson" or "asthma". They can understand native speakers of English speaking at full throttle, and people in England don't suspect that English is their second language.

When the children were small, they also had swings with one language being stronger, and then the other, and now they are both in school their German is ahead, but they still speak English together and with me at home.


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Olga Dubeshka  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:16
Russian to English
+ ...
my 5 cents Feb 27, 2007

Hi Milos,

And it is very obvious you are so very fond of your son!
I think you are doing him a great favour by teaching him
English and from what I heard he tells the story of "Thomas
the Engine" very well. It is my son`s fav too:)

About your web-site . Is the forum page still under construction ? I could not access it. It would be nice to meet other bilingual parents there and share some tips.

I am a sad example of a bilingual parent feeling outnumbered and overwhelmed by trying to raise my 2 y.o.
speaking Russian in an English-dominated environment.
I know perfectly well he understands when I speak, but talks back only in English. His father is an American,
and no amount of Russian books (or even me!) seems to
change his clear and defiant preference for English:)

In my desperate attempt to pormote RU I enrolled him in a class with a lot of RU children (and even the teacher is a
RU immigrant). However, seems like the biggest effect on the child this small is the language he hears at home (and it is EN), excluding when it is only me and him alone. I feel like he had a conflict of interests of which language to give priority to, and EN won for obvious reasons.

I felt a glimmer of hope after I read Berni`s story. HOpefully
somewhere in his little head the words DID register and will emerge once he really needs them to! Kids are incredible this way. I am amazed how sharp and keen their memories are.

I am planning a visit home and hopefully the shares
of RU will go up after that too

And for now I will continue on my frustarating path...


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:16
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
OPOL Feb 28, 2007

Olga Dubeshka wrote:
About your web-site . Is the forum page still under construction ? I could not access it. It would be nice to meet other bilingual parents there and share some tips.


Forum software is ready. I was not sure what forums I should have. How many forums and what themes. Do you have any idea for that?


I know perfectly well he understands when I speak, but talks back only in English. His father is an American,


Ah, and when he answers in English you respond to him, because you understand English?

You did not ask me for advice and I apologize for giving you one. Your case is very typical, and I cannot resist offering you help. Please forgive me. In my opinion, my experience, and experience of other parents, you should pretend you do not understand English if you want a bilingual child.

I learned the hard way that most mothers do not like this advice. They think it is cruel and insensitive. However, just a week ago I received a long letter from a father who had exactly the same problem as you, and who "stopped understanding" his son's French. And in 2 weeks the problem disappeared. A 2 year old child who would never speak Czech to his father started to do so because the child had no other choice. Now he is more likely to become a bilingual baby.

This advice is based on sound research. Quite simply, children are naturally lazy, and when they do not have to use two languages, they do not do it.

In my opinion and in many reported cases, if a language (Russian) is clearly disadvantaged and you continue to accept your son's English, he will very likely become "passive bilingual" and never speak Russian - only understand it.

Not "understanding" my child's dominant language has never harmed him, he never cried or complained. There are many other things that we parents impose on our kids, such as "do not touch hot things, do not cross the street without looking around first", and we do not consider it cruel.

It is true that your child is 2yr old already and you may encounter some minor resistance if you stop understanding his English now. The man mentioned above also met with some resistance. But it soon disappeared.

This method is called Strict OPOL.

Once again, I apologize for my uninvited advice. Forgive me please. You as a mother know best what you should do.


I am planning a visit home and hopefully the shares
of RU will go up after that too


Yes, a trip to Russia, preferably more than 2 weeks, is very likely to help a lot!


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 16:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
consistency the key Mar 1, 2007

I've got 2 girls, a 4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old. We speak only Spanish (my husband) and Hebrew (me) at home with them, although hubby and I are fluent in each other's lang. and in English (we live in Toronto).
Until they started at nursery, neither one of my girls spoke English, because rule #1, which I think has saved us from the anglicization fate of other similar couples we know, has been NO TELEVISION in English AT ALL, even if they have English speaking friends over. Same goes for DVD's, etc. More importantly perhaps, now that they both hear English all morning at nursery ( and are now comfortable in it), is if they answer us in English, which occasionally happens, I say in Hebrew "sorry love, Ima (me) doesn't understand. Please tell me in Hebrew". We did the same with the older one when the baby was born. We told her "your sister only knows SPanish and Hebrew because she doesn't go to school yet, so English won't work".
So far ( cross fingers), so good. They only speak to each other now in Spanish and Hebrew.
I know people who have said that their child "refuses" to answer in their language when they get older, but I have to hope that my stubborn refusal to engage in English will work until I know their language skills are permanent enough.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
My personal experience... Mar 3, 2007

Hello --

I was born and live in Barcelona - Spain. I'm bilingual in spanish / catalan, and I really can say that the level you achieve in each language does not depend on how many languages you speak, but on having the opportunity and personal interest to use them and enrich them. Many studies in catalan schools, where most children are bilingual like me, show that those children have the same ability to use spanish than children from the rest of Spain who are not bilingual (only speak spanish). The ability of those bilingual children to use english (most common 2nd language in the rest of Spain, 3rd language in Catalunya), is also equal to the average, if not better. Therefore, bilinguism is not responsible by any lack in language usage (there are other reasons to be taken into account, such as lack of discipline, lack of interest, not enough reading or no reading at all...).

As far as your comments regarding OPOL, I understand that it is an option when you environment does not help to immerse your children in the language you want them to learn. But... yes! I have observed that "refuse-to-answer-to-this-language" attitude in some friend's children that used english-spanish at home and then catalan at school. My experience is that, when this happens (and be aware: at some point, IT DOES) you should keep this in mind: it is far more important that you keep communicating with your child, no matter the language you use. Your child needs to communicate with you. If you just "shut the door" because the child does not use the right language... First: you are demonstrating that bilinguism is a problem and language choice can be used later on as a "weapon" against you, because your child WILL also "shut the door" (maybe a year later, but he will). Second, this does not help much to build the child's respect for the language that other people speak and their ability to do it (this detail is absolutely important in my location, because here anyone can speak spanish or catalan to me or my children at any time). Third, you are saying that language choice is more important that what your child has to say. If, for your bilingual child, language choice is not important at all... can you imagine the rest?

Maybe this "shut-the-door" solution can work while your child is 2-3 yo, but I have lived this situation with 7 - 8 year olds and it was something serious. Reducing the pressure on those children was good in any case, and letting them just speak, eventually allowed them to tell why they were refusing to speak a second-third language later on. Their reasons could sound silly to an adult, but were absolutely reasonable for a child. In one of the cases, the father decided not to talk english with the boy anymore, until they visited their family in the US.

I would like to add a comment for those who are or not bilingual themselves, but try to raise a bilingual child: being bilingual is somehow funny: many times you don't notice what the ** you are speaking, and can be changing languages without noticing it. I don't think I speak two languages: just one with a wider vocabulary and some strange grammar twists (in catalan and spanish many things are similar, some things just work the opposite way!!).

But this does not mean that you feel exactly the same way while speaking both languages. Definitely, there are things you will always feel better telling in a specific language, maybe just because you learned first to do it that way (you learned to share feelings with mommy, learned to listen to stories with daddy...). This can be a reason for your child to "refuse" to use a specific language. But HEY: he's not refusing anything: in my humble opinion he's just making a choice that must be respected. This is not an expression of rebelliousness, because you chose to teach those languages to your child and make him proficient in both, and the child does not care about which language he is using. Therefore it makes no sense to express rebellion this way... and no: allowing this is not going to destroy their bi/tri-linguism either !!

See you all around - Hasta pronto ! - Salutacions cordials !


[Edited at 2007-03-03 15:50]

[Edited at 2007-03-03 15:52]


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Juliana Starkman  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 16:16
Spanish to English
+ ...
redirect, not ignore Mar 4, 2007

Hi Megane,
I agree that the most important thing is never to cut off communication with your child. However, if your child has heard you speak one language their whole life, and suddenly refuses to respond in it ( peer pressure, or whatever), it is generally easy to redirect them. You can always just repeat what they said to you in your language. If they say "give me milk" you say "quieres leche?". If they are small enough, that often is enough.
I believe (pray!) that my kids desire to communicate with me as they grow will be based on how they see me as a mother, and not disappear because of language choices.

It's also important to remember that especially when dealing with multilingual families in countries where the "family" languages are not dominant, we have the added worry of making sure our kids can grow up communicating with grandparents and cousins in other countries. I have a good friend who is miserable because when she goes to Argentina to visit her son can't talk to her parents.

It's always easier as well if your child knows other multilingual families, because then it seems normal, and there is less resistance.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 21:16
English to Spanish
+ ...
Redirect, but be ready to roll back Mar 4, 2007

Hello safot !

First of all, your approach is right and you are doing great at trying to make your children able to communicate with their extended family.

I know about the experience of three families who deal with two languages at home (german/english - french/spanish - catalan/english) and a third at school (where catalan is the main language, followed by spanish, and finally children also usually learn english, french or german...). I also know about two other families who have adopted children and add up a language mixture on top of a previous (let's say "alien") bilinguism (my case!).

I just wanted to point out that at some time your language can be "rejected", and this may hurt you. You just need to be aware of that, because it's not going to be a matter of "give me milk", but a systemmatic denyal, which really will have to do, not with milk or pears or my favorite t-shirt, but with other things around you and what you are. Usually, this seems to be an incredibly easy way for the child to fight for control. At some point your child may decide to follow the conversation in the other language and definitely refuse to change, and that's it. I don't need to look for many examples, because I did it myself. And it's better that you think about it in advance

In some cases, playing to change languages for fun may help to show that this does not hurt anyone (for example changing to the other language for a short while to make a joke, or to look for the equivalent to an idiom, or...). This can be of help with an incipient problem.

In other cases, though, it's not easy at all. In one of the cases I know, the problem suddenly started. The boy just stayed silent when the father spoke to him in english and, whenever the father tried to redirect him in english as you describe, he just repeated his phrase in spanish, until the conversation followed in spanish or broke down. At the beginning, this father was definitely hurt. While trying to find out the problem, he told the kid once and again that that he mainly wanted him to be able to communicate with his family in the US. After a few conversations, he decided to stop trying. To everyone's surprise, after a short while, the kid started (confidentially!) to ask things about english to his father in order to be able to "polish" his english for the next-coming trips, calls... to the US. After all, it seems that the kid was satisfied by having control over the time he devoted to actively learning english, while knowing that he could speak out his heart in any language whenever he wanted to. This started almost four years ago, and it does not seem that it will ever change. But, yes: he speaks English greatly, so that the results have not been bad after all

Best luck with your children!


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Milos Prudek  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 21:16
English to Czech
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
refusal / denial in bilingual education Mar 5, 2007


I just wanted to point out that at some time your language can be "rejected", and this may hurt you. You just need to be aware of that, because it's not going to be a matter of "give me milk", but a systemmatic denyal, which really will have to


Megane, I think this is a valid point. Once the baby knows about the two languages analytically, at the age of 6 or more, and it makes a deliberate choice to deny the language, simple enforcement would not work. At that age the child is partner that parent may negotiate with and to quote Kennedy, "we should never negotiate out of fear, but we should never fear to negotiate."

In fact, I would incorporate some of your text in Bilingual Baby FAQ, if you do not mind. Or perhaps the language rejection would belong to bilingual education methods to clarify One Parent, One Language method of bililngual education?

I welcome all sugestions how to develop the site. I noted that discussion is very important. Any suggestions for discussion themes/groups?


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