teaching grandson second language
Thread poster: mreuben
Oct 9, 2009

My two and a half year old grandson and I have had quite a close and warm relationship until fairly recently, when he began to feel that I was using a different language (English) to that used by all the others around him (Hebrew). He has begun to appreciate that Grandad uses different words for things, but with that he also began to distance himself from me. I can speak in Hebrew to him, but want him to acquire at least a background sense of English.
My questions are whether being the sole English speaker in his environment is enough for him to get that feel for the language, and whether it is worth putting the relationship with him at risk over this.
Does anybody have some experience that can shed light on my dilemmas?

[Edited at 2009-10-09 21:29 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-10-09 21:29 GMT]

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Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Local time: 07:04
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Hi Saba :) Oct 9, 2009

I think it's a great idea. We speak (and have always spoken) to our kids ONLY in Spanish and Hebrew, and they heard English from my mother. They may not have spoken it just from that, but it was familiar enough that when they started school they knew what the (English speaking) teacher wanted from them and could understand other kids. Go for it- you'd be amazed how they pick it up.

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Karl Apsel  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:04
Member (2001)
English to German
+ ...
Don't force it! Make it fun! Oct 10, 2009

Hi mreuben,

I think there have already been a lot of discussions about this or similar situations here (and elsewhere). I am not writing this to disregard your posting but rather to encourage you to also read up more within the existing topics (which I am sure you already did) ...

I am a native German speaker, living with my family in Ireland and our "everyday language" is English. I have always tried to speak as much German to my children as possible and they are pretty good at it now (German books and television, the Internet and, of course, frequent trips to German speaking countries -Germany/Austria-, including football matches, at least four times a year, helped a lot). I was the only one speaking German to them (here in Ireland) and it was not until they were about 5 or 6 that they developed a real interest in the language. It was actually my son, who, when 5, once said to me on the way from the airport (in Germany) "Stop speaking English, Papa, we're in Germany now!" - I must have been giving out to him; when I give out I switch to English because I think it is important that they understand PERFECTLY what I am saying

My personal opinion is that I do not think that you are doing yourself or your grandson a great favour by being the ONLY ONE that insists on speaking English to him (all the time). He may resent this and withdraw ... (this is different to the case of, for example, Juliana, where EVERYBODY at home speaks Spanish).

Still - don't give up!!!

But take it easy. Every now and then use simple (English) words or sentences (he is only two and a half after all) to describe things or actions (and what about all those wonderful English nursery rhymes!). Don't insist (yet). Let him get used to the language but don't frighten him away.

Music is brilliant - for quite a long time my daughter would sing in German but refused to speak it. (When she was about 3 she would actually have arguments with me like the following: ME: "Das ist ein Fernseher" ("This is a television"), HER: "No, this is a TV." ME: "Ja, das ist ein Fernseher." HER: "NO, THIS IS A TV !")

There is probably a few people here who will disagree with me but I think there is no point forcing anything in the situation you have described...

All the best


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Christina Paiva  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:04
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Bilingual :) Oct 10, 2009

I am bilingual. At home mom was American and had problems with Portuguese. Dad was Brazilian and spoke English, and this was the language they'd used when subject was sensitive I am mostly driven by curiosity, so I used to pay attention to their conversation. In addition, I had friends who were English or Americans and speaking English was very natural.

I have 2 daughters. The oldest one was not exposed to an English environment until she was 5, because we were living in Brasília (almost like living in another country). So, when we went back to S. Paulo, she picked up the language very fast. On the other hand, my youngest daughter was born when we were back to SP, and she was exposed to English for about 15 years. Just now at 22, she admits she's bilingual - in fact you just realize you're bilingual when you find out that most people can't speak this language, and struggle to learn it - which IMO is soooo easy - especially if you compare it to other languages.

It was a natural thing. When we were in Brasilia, I did try to speak English with my daughter, but it wasn't natural.

Moreover, bedtime was reading time, and I provided books in both languages. Then when Harry Potter series were published they really began reading on their own

Now, both are fluent and have been offered great job opportunities because they can speak, write and read in both languages

On the other hand, my 3 brothers were not interested.. One of them is a PhD in medicine, has lived in the US, and his English is, well ... Luckily, his kids are bilingual, but they don't like to speak English in front of 'other' people, they speak to me, though - as I told them nobody would understand us, our secret language And this is, as far as I can remember, the biggest problem. When I was a kid, relatives would ask me to sing, count to ten and so on.. this was very intimidating..

I guess the trick to give this very special gift to your grandson is to:
1. be natural. Watch cartoons in English with him, no explanations. Leave the TV room if his attention is caught by the cartoon.
2. get books in English that are appropriate for his age and read with him
3. I was a girl guide (scouts) at an English-American group. Most of the girls didn't speak Portuguese. Learned a lot of new words and had a great time! So, joining a group where there are kids of the same age but of different nationalities is a plus

Good luck! and Have fun!

[Edited at 2009-10-10 03:40 GMT]

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teaching grandson second language

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