Bilingual family
Thread poster: trad500
trad500
Local time: 09:25
English to French
Oct 24, 2005

Hello,

I should welcome to this world a baby boy in less than 3 months time and I start to wonder how to make sure he speaks French as well as English.
I'm French living in the UK, married to a very sweet British man who - unfortunately - doesn't speak any French.
My plan is to speak to the child in French only when I'm alone with him, but what should I do when his father is around? The obvious answer at this stage is to speak English when we're all together, and French when I'm alone with the kid, but would he get confused?
I know this topic has been discussed a lot on this forum, but any suggestions of people that are in the same situation would be much appreciated!


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Monika Coulson  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:25
Member (2001)
English to Albanian
+ ...
Moving the thread Oct 24, 2005

Hello Marie,
First, congratulations to you and the baby. I am moving this thread to the Multilingual Families forum.
Monika


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Kurt Porter  Identity Verified
Local time: 13:25
Russian to English
+ ...
Multilingual families Oct 24, 2005

It will be fine. I'd expose the baby to as much French as possible...music, reading, etc. Later on, send to a school where the lessons are conducted in French. The English will be picked up from Daddy, playmates, life in the U.K.

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JennyC08
Local time: 04:25
German to French
+ ...
Congratulations! Oct 24, 2005

Hi,

I am also married to an anglophone and we are also planning to have a baby soon.
Although my husband speaks French pretty well (except when it comes to the genders), we are planning to do as follows: I am going to speak French with our child and he's gonna be speaking English to him/her.
I know it can be awkward for you to speak French when your husband is around, but changing the communication language can be a source of confusion for your child...

My two cents.

Caroline


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Member
English
+ ...
OPOL Oct 24, 2005

One Parent One Language is the key to a succesful bilingual relationship it seems. I'm sure your husband will understand why you consider it important for you and your child to communicate in your mother tongue. And let's face it, until your baby is a little older, hubby is not going to be missing out on much conversation, nor about to be ganged up on, is he?

Tell him this might be a good moment for him to learn French too! Fear of being left out later, should give him a year or two to learn enough French to understand when you and the babe are discussing him

Good luck with it,

Berni


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Paul Lambert  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:25
French to English
+ ...
Bilingual children Oct 24, 2005

When I was young my (Irish) mother spoke to me in Spanish and French when my dad wasn't around, and although I didn't become bilingual from it, I was at an incredible dvantage when I started learning languages in school (which, in the UK, is at the ridiculously late age of 11). But yes - speak as much French as you possibly can to him, as he's going to be immersed in English when he's not with you, so no need to worry about his English!

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Rafa Lombardino
United States
Local time: 01:25
Member (2005)
English to Portuguese
+ ...
English & Portuguese Oct 24, 2005

I'm a Brazilian living in California, married to a "Italian/Californian Boy" He studied some Portuguese here after we got married, but he's not a "language man", if you know what I mean. He seems to pick it up better when we're in Brazil by just watching my friends and family trying to make an effort to include him in the conversation (most of the times, my parents speak to him as if he were deaf instead of monolingual...).

We'll probably be seeing ourselves in the same situation in a couple of years. We've talked about it and he knows that I do want our kids to speak Portuguese, since their Brazilian grandparents won't speak a word of English. Most people I've talked to say that kids learn the mother's language better, probably because they assume that kids spend more time with their mothers than with their fathers during the day. Well, let's see...

In our case, they'll only have me, the TV, and music to rely on. My husband may improve his Portuguese until then, and will certainly "compete" with his kids, trying to figure out what they're saying. Their surroundings will be mainly English, with some Spanish on the side, considering that they'll probably have a lot of classmates who are from Mexico. In fact, I have a little cousin in Boston who's going through this, that is, turning into a 5-year-old trilingual, for her Brazilian mother's despair! LOL

I'm sure you'll be in a better position than mine when education is concerned, 'cause I believe you'll have an easier time trying to find schools in the UK that have some classes in French, so your little boy may keep it up when he's away from you. I agree with the fact that your husband will have to understand that you and your kid will communicate in French and, believe me, he'll have a lot of context to understand what's going on. I believe the best thing is not to resort to censorship at the household, meaning "daddy's home, so it's time for English only", but it's good to teach him these restrictions and limitations when other people are concerned (your husband's family, for example...)

In a nutshell, I used to teach English as a second language and I can tell you that you'd be impressed with what 4-year-olds can do. They don't know about those "social strings" yet, so it's all a big party and nobody is afraid of speaking another language and being mocked. When we're old enough, we end up losing this care-free state of mind, so it's best if you just let things flow naturally and allow your baby to amaze you!

Congratulations!!!


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Els Thant, M.A., B.Tr.
Ecuador
Local time: 03:25
Spanish to Dutch
+ ...
Just follow your instincts! Oct 24, 2005

First of all: congratulations!

I'm a Flemish/Dutch native speaker, married to a Spanish native speaker. We are currently living in Ecuador. I am expecting our second daughter and, as I am already doing with the eldest, I definitely plan to speak Flemish/Dutch with her too!
My husband has a certain knowledge of Dutch, but even if he would not understand it, I would speak it with my children anyway. There is no reason why you should (try to) speak English with them, if your mother tongue is French. It's not only natural, but also very interesting for your children: the more languages they learn from an early age, the better.
My daughter speaks Dutch with me, Spanish with her father and the rest of the people here in Ecuador AND she is going to a French school since September! She almost perfectly separates these three languages and enjoys "translating" from one language into another. I have also worked as a Dutch teacher at a small school in Quito, and only one of the many children had some trouble separating more than 2 languages (he sometimes mixed French and Dutch).
I even try to continue speaking Dutch with my daughter when my mother-in-law or other people who do not understand any Dutch at all, are around. It's a bit strange sometimes, but it's really worth it!
Linguists do not really agree on this bi/trilingual issue, so follow your instincts and speak what you want to speak or feel like. I admit I sometimes speak Spanish with my daughter, especially when I want my environment to understand what I'm telling her ("No, you are not allowed to do this or that now"), but these are the basic "rules":
mother = Dutch
father and environment = Spanish
school = French (I'm near-native French, so I do read stories and sing with my daughter in French)
You will really enjoy seeing how your children manage to communicate in two or more languages!

Els


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Benno Groeneveld  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 04:25
English to Dutch
+ ...
I spoke Dutch to my son Oct 25, 2005

(who was born in Manhattan, my wife doesn't speak Dutch) until he was about seven, when he told me I should stop.

Now that he's 21, he says that I never listened to him, except for that one time when he wanted me to stop speaking Dutch. And that time I shouldn't have listened.

He says he wants to learn Dutch one of these years, to talk with my mother. When he gets serious about the language, at least he will be familiar with the sounds.

In other words: it's hard to be the only speaker of a language in the family while living in a different country. But it's definitely worth trying.


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Esther Hermida  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:25
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't give up! Oct 25, 2005

I live in ht US. My husband came to the States when he was 6 and his Spanish is pretty bad. But, I'm an interpreter and I thought that it was important to teach my children Spanish. First, they had a Spanish surmane, most people assume that if you have a Spanish surname you must speak the language. Second, what would people say knowing that I'm an interpreter and I can't even teach my own kids my language!

So, I spoke Spanish to them until they were about 4 yrs old about that time I enrolled them in pre-school where they learned English very quickly. I went to a church where the meetings where held in Spanish, I read only Spanish stories to them to the point where they were able to read Bible passages in Spanish in front of an audience. They speak it with a slight American accent but they are bilingual, indeed.

I don't attend church anymore nor my children who are 23 and 24 (not that its bad), but they both have expressed their appreciation to me. My son have thank me several times because he can date beautiful Latinas and they never guessed he spoke Spanish. He even fell in love with a beautil Italian girl who was spending several months in the States and communicated with her in Spanish only. My daughter uses her Spanish skills at work and she's compensated for it.

So it's worth the effort even if they complain at first but they'll be grateful when they reach adulthood.


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trad500
Local time: 09:25
English to French
TOPIC STARTER
Thank you Oct 25, 2005

Thank you all for your input!
French only it will be then! Hopefully, my husband will learn some along the way!


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baroni  Identity Verified
Local time: 10:25
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
One parent one language- ALWAYS!! Oct 25, 2005

Congratulations!

I am in your same situation: My husband (German native speaker) speaks about 10 words of Italian (he is not a language genius:-(. I have always talked to our son (5 years old) in Italian, and I am very satisfied now: Our child is perfectly bilingual. When he is in Italy nobody would think that he normally lives in Austria. It was important for us that he could also spend some time with the Italian grandparents (holidays and so on...).

He has been also attending an Italian afternoon-school for a month (once a week), where he learns to write and read in Italian...
I am now expecting our second baby and we will go on in this way: Italian from me, German form his/her father



Good luck


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xxxstahat
Local time: 11:25
German to Greek
+ ...
Bilingual child Oct 27, 2005

I could not agree more with Kurt Porter. I am a bilingual child (Greek - German)myself and grew up in Greece. So, I can tell you this from experience. In addition it is important that the father learns to speak at least some basic french (so that the "french-thing" is not something which isolates two members of the family form the third - in any combination I mean). You giving lessons to both father and son would be a good idea!

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swvong
English to Spanish
OLOP, but how about between the parents? Nov 8, 2005

Hi all,

My situation:
I'm Chinese, so throughout my childhood until I went to university I spoke Cantonese/Hakka at home. I spent my elementary school years in Ecuador, therefore I'm fluent in Spanish (written and spoken). Two thirds of my life till present has been in Canada, therefore my third language is English.

My husband is from Ecuador. He came to Canada as an adult, so he is much more confortable with Spanish and that's what we've been speaking to each other at home. Now with the arrival of our daughter I'm trying my very best to speak to her in Cantonese, but find it difficult at times because I must switch back to Spanish in order to involve my husband in the converstation or just so he doesn't have to feel left out.

My question is: Does this switching back and for between Cantonese and Spanish confuse my daughter?

Wendy


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