Bringing up a bilingual child

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Saturday 14 June 2008 5.49pm
I am wondering how other families with more than one language work. My partner and I are trying to bring up Baby Martha to speak both English and German. She is exposed to more English, although I try to speak only German to her. Will that be enough?

My family has lost a language before (I have Polish maternal grandparents) and I've always regretted that. My parents do not speak English, adding urgency to our attempt.

Would love to hear from families who did and those who did not succeed in teaching the children two or more languages.
Saturday 14 June 2008 5.51pm
PS Our flat is too small for an Au Pair and we can't afford a German nanny...
Saturday 14 June 2008 9.32pm
My children were both brought up speaking English and Hebrew. And my grandchildren also. The main thing is to be consistent. As long as one doesnt waver, and ONLY speaks whichever language the children will pick up both languages (and even another one too) with no trouble. Just think of all the Swiss, who grow up speaking German, French, Italian and Sweitzerdeutch. And all my relatives from Hungary spoke German and French and English as well. Children can sometimes be recalcitrant and refuse to SPEAK one or another of the languages particulary if it's the non dominant one (in your case, Katia, German) but it wont stop them a)knowing it, and b)using it when it's necessary. Dont give in - it's invaluable. Ask my children! Keep speaking the language you are using, even if the child replies in the dominant language. You'll see that the child will understand perfectly, and when in the country where the second language is dominant (again, Katia, when you take Martha to Germany) it will come out very nicely.
Saturday 14 June 2008 10.29pm
Hi Katia

Great to see you and Martha at lunch club - love them baby blue eyes!

This may be of interest

and so might this

here is a generic Google search for further reading

I speak English and goo-goo-ga-ga, which Martha seems to have a firm grasp of.
Sunday 15 June 2008 8.04am
Ahhh, Boss St.Bloke always has handy websites and useful tips....VERY interesting. As one who studied liguistics at university I confirm all I read in the articles you suggested. As a student of Chomsky-an linguistics I know that the principle is that a child before puberty can acquire UNLIMITED grammars (the smaller the child the better). Our brains are programmed to receive languages and as long as a child is exposed to any number of them, s/he will acquire them perfectly. Hence all the children brought up with Indian or Chinese nannies, or who played in the street with Swahili speaking kids knew when to switch to which language when. My own child rearing experience certainly bears this out.
Sunday 15 June 2008 10.18am
Very interesting indeed, BSB and Jackie. Having read some of the webpages BSB sent, I understand we should agree on a "language system". There are two main ones, OPOL (one person one language) or mL@H (minority language at home). Which one did you do, Jackie?

We are thinking to start OPOL and dad refreshing his German as Martha starts speaking, ie learning with her. As soon as possible we then switch to mL@H and leave the English learning to nursery school. What do you think?
Sunday 15 June 2008 1.03pm
Have a look at this:

Many of my friends bring up their children bilingually and my experience is that each child reacts differently to it. Generally the rule 'one parent, one language' seems to work well.
Monday 16 June 2008 8.46am
My grand-daughter and great grand-daughters are bi-lingual, they swop from spanish to english like i go from beer to cider!
Monday 16 June 2008 12.53pm
One of my friends did a combination of "minority language at home" and "one parent one language" and it worked fine. They spoke English with each other when the kids were around, but when the husband was not there, she spoke Dutch with the kids (and they lived in Holland, which made English the minority language)
Monday 16 June 2008 1.38pm
My children were brought up in a Kibbutz in Israel which meant they didnt actually "live" at home. But they came home every afternoon between 4-8.30, and whenever I saw them during the day (particularly when they were babies) I ALWAYS spoke English to them...even though they knew I speak Hebrew perfectly well. I also spoke English at home because I spoke it to my husband. However my grandchildren have a rather different arrangement, their mother speaks exclusively to them in English but in Hebrew to her husband. I speak only English to them, but again they know I speak Hebrew and they dont have to answer me in English. From TINY kids they have understood every word in English but they always reply in Hebrew. We read stories in English, see movies in English, and I'm waiting for the chance to leave them to play with other children who wont understand at all if they speak Hebrew. I dont think it matters which system you use - just be CONSISTENT. And this sometimes needs quite a lot of determination and even inconvenience! But it pays off.
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