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Alright, we have a 7 month old daughter that I try and speak Swedish too. I find it really hard, as I have to speak English to my husband, but I try my best.
She recently started enjoying watching little snippets of Disney’s Robin Hood, and I show it to her in Swedish, which seems to annoy my husband. I asked him why it annoyed him, and he is worried that she will only speak Swedish, and not English. We live outside Toronto, Canada, where English is majority. My husband only speaks to her in English, his parents as well, the whole environment is in English and my husband and I speak English to each other. The only time I speak Swedish is to her, one on one, and even that is hard as I often want my husband to understand what I am saying as it is often directed to him “let’s go start dinner”, “let’s go for a walk” etc. How can I convince him that I need any help I can get (including movies, books, games,) to get her to speak Swedish? He seems to be of the opinion that as long as she understands some Swedish she will easily pick it up spending a summer in Sweden when she is 10 or 11 years old I am bilingual (well, trilingual) myself, and I know how hard it can be.
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I think you should keep doing what you’re doing. How lovely for you’re daughter to get another language for free! Ask your husband if he’s ever met a child from a bilingual home who hasn’t learnt to speak the majority language. I haven’t – although I know a few who refuse to speak the minority language… I do think if you daughter has limited understanding of Swedish she’ll find it easier than a total monolingual to pick it up if she goes over to Sweden for a while – but I very much doubt a two week summer holiday at age 10 will do the trick! Sorry, no time to write more. Hope you manage to convince your husband of what a great job you’re doing. Good luck Helena
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First, I would like to agree with all that Helena said, and applaud her for her positivity. The way to bring peace into the world is to begin with us. We have the responsibility and the ability to promote peace and love, and I just thought that was a very positive response. I have a daughter who is five. I speak only Latvian to her, her father only English. We live in America. She is fully bilingual and working on her third year of Chinese immersion, as well, (simplified Mandarin). This is a sensitive subject to me because her father who was raised monolingual, who never learned a foreign language, outside of some Latin in high school, never learned to respect the idea of a multilingual, multicultural society. I don’t think he is an exception either, unfortunately. When our daughter was beginning to speak, her first words and sounds were Latvian. This troubled his family. She was also quite timid around his family members, which I attribute to their loud and overbearing collective demeanor, of which she was not accustomed. So, the times we were with them, they would make comments about her being fearful because she “couldn’t communicate” and show anger at my interfering with their relationship with our daughter because of my speaking in some “foreign language” which was unnecessary and clearly “an attempt on my part to keep them from having a good relationship” with our daughter. Her father allowed this. He too feels, it is good enough if she can just understand the language. He doesn’t interfere, otherwise. For the most part I alone have now avoided going into the company of the paternal family members, and by doing this I have avoided the unpleasantness or comments of those people, and I have avoided causing them unnecessary anguish over our daughter’s “foreign” tongue. She speaks Latvian beautifully, and is full aware that she belongs to two different cultures and linguistic groups. Of course, I won’t be able to avoid being in their company forever. I tried seeking some assistance or assurance or help from a professional in the matter because I was having anguish. Well, the “professional” I sought help from insisted that we live in a monolingual society and that it is the “norm” that people speak in English, and that I was causing the disruption by pulling my daughter in an unnecessarily exclusive and antiquated direction. Obviously, this has all caused me some grief and my relationship with my daughter’s father has… suffered to a very strained extent. Which brings me full circle and maybe to my point. We have the responsibility to love our children and be respectful of others, but we have the responsibility to raise our children to do the same, to love and be respectful to themselves as well as to others. I do not agree that another language is harmful or in any way a disruption or negative. Another language or two or three can only be a positive attribute to anyone’s life. With me, I realized that the discomfort caused by our speaking our other language was a representation of something deeper, and that the language just permitted these people the excuse to show their underlying feelings which stem from their own psychological problems and emotional immaturity. It is a process, not a solution, for me and for us. Your child will learn English fine from her peers, from her father, from the world. Assess your priorities and what you deem important for your child. Proceed knowing you are doing what is best for your child. Maybe you will be able to sway your husband, or perhaps he will learn the languages of love and tolerance along with some Swedish, who knows. Stay strong as it is not easy to successfully raising a bilingual child in a place where their language is the minority language. It takes a great deal of work, strength, love and perseverance. And did I say work? Good luck, and good cheer!