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My husband and I are expecting our first baby in April. 

My husband is a native Spanish speaker and is trilingual in Spanish, English and French, as well as speaking decent German, Catalonian and a smattering of Basque and Galician.  (Yeah, I find him daunting too, in that regard). 

Me, I speak English and I’ve done a couple of years of Spanish classes, but little follow up to that, leaving me with extremely basic Spanish (I can follow some conversations, can rarely contribute to them, can’t deal with tenses other than the present, etc).   And I did high school German, which I have forgotten, but some of it is kinda lodged in the depths of my brain somewhere.  I’m not very good at languages. 

So we definitely want our children to grow up literate in English and Spanish.  My husband wants them to grow up with another language as well (French or German would be the obvious contenders). 

How are we going to do this? 

We live in Australia, currently, and there is minimal support for Spanish speakers here.  We have a couple of Spanish/Australian couple friends, but the Spanish speaking community here is tiny, and I doubt that a Spanish playgroup etc would be possible for us.  The rest of the family here (mine) speak English only.  We expect to spend roughly a month a year in Spain, visiting the family there. 

What I am thinking is that if my husband speaks Spanish to the baby, that won’t be enough exposure to Spanish, especially as I am likely to end up the primary carer for our children.  I think we should try speaking Spanish at home to our children.  But I’m worried because my Spanish is so bad that I certainly couldn’t manage that at first.  Maybe in a few months I’d get it together I don’t really know. 

I expect to see other people at home (grandparents, friends) for a couple of hours a day.  How do kids cope with having the spoken language at home vary every couple of hours through the day?   Would my husband and I need to speak Spanish to each other

Another thing I wonder is whether we should reverse the rule for when we are in Spain, especially if we spend an extended time there at some stage.  In other words, speak English at home and Spanish when we are out.  Will that mess with the kids of we do that?  (it might well keep me sane).

Can anyone suggest any books we could get to learn more, so we can make some good decisions on this stuff?




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Hi Helen,
I live in Australia too, I am Italian and my husband is German. We have 3 kids (6, 4 and 20month old). At home we speak Italian and German only with the OPOL method. English is picked up by the kids outside the home without any problem (playgroup, preschool, school, neighbours and friends). Both my 4y and my 6y are very good in all 3 languages. The little one of course is making a big salad of her first words but we had that with the other two. I am the prime carer so Italian is the main language all through the day at home (until school hits) but the German (daddy’s language) is just as good because daddy always spoke to them in German ONLY in the evening and on weekends and holidays. Occasionally we go home overseas or have family visit us and that language has an extra boost. so go and visit often, have plenty of Spanish visitors and you will see kids bouncing from one language to the other like you wouldn’t believe.
So don’t worry about daddy not being around as much, just make sure he is ALWAYS (even in front of other people) speaking to them his language. the effort is on his side to be coherent with your choice, stick with it and the results will be by the bucket full. kids are just so bright and for them it is no effort to keep up with what you teach them. Yeah it would help if your Spanish was good enough the understand their conversation otherwise you would be cut out.
When you’ll go back to Spain you, the mum, must keep on speaking English with them especially if your stay in for many many years (at least more then 2). Kids switch from one language to the other in about 3 month and forget their main language if not used within the year. I have seen it happen.
keep it all up, you have a good plan .
sorry don’t have any books at hand only my personal experience


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I am dealing with teaching my 9-month daughter a second language, in which I´m not feeling absolutely profficient.
My native language is Spanish (I´m Argentinian) and I have studied English for some years. I´m trying to speak English to my baby in the mornings while we are alone at home. My husband, fortunately, agrees with this, though he does not speak English.
My first impression is that if we focus on the basic (“extremely basic” as you said) but correct vocabulary or grammar structures, it will definitely help our kids to pick up the language. For example, if you feel confident at using only the present, go for it. I´d rather use expressions I feel comfortable with than uttering complicated structures that can create confusion.  Eventually, they will improve their own “reservoir” with toys, books, songs, or even trips to places where they will be exposed to the language spoken by native speakers.
Of course, it is necessary that we keep on working hard to be a fluent speaker ourselves to not only raise our babies as bilinguals but also to speak a second language on a higher level.
Being married to a Spanish native speaker is really an advantage!!!

Hope my words can contribute and prompt you to embark on such a challenging project. It surely be rewarding. ¡Mucha suerte!


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mmmmh – bilinguism is very very rare – i have known a couple of bilingual children BUT as soon as they go to school the language used there becomes dominant.  if children are exposed to languages they soak them up, and just as quickly forget!  our 3 daughters, (english mum, spanish dad) were hearing french and dutch as well as english and spanish every day.  they are young women now and have no problem switching language. don’t TRY too hard. you can’t force a child to speak a  language. needless to say they didn’t start talking at an early age!

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I started learning Spanish about 10 years ago and found it very very difficult. I had studied French at school but had had little exposure to language structure, including my own language – English (a common problem for people brought up in England). A few years later, I decided to become an English language teacher (yes, I know that sounds crazy after my first comments) and found I had a lot to learn about my own language. It was hard work – learning English grammar and then teaching it – but found that I was able to learn Spanish much more quickly afterwards. I now speak it well and have also been learning German for some time. It all makes much more sense because I understand English, my own language, better.

So, my advice for people who feel they aren’t good at languages, possibly Helen but I don’t want to assume anything, is that you look at your native language first and go from there. It really does help.

Good luck,

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