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We have the following situation: Monolingual parents ( Romanians, with good knowledge of English) raised 2 bilingual children in an English speaking country and moved to a German speaking country when kids were 8 and 3. We are here for almost 2 years now and have a new baby, 15 months old, to whom we speak mostly Romanian but with some exposure to English as well. The problem is that our oldest one was fluent in English when we came to Austria and was able to understand Romanian well although speaking it was quite problematic. He has been going to a German school and now speaks German fluently. His Romanian has improved a lot, however his English is now at a much lesser level than 2 years ago . Our middle one was not speaking English well, she was just starting to speak at 3 years old but she understood Romanian well as well. Now she is 5, she goes to a German kindergarten and started to speak German but the big problem is that even if she is fluent in 3 languages her vocabulary is very simple and limited in all 3 languages. And this is a worry for me. I have decided in the beginning to speak mostly English with the children and my husband to speak Romanian, plus we go to see our relatives in Romania twice a year so their Romanian is better than before however English is suffering . I try to speak it as much as I can but I kind of got stuck and I feel like I am not using a rich vocabulary either. With my 15 months old baby I decided to speak only Romanian and socialize with English speaking mums once a week. I feel like my children will forget the English they used to know and I don;t know what to do to help? Should I try to change their schools to a bilingual one, even if that would be a hassle for us logistically? I am quite confused…..
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Your post was a little problematic to understand but I take it that you have 3 kids.
Ages 10, 5 and 15months. Your family is Romanian, but both parents speak English and your family lives in Germany for the past 2 years. (So your youngest was born in Germany) The eldest and the middle child go to school in German, the community language is German so they are / will be developing strong German skills provided that you remain in the country for awhile. You can attack this problem several ways, teach your Oldest to read in Romanian and make him read in Romanian to his younger sister every night until he reads Romanian with fluency typical of his age/grade level, this will increase both their vocabularies and help with literacy, maybe even sibling bonding. As for lacking vocabularies get a “My first 1000” words book and use it to write simple stories for your children in Romanian and English and read these stories to them and teach them to read these stories. For example: There is a magical road in a little town. At the end of this road lives a little boy name Tod and his sister Jenny. Tod and Jenny have a big, hairy, rabbit for their pet and go on long walks in the woods with their rabbit. One day the magical road was flooded by a big rainstorm and Tod and Jenny couldn’t go for their walk. Jenny was sad. Tod had a great idea! They could use buckets, hoses and pumps to take the water away. It was hard work and it took everyone who lived on the magical roads help to get all the water out, but they did it. Even Big Hairy Rabbit helped out. Tod and Jenny were glad because now they could go on their walk again. bucket, rainstorm, road, magical, hairy, hoses, pumps, and idea are all English words that your kids probably don’t use often but in context they could learn them easily. Keep all the stories in a booklet and pull them out every now and then and read them with the kids or too the kids and when you pass a bucket say “Oh, look at that bucket” in passing and keep moving. You might try the OPOL method to bring up their exposure to English because there isn’t any reason why they should forget or loose one of their two main languages just because they moved. Dont force the issue too hard, or they might band together to oppose you. But you should find ways to incorporate English into their day again, even if it is only 3-4 times a week. Get a board game that you play in English as a family, get a DVD that your kids want to see and let them watch it ONLY in English the first few times they see it. Then allow them to switch it to Romanian/German. Buy English Comic books and try to find an English play group. Make up funny stories and throw in a few English words in each one, for example, the story above. If you write it in Romanian, then after a while you might try and replace Bucket and road with the English words. Hope this is helpful to someone.