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What a super-site! Raising my son Swedish-English bilingual with very little time for research into how to actually go about it in the best way, I’m just thrilled to have found this site. Since our son’s birth seven years ago, we have lived in a small US university-town without easy access other Swedish speakers. Thus, I have been the only person to interact in Swedish with my son on a daily basis (my husband is American). The first year, things were fairly easy with me being the main care taker and only about 10-15  hours/week of English daycare. My son’s first word at around one year of age was in Swedish (“kaka” meaning cookie — and yes, he still loves sweets) and he clearly understood both English and Swedish at that age.

However, once he began full-time daycare, English became the stronger language. I managed to maintain Swedish at home, that is, me speaking Swedish and my son mostly answering in English, up until Kindergarten when things changed drastically; as a consequence of his school and activity schedule, there was very little time for us to speak Swedish.  8:15 – 3:00PM he spent at school interacting only in English, 3-5PM he either had play dates or was involved in after-school activities which naturally were all in English, and in the late afternoons and evenings as well as on weekends it became awkward for my son and I to interact in Swedish since it would mean excluding my husband (who speaks no Swedish) from conversation. Our main interaction in Swedish took place in the early mornings on weekdays before school started. This together with tons of Swedish movies and TV-shows (our region-free DVD player got a lot of use), seemed to enable my son to keep Swedish alive at some level.

To help him become more fluent, we spent 5 months in Sweden where my son attended public school (my son missed fall of American 1st grade). In Sweden, he was very quiet at school the first two weeks, clearly observing and listening intently. After that he spoke just as much as all the other kids, although lacking vocabulary as well as grammar, sometimes to the point where other kids did not understand him. By week 6, he seemed to turn a corner and became almost native-like very quickly.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens to his Swedish now that we are back in the US to the same language/school schedule as in Kindergarten. I’m sure I’ll be checking in with this site often for advice as well as consult a fantastic little book I just discovered – The Bilingual Edge by King and Mackey (fast and easy to read, excellent practical advice, and it only cost about $10!)  Luckily, my son made several friends in Sweden during his school attendance there and is keeping in touch with them through emails and phone calls in Swedish (the beauty of Swedish 7-10 year-olds is that they don’t speak English). Obviously, occasional contact with Swedish friends will not be enough to maintain his Swedish and neither will our 2-3 week visits to Sweden once a year. I’m going to have to get creative and need all the help I can get.

John Boardman

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Thank you for the encouraging story.  We’re speaking Swedish at home (my husband knows it, and I’ve learned it), but as our 3 year old daughter spends more time around English speakers, she more and more frequently defaulting to English.

I’m particularly intrigued by your experience putting your son in school in Sweden.  I’d love to find out how you started doing that.  I assumed that everything in Sweden was state-run and getting a US-born child in a school or day-care would not even be possible.  My husband’s sister lives in Göteborg, and we’d be open to moving to Sweden for a semester if we could have our children in a school during that time.  I just am not sure where to start that process.  Since we have my sister-in-law on the ground in Sweden, we have someone to help us do the legwork.  The one gotcha is that my husband is not a Swedish citizen, having been born in the US.  (His mother did obtain a Swedish passport for him when he was a boy, but since it’s never been used, I’m not sure what status that would give him with the Swedish government — I don’t want to have to start paying Swedish taxes. 🙂

Could you let me know whom you contacted in Sweden to get the ball rolling?

John Boardman
Father of 3 y.o. Sylvia and 9-month old twins Eric & Alex


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When you read to him, which you should do everyday, read in Swedish. I dont mean bring a book written in Swedish, I mean translate the book as you go. In stead of saying, “There is a little boy name John who lives in this blue house” Say it in Swedish.

Add Swedish Time to his daily or weekly schedule. In the morning, you both need to speak Swedish–Your his mom. Take charge of his Education/Time. Dont be afriad to assign bits of Swede Homework. Right a few short stories in Swedish or buy some. He should read, write and speak Swedish at home for atleast 45 minutes a day. He’s getting bigger now and can understand that he needs to actively participate.

Start a weekend Swedish Culture club in your area, get other kids involved so he doesn’t feel so alone with Swedish. Cut off cable and buy Cartoons dubbed in Swedish, use the internet to buy him video games, toys and his favorite comics online from a swedish store so that they too are in Swedish. You have to make a giant effort to make your home a sort of speudo-Swedeland, but thats what your going to need to do. Use the internet to Find Swedish club in the US and sign him up.

I’m sure you guys are doing lots of hard work but you’ve got to give him reason to actively use the Swedish langauge.
Ask him questions in English and tell him he s

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