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1. Country you live in: France
2. Languages the family speaks: mother – English (native), Polish (native but weaker than English), French (intermediate, still learning); Father – French (native)
3. Ages of the children: 6 mo, 2nd due in Feb 2017
4. Language system (OPOL, [email protected] or any other method): still looking for one!
I’m so excited to have found this site as I’ve been reading info on raising multilingual kids but haven’t found any useful discussion groups. I’m really looking forward to getting to know some of you and learning from your experiences.
As you can see from the above, our kids have exposure to 3 languages, which we’ve used with my daughter since birth. While I’m still home on maternity leave with her, I speak predominantly English, although I set a rule (that I don’t always follow) that Mon & Tues are Polish days; evenings and weekends we speak French as a family. I’m going back to work as of Sept 1 and my daughter will be spending all day with a French-speaking nanny. She’ll stay with the nanny when baby #2 is born, and I’ll have a much shorter maternity leave with him/her so the French nanny exposure will happen even earlier. My partner is 100% supportive of our kids learning my two languages
My concerns is mostly about the Polish language as I’m more comfortable teaching them English and other English inputs (colleagues, books, movies, music) are easier to find; they will grow up in France, and their father’s family is all native French speakers whom they see several times a year. My Polish is conversational, as it was the language spoken at home growing up but I grew up in an English speaking country. I’m the only Polish speaking person around us, except for my family in Poland but they’ll only see them for a few weeks per year plus Skype calls. It’s important for me that our kids learn Polish to be able to communicate with my family, and I recognize that it’s a language best learned in childhood at home, not one that’s easy to study later on.
My main concerns/questions:
1) What’s the best language system given that two of the languages have to come from me (i.e., obviously OPOL won’t work in this case).
2) Now that my daughter will be spending 9-10 hours per day with a French nanny, then later in school, will I still have enough time with her (and later both of them) to give them enough exposure to my two languages? It’ll be mostly me with them in the evenings as their father works late, but that’ll only be 1-2 hours per night and weekends are family time so mostly French.
3) Am I risking language confusion? I have colleagues who similarly speak 3-4 languages at home and some have told me their kids refused to speak a language, or even needed speech therapy to speak at all. I think that structure is the key, so that the child knows clearly when to speak what language, but I’m not sure how to set that up with Polish and English both coming only from me and us having limited time.
Anyone have any advice? I’d love to hear experiences from people who have had a similar situation with 1 parent as a 2 language input – what worked and what didn’t? What were the biggest obstacles and difficulties? What is the level of proficiency and comfort of the kids in each language?
Thanks in advance everyone!
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I feel for you. We have an eight year old and a five year old, both exposed to German (from dad, current community language), English (previously community language and remains family language) and Finnish (from mom, who also is the native English speaker). We find the language fluency of our kids a direct function of the amount of exposure and this fluctuates significantly over time. Therefore, your concerns about realistic exposure to Polish (even English) are very legitimate and require A LOT of commitment, effort and work over the kids lifetime in your household. A small relief is that if and when they are literate in the given language, they can also multiply their exposure independently from you, motivation and skill allowing! My daughter’s Finnish is excellent, as we probably spent more quality time alone together during formative language acquisition years (birth – 3), though we always had nannies who spoke English (or Spanish!). Unfortunately, the opportunities for exposure to the minority language will wane with the second child, as they will soon also have their own language regime preference. Even though our son has rejected Finnish, with sufficient exposure (8 weeks of holiday with grand parents), he no longer does and is a proud attendee at weekly Finnish School sessions. Good luck with your efforts!!