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My husband (American) and I (Eastern European), living in the US, are raising bilingual children: a boy, 4 1/2 and a girl, 2.
So far we have always used the OPOL method which seems to have worked fine for our son. At least so far. He was never behind in terms of speaking in either language, he has a good vocabulary in both and everything seems to be going well. Despite the fact that he has heard mostly my native tongue throughout the day, either from me or from my family – my son still picked up English quite well. Sometimes I wonder how he even managed to do this since my husband is a major NON-TALKER. As a matter of fact, me trying to squeeze words out of his mouth and make him get lost in a sustainable conversation, is the only major thorn in our marriage. Well…with pushing and prodding and trying to make my husband aware that his limited conversations can affect our son’s English language negatively – he tried to do better and it seemed to have worked OK for a while. My son is now in preschool and gets his English from there too. The trouble begins with me daughter. She clearly does not seem to have our son’s verbal inclinations and I think that my husband has gotten even less talkative over the past few years (ask me how much this is driving me up the walls). She is now 2 and speaks my native tongue OK (putting together sentences though she messes up words, be it in a very adorable way). With English though, as you might expect, she is almost zero. She hears her dad a little bit in the evenings, when he comes home from work, but granted his very few sentences and overall lack of verbosity, her English is obviously much worse than that of other American children her age. I am starting to get really frustrated and I am thinking to simply change the method. Instead of continuing to push my husband to be more verbose (which he argues is extremely difficult for him) I would rather do the speaking in both myself. I hate to see her so behind in English compared to her age peers in the US – so I have been considering switching to a method where I say things in my language and then repeat it right away in English. I have not heard this method to be widely used and I don’t think it gives the best results either, but rather than leaving this little girl’s speaking up to her introverted, non-talkative daddy, I’d rather give up the OPOL method, because one of the P-s is hardly capable to speak his very own. My husband’s lack of verbosity does not come from a lack of education – he has two graduate degrees (granted, not in a field involving lots of words, but rather numbers), and he does have a very good vocabulary, often using words that I have to ask him about. The trouble is he is not expressing language frequently and consistently, not “taking it out”. He says he just isn’t much of a conversationalist and that it does not come naturally to him to add a lot of detail and context, etc in conversations. Question : what would you do to prevent this little girl from falling so behind with her English. PS: Yes, we do reading every evening – we take turns putting each one to bed and I am thinking that this is where my son got his English from: his father verbalizing it with the aid of books. Unfortunately, my daughter seems to be more antsy and she does not seem to have the keen interest and long attention span that my son has always had with books. She loses interest quicker which by nature, reduced the words being read. Thanks again.
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My husband is more of a talker than yours, from what you say, but I still have had to prod him to actually talk to our daughter – not just chastise or wrestle with her, etc. You have to talk for her to learn your language! I would tell him. So I can feel where you’re coming from at least a little on this one.
Since you are the minority language speaker, I would avoid using much English myself if I were you. Your kids WILL learn English, but they only MIGHT learn your language – you know what I mean? But you live in US, so there are plenty of people around for your kids to learn English from, not just Daddy. If I were you I would make an extra effort, within your ability, to get out and expose the kids (or just the younger girl) to other people. Parks, play dates with American kids, whatever activities and classes are available in your area. You don’t mention if you work full time, which would obviously really limit your ability to devote too much time to English socializing for your daughter. But anything will help, even if it isn’t every single day. Basically I think instead of trying to change your husband (probably cause more harm than good) or to make up the deficit yourself (difficult logistically plus detrimental to your own language), the best option is to bring in outside help: lots of American friends, neighbors, playgroups, whatever you can think of. Good luck, and don’t get too discouraged – your daughter will catch up to her peers, and then some – she’ll be bilingual! Melissa wheregoinghavo.blogspot.com
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The English will come, stick with your language! Before long, she will prefer to speak English because it’s the language of her academic experience and of most, if not of all, her peers (not to mention the fact that it’s the global language). Even if her English is not so well developed, it will naturally become her stronger language in time. I believe the greatest threat is that she loses or underdevelops your native language.