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Old 18.01.2010, 17:03
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

It really depends on the children - in my experience there is no real recipe efficient for ALL kiddos. You just have to go by your gut feeling and figure out what will work for your child.

Is your child very verbal? Start chatter and syllabels early? How is the child's attitude to people who speak differently? Afraid of welcoming? Is she shying away from children on the playground who speak a different language? How is she with hearing and repeating the specifics of your language, phonetics, etc..? Does she pick up little foreign phrases without being instructed or encouraged?

We had a non talker (actually a very verbal child but really sensitive to the fact there were 3 languages around her, which "muted" her). We lived quite isolated, too, with not so much contact with our home families, with the exceptions of few visits. She started speaking at 1,5 and got quiet when she noticed the second language, started again a year later and got quiet when she noticed the 3rd language. She only started speaking when she noticed other people (granny, uncles, etc) speaking. As if she remembered from babyhood that parents will take care of a baby no matter of the baby not being able to speak. I realized we had a kid quite sensitive to the language differences, not too keen on nonverbal tools and super frustrated with not being able to make herself understood. It was logical that there was a tantrum almost everytime she tried to communicate and failed. I have to say that for the longest time our kid found a solice in watching only nonverbal cartoons, it was also an indication for me that she is having a rough time digesting the mess.

So I did the following, making sure everything went gradually: first encourage mother tongue and wait till she could string 2 words together, then few weeks after have the second parent slowly add the second language. I would not teach her a non mother tongue eventhough I am a lang prof since I believe everybody teaches their mother tongue the best. Now, I will wait a few more months and shortly before her 4th bday I would like her to start "noticing" french, through daycare or so. I know that while some kids would be just fine battling with all 3 languages simultaneosly, for others it can be a pretty painful experience, resulting in social issues, fears, etc.

I am not too big on any very strict ways, like ignoring your kid when they slip from one language to another. Home is not a school, why put kids on a spot and make them perform, when I would like my child to primarily chill with me and learn by modelling, haha...I also am not too keen of strictly adhering to languages at family meeting, since people (like the second partner, when the child is not strong in his language and this partner does not speak your mother tongue) can feel isolated from the child. So, there are ways, but I would keep it flexible, relaxed and not too "school" like..

One thing, though, is a child is not exposed to your (or your partner's) language too much, the only source is you, make sure you pronouce and speak clearly and properly. It would not matter so much if you were at home, but abroad, you become the main source, so it requires more care. Saves the little ones troubles later.

She started really speaking roughly at 3, second language followed quickly and she knows now there is a 3rd one and is not afraid of it anymore. I am now trying to figure out, if and when there should be a 4th one, since one has to choose a school soon.
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Old 18.01.2010, 17:13
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Here's a thread you might be interested in, if you haven't seen it yet:

Multi-lingual toddlers


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Old 18.01.2010, 17:20
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Hi there...my son is bilingual. He is 5 years old and speaks both english and german. I personally think it's a great idea that the child learns both languages. The important thing is not to speak both languages with them (one language per person) that way they don't get confused. I think it's better for them to learn a second oor third language earlier on in life.
Good luck and congrats
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Old 18.01.2010, 17:21
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Hi all, here're the details of the workshop I attended Nov last year in Lausanne. Not sure if they will hold it again, you might check it out again with the e-mail address at the bottom.

I have the book as well but personally I think the workshop is better I have some notes of the seminar. Could PM me if you want it but it takes sometime to dig it out..

Know-it-all passport presents a workshop for

Raising Multilingual Children: Foreign Language Acquisition and Children

by world-renowned linguist Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, Ph.D.

Tracey Tokuhama-Espinosa, author of “Raising Multilingual Children” and four other books on the brain and learning, is giving a talk at the Hotel Agora in Lausanne on Tuesday, November 24th from 18h30-20h30.

There are Ten Key Factors which influence every student’s success with new languages:
1) Timing
2) Aptitude
3) Motivation
4) Strategy
5) Consistency
6) Opportunity
7) Language Typology
8) Siblings
9) Gender
10) Hand-use
Each person will combine these “ingredients” together in their own unique “recipe” for learning. This workshop will familiarize teachers with the factors and suggest tools for enhancing those which are shaped in the school context.

Tracey will explain how children learn languages and answer your questions. For example:
* Is it ok to have 2, 3, 4 languages at the same time or is it better for children to learn languages consecutively?
* When should your children learn multiliteracy skills?
* Who should speak what in order to maximize the best language skills?
* Should you learn a foreign language alongside your children?
* Come with your own questions and be prepared to share your own concerns about the best way to raise multilingual children.

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
18h30 to 20h30

Hotel Agora
Av. du Rond-Point 9
1006 Lausanne
Salle I

Reservations: knowitall@knowitall .ch or at www.knowitall. ch
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Old 18.01.2010, 20:36
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

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....Because parents and educator took the liberty in training the child in speaking rather than writing& speaking in both languages which is not easy and very, very confusing for the child. It will be therefore advised to train the child in speaking the 2 languages as indicated by posts on this forum. .


Do you mean not advised?

I suppose it depends very much which experts you talk to. I know plenty of multilingual families who speak 2+ languages fluently at home, and they manage fine. What you find is that, pre-school, the vocabulary in one specific language is less than it would be for a monolingual child, but over all spoken languages, it is bigger. They tend to speak a little later.

Once they start school (monolingual), they soon catch up.

Not much sign of confusion in my experience. Your knowledge sounds to me to be somewhat outdated and at variance with reality.
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Old 18.01.2010, 22:56
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Hi,

My other half is Dutch and at home we speak our respective languages (I, English) to our 2.5 y.o. I can understand Dutch perfectly but if he says stuff to me in Dutch I ask him to repeat it in English. Ditto / vice versa my wife.

Not only does he speak and understand both languages without a problem, he can also translate from one to the other.

At the Kinderkrippe, everything is done in German. The other day we had one of the assistants from the Kinderkrippe babysit for us. As we were getting ready to go, he had a big long chat in Swiss German with his babysitter.

Before Christmas we attended a "Sinterklaas" celebration with the Basel Dutch society. One of the fathers (from a Dutch/English family) there said they had (I think) their three year old tested for Dutch language skills in the Netherlands and she was about 6 months behind a Dutch kid who has lived in the Netherlands and been raised in a monolingual family; so they arranged for some extra coaching.

I read somewhere (will Google and post when I find the link) that multilingual kids not only catch up with their monoligual counterparts - but that they eventually overtake them as the two hemispheres of the brain in a multilingual child are better able to work in concert with each other.

Cheers,
Nick
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Old 18.01.2010, 23:21
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

some multi or bilingual kids may seem a bit slower to begin speaking, but think of the amount of input that they have! it's incredible and exactly as you say, they are later on considered to be more mentally "agile" because of the stimulation that goes with comprehending, formulating speech and being able to function in different languages. in the end, a child will learn language based on their personal needs. they will make sense of the languages in their own way and while it is always great to add some care and guidance to them in their acquisition of the languages, i have seen some parents become very focused and too attentive to the equality and use of the various languages and when that becomes the focus the child can choose one over the other.
i tend to think children are quite good at making sense of the language that they are hearing and even better at using it, in all forms, when it is relevent.
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Old 19.01.2010, 00:10
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

I found it very natural - I am bilingual italo-french with a good smattering of English following extended expatriations. My daughter is essentially fully bilingual french-english - speaks, reads, writes comfortably and at her school level, speaks and read also italian, and is acquiring german fast.

Initially she went to school in English (kindergarden) in the US, with no french but with english and italian mostly. Eventually, at 5 yrs old she wanted to learn french (family reasons), and after 2 years in a bilingual school, where she started to read and write in both french and english, we came to CH - where she is schooled in french (public school), very successfully.

It was mostly being consistent, ensuring exposure to languages in movies, proposing books and giving the example of reading and writing in our lives.
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Old 19.01.2010, 10:55
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Both my kids speak English, Swiss German, and High German. When my first one was born i had a talk with her Doctor and asked his advice about speaking English and Swiss German to her, and the Doctor told me a child can learn up to 7 languages no problem.
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Old 20.01.2010, 04:49
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

True! My friend, the daughter of a Mexican woman, came to me one day and asked me "Hey Jen, my English teacher tells me I have a Spanish accent when I speak English."
I kind of laughed and said "Of course you do, your mom's native language is Spanish and she has a very strong Spanish accent when she speaks English." She learned to pronounce the words in the same way her mother speaks them
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Old 22.01.2010, 18:27
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to say thanks for the interesting comments on this thread. It was good to hear about other people's experiences.

My husband and I speak German to each other at home and being bilingual myself, I think in German and associate home with German and work with English (I'm an English teacher).

While I'm sure I'll have no problems speaking English directly to the baby once its born, I'm worried that I'll have problems switching between the two languages in the home environment when my husband is around...

My new year's resolution was to start speaking English at home with my husband but I've not been successful so far - it just feels too weird! Oh well, guess I'll just wait and see how things go when the baby arrives in April.

Thanks again for all your comments and advice.

Nicola
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Old 22.01.2010, 19:09
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Dear Nicola

I'm a Swiss kindergarten teacher with experience in teaching pre-school at the International School of Basel. During my education I was told that one person should only speak one language. Means you might have one family language und you and your husband speak different ones while you're alone with the child. There are children who might be capable of three languages at one time, but if not, they might not speak at all. I knew a boy who only said one word by the age of three because he was so confused. While teaching I experienced also children having a lot of trouble learning a second language even in an early age.

To be able to speak two languages it is also very important that a child knows all the words in one language. Studies prove that your second language can only be as good as your mother tongue is. If you switch from one language to the other, you might end up saying one word in only one language and another only in the other. That's why a lot of bilingual people start a sentence in one and finish the sentence in a second language.

If you do decide to speak two languages with your child, I would highly recommend you to decide on which days you want to speak which language and be strickt with yourself.

I believe we expect a lot from our children these days..I rather have children beeing confortable and happy rather than over educated at an early age. I grew up with just one language (Swiss german) and am now capable of speaking four as well. Maybe not as good as a native speaker but good enough to improve it to a higher level if I wanted to. We have a lifetime to learn, not just a few years!

All the best, Nicole
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Old 22.01.2010, 19:10
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Hello!

I am fully bilingual english/italian, hubby is fully bilingual english/ german so we speak english 'at home'

With our 15 months old I speak mostly italian, sometimes english if we are in an english speaking settitng

My husband does the same.

She is exposed to swiss german in the nursery.

So far she seems to do fine and understands all 4 languages pretty well.

Had also gone to the seminar by Tracy and found it very interesting. She has some views that are somewhat different from other experts.

For example, she says you can use the principle of using 1 language per situation (I.e. Family all together and 1:1 with child) which in our situation I found useful.

Ultimately however, I would also suggest to be reaxed and go with the flow as whatever is natural will come to you. If you force yourself and are tense about it, it will be worse.

Cheers,

K
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Old 23.01.2010, 01:39
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

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Hi there,

I'm British and my husband is German. We've been living in Switzerland for 5 years now. We're expecting our first child in April and I have been reading a fair bit about bringing up children bilingually.

I grew up bilingually (English/German) and I'm especially interested to hear from anybody else who was themselves bought up bilingually and now has children. How is it working for you?

Hoping to get some advice through this forum and share experiences.

Best wishes,

Nicola
Good thread! Yeah I was thinking that I definately want my kids to be bilingual and I think it will be best for me to speak only English to them and for my honey to speak German and English to them and their grandparents can speak German to them, that way they will be fluent in both languages. My Swiss German is not very good so they would learn it wrong from me but I am native English speaker I was born in America so they can learn fluent English from me. I think it will be very good for them to be bilingual.

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When one parent speaks English and the other Swiss German, your kids will understand English but not speak perfectly.

When both parents speak English, your kids will understand and speak perfectly.

As an English speaking parent, I sometimes get frustrated that my kids are learning English here from me but my Swiss isn't improving because I've put my kids' interests before mine.
Yeah kids brains can learn any language fluently without an accent up until like the age of 7 or 8, after that any language they learn they will have an accent. The brain is wired to accept any language fluently up until that age. So if you want them fluent without an accent in any language they need to learn it and speak it as early as possible.

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if a child is exposed to more than one language they will understand (and hopefully speak) more than one language. if both parents speak different languages to a child- the mother speaks spanish and the father speaks english, the child can learn both perfectly, there is not a clear formula for these things. as i said, my son is bilingual, as he learned to read in english, i taught him to read in spanish; as he learned to write, i did the same. he has strengths and weaknesses in both, of course, but it is much better than anyone learn their second or third language in school or later on. as for choosing one language to speak to a child in, this is only a theory and there is evidence both suggesting and denying this. my family speak a mix of languages now at gatherings, and childrenwho can decipher and organize the information they are getting accordingly. lastly, language acquisition is a really individual process; just like learning as an adult. there are so many different ways of learning and it's very dependant on the person/child. a seminar or course may give you some generalities, but often they are not acrossthe board and the moment your child is not following stages or learning as explained will be when we as parents start to stress, which is crazy b.c most of all language learning is a natural process, like learning to walk. if we leave kids to there own and just expose them to the target languages- they'll get it.

and this i know- because i was going for my grad degree in linguistics (syntax and lang acquisition) when my son just started talking- i was so careful and a bit worried and in 9 years of research; as a parent and as a linguist and as a teacher- i can see how natural it is!
Yeah I think it's a good idea to start them off learning to read both languages too when they start to learn to read. I think I will get Jack & Jill type learn to read type books in both languages for my kids and they will practice and learn to write in both languages. I think that will be cool.

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What's important is to only speak to your children in languages in which you are fluent, especially when they are very young. To do otherwise can harm their acquisition of language skills. That is, they may not learn to speak any language properly.

My wife and I fluent English and intermediate German and French speakers. We speak English almost exclusively at home. Our kids gained fluency in German quite quickly. And of course are fluent in English, and that is their dominant language.
Exactly! Because they will copy exactly what they hear and how they hear it which is why I will speak the English and my honey can speak the German and English because his English is very good.
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Old 23.01.2010, 01:54
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

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True! My friend, the daughter of a Mexican woman, came to me one day and asked me "Hey Jen, my English teacher tells me I have a Spanish accent when I speak English."
I kind of laughed and said "Of course you do, your mom's native language is Spanish and she has a very strong Spanish accent when she speaks English." She learned to pronounce the words in the same way her mother speaks them
LOL! Exactly!! They will learn the language exactly as they hear it!
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Old 23.01.2010, 10:54
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

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Experts say that real bilingual children do not exist ...
How come there is a word for it then

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...There are children who might be capable of three languages at one time, but if not, they might not speak at all. I knew a boy who only said one word by the age of three because he was so confused. ...
Was he really confused? Or just a naturally late speaker? One things I've observed with Asian/European children is that, whether one language or many are spoken at home, they often started speaking much later than their non-mixed-race peers.

Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I do know quite a few mixed-race families, and it is definitely a common trait.

It was certainly the case with two of our three children, growing up in England, with only English being spoken at home. My son didn't really start speaking until he was four. Of course after that we couldn't shut him up! He's now 18, having arrived in CH 8 years ago speaking no German. He's fluent in German and English, but one difficulty he does have is translating. He knows the word in both languages... but has difficulty connecting them. Not really an issue for him as he's average above 5 at Gymnasium.

With very young children, I don't think we're talking about education. Or forcing bilingualism. I think we're talking about natural language acquisition. Natural bilingualism. Of course, if you speak English at home and your kids go to local schools, they will by the end of it be bilingual!

With reading, all of our children read extensively both German and English books. Very important in building vocabulary.
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Old 24.01.2010, 03:42
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

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How come there is a word for it then


Was he really confused? Or just a naturally late speaker? One things I've observed with Asian/European children is that, whether one language or many are spoken at home, they often started speaking much later than their non-mixed-race peers.

Anecdotal evidence, sure, but I do know quite a few mixed-race families, and it is definitely a common trait.

It was certainly the case with two of our three children, growing up in England, with only English being spoken at home. My son didn't really start speaking until he was four. Of course after that we couldn't shut him up! He's now 18, having arrived in CH 8 years ago speaking no German. He's fluent in German and English, but one difficulty he does have is translating. He knows the word in both languages... but has difficulty connecting them. Not really an issue for him as he's average above 5 at Gymnasium.

With very young children, I don't think we're talking about education. Or forcing bilingualism. I think we're talking about natural language acquisition. Natural bilingualism. Of course, if you speak English at home and your kids go to local schools, they will by the end of it be bilingual!

With reading, all of our children read extensively both German and English books. Very important in building vocabulary.
Yeah some children do just start talking late naturally even when they are only learning 1 language, Einstein did not talk untill he was like 4yrs old. So some kids are just naturally late. Plus certain things like "mama" and "no" are universal so kids around any number of languages should at least say those words and others like it, so late talkers I don't think has anything to do with the number of languages they are around. I have seen plenty of little Puerto Rican kids in America who have no problem speaking English AND Spanish.

Yeah I think the key is for them to learn it naturally from just being exposed to it and hearing it. Not to learn it in a forced way. But for kids in Switzerland they will hear German in public and on TV, like cartoons or radio and things like that as well as English from the English speaking parents so it will really be learned naturally I think. Then once school starts for those in school, they will speak German in their class and with their friends but will speak their parents native tongue at home. So I think it's all naturally learned.

What I found really interesting is that one of my mom's friends had BOTH parents who were born deaf so they spoke no words at all only sign language but the kids who were all hearing, did just fine with talking because they learned to speak normally at a normal age, now THAT was something to wonder about how that happened! They used sign language to their parents and words to other family members I guess. So yeah kids are good with learning languages as long as they are around the language and hear it regularly.
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Old 24.01.2010, 11:08
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

We are a trilingual family with a 3.5 year old that speak English together and our son goes to a Swiss Kindekrippe. We always said "mama and papa" because it was easier in the 3 languages, we used "one language, one parent" and didn't mix languages up until age 2 when our son still wasn't speaking much, so my husband switched to speaking English as well.

At 2 years old, he spoke only 20 English words, at 2.5 years about 200, at 3 we couldn't keep him quiet He could understand Swiss German for a long time but only started speaking recently. He confuses languages when he is tired and now tells us "in English: Dog, in Deutsch: Hund" and that certain people speak German or English. When he says a German word, the entire sentence must be in German, he can't mix and match.

He knows the ABC song in English and German (thanks to a Fisher Price toy) but we need to tell him when he tries to read (only 3 and some 4 letter words now) what language it is in so he can sound out the letters.

The third language he understands through skype with the family, but unfortunately doesn't speak a word of it.

I never thought i'd be bringing up a child speaking more than one language. Well done to everyone!
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Old 24.01.2010, 12:34
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

Nice thread. I'd like to get some advise from the more experienced parents.

I am pregnant with our first child. The plan is that my husband speaks his mothertongue and I mine. The problem is, we speak his mothertongue at home because he doesn't speak or understand mine very well yet.

Should we switch to a third language, which neither of us speaks perfectly?
Should we just keep talking his mothertongue at home and I speak mine to the kid?
Or should we both insist talking our own mothertongues and eventually be able to communicate again properly in a couple of weeks, when he is more fluent in mine?
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Old 17.02.2010, 03:01
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Re: Advice on bringing up children bilingually

This really is an interesting thread, many thanks for all the great input.
I would categorise myself as definitely bilingual (English/SwissGerman), very close to trilingual (French). I grew up in Australia. We spoke Swiss German at home and Mum taught us how to read and write High German later on. I started in a French pre-school at age 4 and proceeded from there to bilingual Kindergarten and Primary School. Alternating mornings and afternoons were in purely English or purely French. Secondary school had 4 of 8 subjects in purely French following an official French curriculum - all our French teachers were native French speakers. I can read and write competently to well in all languages, but lack depth in French. Interestingly, I find it quite difficult to translate which I always thought was because I learnt languages independently of each other -- I suspect it is also just the way my brain works. I don't remember ever feeling frustrated or not understanding -- it probably happened, but not in a way that left a lasting impression on me. Also, depending on my current exposure to any of these languages, my fluency varies. Living and working in a mostly French-speaking environment, my French was better than my German. Now it is the other way around - so I believe we remain flexible throughout our lives. And I also feel that being multilingual made learning in general easier, I was an excellent pupil, but that doesn't always mean that dealing with life is any easier -- there are a lot of other skills that are just as or more important than academic ones.
Now I have an almost 2 year old son and we are expecting our second child in June. Our home language is Swiss German and I sometimes feel guilty that I am not speaking enough English with Corvin -- but I also decided early on that my emotional connection to him is more important to me than linguistic perfection and I know myself well enough to realise that I don't have the discipline to force myself to stick to only one language -- it just doesn't feel natural. I'm pretty certain that he is getting a high exposure to English - I speak it with my family on the phone, skype and friends here in Biel. Also, bathtime is English time and he seems to understand me fine, so I am thinking of doing things more situationally as someone mentioned in an earlier post. Some stories are always told in English, others in Swiss German. Later on, I would like to send him to the French schooling system here in Biel, but have heard that the "authorities" discourage this -- we'll probably do it anyway. Their main argument is that parents are not able to support their children with homework, which doesn't apply to our situation anyway. Biel is trialing a bilingual early education system. This is definitely something we will look into as well.
Ok, basically my philosophy is that exposure to languages at an early age is almost only beneficial, but that it's not worth being too dogmatic about anything -- and it all depends on how our kids handle things, there's no point in traumatising them just to prove any theories, all the while keeping in mind, that kids are also awfully resilient -- we'll see in about 20 years how we did!
I will not get of my soap box and wish everyone all the best with their little ones...
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