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Old 12.08.2018, 23:23
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How to maintain english with toddlers?

Hi,

my family and I just came back from 3 years abroad in California. Me and my wife are both Swiss and we generally speak french at home. However my son, who is now 4, spent most of his life in California and is fluent in both English and French (he corrects my english when my accent is too pronounced ). My daughter, who is about to turn 2 was born in the US. She still mostly babbles, but some of the words she says are in English, others in French.

I was wondering if anybody had tips on what I should be doing to make sure my son doesn't loose his english, and to maximise the chances that my daughter picks it up. We decided against private school in English, because of the cost, but also because we also really like the local school and the local community.

Any ideas are welcome. So far I'm looking at a very large spectrum of things, from play groups, to hiring a teacher or finding activities in English.

Thanks!
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Old 12.08.2018, 23:35
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

When I was growing up (many, many decades ago ) my father would speak to me in English and my mother in French.
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Old 12.08.2018, 23:53
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

You could add the CBeebies channel to your tv package for a couple of years https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies , then invest in the Harry Potter books and films in English. My OH has 16yr old twin cousins in Athens who are fluent in English because they became obsessed with Harry Potter, and carried on their English studies at school.
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Old 13.08.2018, 07:17
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Be old fashioned and get some British annuals like Rupert the Bear, etc, and read to/with them.
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Old 13.08.2018, 07:31
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Is it too obvious to say find the local expat community and get some friends there too?
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Old 13.08.2018, 07:55
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Read to them in English.

I think it's enough to have one parent who mostly speaks English with them, but I'm not certain.

I mostly read and spoke English with ours and it was the only way they could speak to their grandparents and my sister's family.

At about 10 they didn't want to watch English movies in English, but that only lasted a year or so.
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Old 13.08.2018, 08:02
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

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You could add the CBeebies channel to your tv package for a couple of years https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies...
Without a doubt the best channel in the world. Their production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was sublime.
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Old 13.08.2018, 08:17
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Try to follow a simple rule, make it a tradition - all of you watch movies/read books in their original language. Books that were written in English, read the originals. Movies that are French, watch them in original language. Make sure your kids see you do it and explain to them your choice. It worked in our house and we have 4 languages currently going.

Winnie the Pooh book - English. Little Prince book - French. American Girl flicks - English. Les Choristes - French. Etc.

Last edited by MusicChick; 13.08.2018 at 08:28.
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Old 13.08.2018, 08:51
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Very interesting.


We have sort of the reverse although I am originally American and my wife is Suisse - I speak to the kids in English & my wife in French. It is only relatively recently that the kids started responding in English but it was really like a 'click' one day and they started responding in English. Really remarkable to see the development.


As for your particular situation, we have a friends of ours who are non-native English speakers (One Spaniard, the other Bulgarian) and their child actually speaks 4 languages at 10 years of age. One of the tips they revealed to us was that apart from reading a book or watching tv/films in different languages, they have days of the week where a certain language is spoken. I know, sounded a bit difficult to manage but they've been doing it for as long as their daughter was able to begin talking and it has absolutely worked.


Where in California may I ask? I am from the Bay area originally
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Old 13.08.2018, 11:48
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

What about hiring a nanny who will only speak to the children in English? She could read to them too and interact only in this language with her. This way they would speak French at school and with you and be fluent in both languages.
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Old 13.08.2018, 13:27
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

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When I was growing up (many, many decades ago ) my father would speak to me in English and my mother in French.
Yes, that's my advice too: Each parent sticks to one language.
The kids quickly understand: He/She only understands this language, so should always be addressed in that language.
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Old 13.08.2018, 15:27
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Get him to use the internet, job done! It taught my daughter English.
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Old 13.08.2018, 17:19
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

My Swiss friend was in this situation about 6 years ago, they are both Swiss and worked in the USA for years, both their daughters were born there but they had to return to Zurich when the oldest was 5 (youngest was 2) they decided that the father would only speak English to them, the mother Swiss German. They watch TV in whichever the original language is and pretty much stick to this rule.
Their youngest daughter (8) is one of my kids best friends and is fluent in English, although some of her grammar is not correct (neither are my kids and we are both English!)
I think it also helps if the parent who speaks English is pretty fluent (which he is, infact I actually thought he was American when I first met him)

It would also be good if you can find some English friends, as we dont speak German in our house all the local kids seem to come here to practice their English and they love to speak it and because they know that I can't speak well enough German they really try which is lovely to hear and it gives them confidence - which I think is the key to learning a language.
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Old 13.08.2018, 20:04
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Annual trips back to California to visit family forces the children to use their English.
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Old Yesterday, 01:37
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

Wow, so much tips, this is really amazing, thanks everybody!

So I'm going to try and reply as best as I can.

Where did we live in California? Bay Area. Specifically, I worked for a company in San Francisco, and we lived in San Rafael (Marin). We loved it there!

As for the tips I noted in this thread:
1. Speaking in English to the kids: I do that quite a bit actually, but I do also speak French with them. I'm fluent and very comfortable in English, as this is my main working language, but I miss some of the nuances or slang that native speakers use when they speak with their kids.
2. Nanny: we're looking for one. Kind of hard to find a native speaker, but we're looking!
3. Books / TV / Movies in the original language: definetely doing that, I love it! And it makes total sense. Right now the Paw Patrol and Fireman Sam are my best English speaking allies
4. Expat community: definitely something that sounds like it would really help, as making friends is probably the best motivation to speak a different language. However it's easier said than done. We are already stretched thin just meeting with family, not sure how much time we'll find to make new friends. But we'll try!
5. Trips to the U.S. Yes, we'll try. I do plan to go back a lot for work anyway, so I'm hoping the family can come along once in a while.

Thanks again everyone for all the ideas!
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Old Yesterday, 09:34
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Re: How to maintain english with toddlers?

My recommendation is for you OR your Husband to ONLY to speak English exclusively, one of you does no French.


I'm American from New York, my wife is Italian. (I understand and can converse in Italian). I only speak to my son in English (he's exactly 2.5 years old) and he was speaking both Italian and English when he started speaking....in a simulataneous way.


Because I only speak English to him (including reading) as my wife does it in Italian, his brain is already wired so today at 2.5 he is speaking in both languages, flips automatically - he'll speak Italian to his Mon, switch to me for English and translates without a skip for me or his Mom. Whereas I know Italian, I won't utter a word to him in that language and similarly my wife won't speak a word of English to him. We stick to it.


The key is directivity - so my wife and I speak English between each other, so he hears it "indirectly" but for a child, directivity is important so when we speak to him we use our native languages. He already pics up on indirect conversation.


I read books in English and she in Italian - he does not watch TV ...yet (no interest cause I guess we don't really watch TV) but when that happens we'll have to worry about 3 languages...he gets Swiss German at the day care, we hear is doing great language wise (he does not speak it at home though he'll sing a song in swiss german from time to time).


So hope that helps - directivity and exclusivity i think is a good recipe if you can manage it.
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