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Old 18.02.2008, 09:21
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Being a parent to multilingual children, I was curious if any of you have tackled the issue of teaching your children to read in the language that they are not taught in school. Living in Lugano, my kids are learning to read and write in Italian. We speak English at home.

I haven't tried teaching them to read in English, but was wondering if anybody else has had success with it. (whether it be English or another language)

My son who is in 2nd grade does attempt to read certain words in English and I just correct him as he is reading them phonetically (like how it is done in Italian).
I teach my children to read and write in English, whereas our nanny does the same in German. Funnily enough my daughter refers to my time teaching her as English lessons whereas she does not refer to the nanny as German lessons or the like just learning to read and write. I wonder sometimes why... She is 5 by the way.
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Old 18.02.2008, 09:33
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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I haven't tried teaching them to read in English, but was wondering if anybody else has had success with it. (whether it be English or another language)
We read and write a little in English (he knows the alphabet), also try to learn reading/writing in Russian, but Russian is quite difficult, so we are taking it easy now
In the beginning cards helped a lot - just looking at the card with the word he could "read" it right away.
As to German - it's not our family language, so I am going to leave it to school and his swiss friends
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Old 18.02.2008, 17:25
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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And, those languages often have nothing in common! Czech and English??? And French???? Completely different structure, syntax, morphology, everything.
I was quite surprised to read this -- when the opposite is true! Your three examples -- Czech, English and French -- have very much in common, all three belonging to the Indo-European language family. On the surface, yes, they seem very different, but their underlying logic and morpho-syntactic structure are actually strikingly similar.

Last edited by MusicChick; 08.06.2011 at 23:25. Reason: fixed a quote
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Old 18.02.2008, 18:18
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Being a parent to multilingual children, I was curious if any of you have tackled the issue of teaching your children to read in the language that they are not taught in school.
Grammar was my worst subject in school, there was no way I was going to try to teach my daughter to read and write in English. Luckily I found an American woman who had a regular job teaching English to adults but also had a little "English School" of her own. She had several groups that came to her home once a week for a couple of hours of English. The children were required to speak English (well) already because she wasn't teaching them to speak, instead she taught them English comprehension, reading and writing. My daughter was already reading a lot of English books on her own (self taught with a little help from me) but this once a week English group she did over a 4 year period did do a lot to bring her up to a much higher level.
Even today at the age of 18, born here and done all her schooling in the public Swiss schools (in German) she still insists she wishes all her classes had been in English because she understands and grasps the language better than German. She prefers to buy books first in English, second in French and lastly in German. My observation on this is that because she speaks perfect Zuri-Deutsch written (high) German is a foreign language to her which she connects with less.
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  #65  
Old 21.02.2008, 08:33
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

One of the major reasons we picked CH as a country of destination for the family move to Europe was to give our children the multi-lingual education that we never had growing up. English-only speaking Americans.

My son is nearly two and talks incessently in what sounds to me like Huttese. He reads in this incomprehensible language and attempts to talk to other children in it, they all look at him like he is crazy. He has a firm grasp on about ten English words that I can understand.

My daughter is three weeks old on Friday.

Our plan is for a move within three years so our son will be nearing Kindergarten age here. Any insight from someone that had a similar experience would be great.
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  #66  
Old 29.02.2008, 21:30
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

My daughter is 21 months old and she talks very clear English and Swiss German. I am Asian & English is just my second language but I chose to talk to my daughter in English since this is what I use most of the time. I think the best way to teach children speak more than one lanaguages is to be consistent ang just talk and talk and talk to them all the time. Can you believe that she was only 18 mos when she started coining two words together? like 'open it', 'close it', 'flast it'. Give me' and so on and that she can say them also in Swiss German. Now at 21 mos she can already name her body parts both in the two languages, she knows almost all the things she sees inside our house and outside and oh by the way she started doing lil errands for us as early as 16 mos like throwing waste on the trash,getting the shoes,closing the doors,putting her toys back to its boxes, and many others. she talks and understands amazingly. And I think that is because we talk to her a lot and treat her like she is our equal. Someday, I hope to find someone from my country who can speak to her in my native language. I dream for her to be a linguist and I can see it is no hard work.
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Old 02.03.2008, 05:48
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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And, those languages often have nothing in common! Czech and English??? And French???? Completely different structure, syntax, morphology, everything.
quote]

I was quite surprised to read this -- when the opposite is true! Your three examples -- Czech, English and French -- have very much in common, all three belonging to the Indo-European language family. On the surface, yes, they seem very different, but their underlying logic and morpho-syntactic structure are actually strikingly similar.
Well, theoretically, yes, I agree with you. English shares with French a huge body of Latin based words, for example. But it is the surface, as you put it, that one has to unfortunatelly pay attention to during a language acquisition. Most people trying hard to learn these languages would disagree with the seeming similarity. Anglosaxon versus Romanesque versus Slav creates more differences than similarities in practical use of these languages, you know what I mean...?

One a blackboard in a classroom, a comparison of one sentence in these three languages probably comes closer than to say Chinese or Inuit, and let me tell you there is nothing else I love doing more than this, but in reality, when I am trying to cram hundreds of Czech inflection varieties into my students IndoEuropean heads or explain why there are words with no vowels in Czech, knowing the seeming resemblance does not really facilitate the process. And those are adults.

Imagine one baby simultaneously comrehending 3 langauges, no matter how close they are (more etymologically than syntactically or morhologically, I must say, take word order, which in making first comprehensible utterances is indispensible, English and French fixed, Czech flexible, or phonology, Czech is phonetic with all its quirkiness) hence my earlier advice, to first get the mother tongue going at least a bit and learn the simplest linguistic terminology and then gently and playfully introduce the L2, L3...There is no rush, slower the process is in my opinion higher quality and depth it shows later.

Thanks for raising the issue, I love this topic! I do not think I can use the resemblance to motivate my baby girl as she could care less but my husband might find it amusing and motivating, he is fluent in French, English is his mother tongue but struggles with Czech big time, he says it is the hardest.

Enough of run on sentences, breastfeeding duties...ay yay
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Old 07.01.2009, 00:17
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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And if you are not able to express your fleeting
perceptions easily without hunting for words then you are simply not
fluent.
Exactly.

I have nothing whatsoever against multilingual kids with gaps in their vocabulary. That is perfectly normal. What I object to is, admittedly, something of a special case:

Bringing up a kid in such a mixed environment that he ends up with *no* native mother tongue.

Such a kid will "not be able to express his fleeting perceptions easily without hunting for words" because, to put it as bluntly as Richard, he simply will not be fluent in any language.

This will lead to communication becoming less extensive and, following on from that, less interaction and, eventually, this is bound to have a lasting impact. The risk are: becoming introverted, socially inept, akward, inarticulate, etc.

The solution is not a monolinguist forever immersed in their own culture. However, even a professional translator will never accept to translate to anything but to their mother tongue and nor will they be forgiven glaring holes in their strongest language.

So, somewhere in between semi-lingual and monolingual, there is a middle way ;-)

Anyway, semi-lingual is a risk worth being aware of despite my making a hash of presenting it. Just to repeat scenario that we are talking about:

- Parents with 2 different native languages.
- Living in a country with 3rd language.
- Going to school with 4th (and learning 5th & 6th) language.

If you find you are the parents in such a situation, do try to reduce the amount of years that you are subjecting your child to such a confusing mess. Unless, of course, he blossoms into an extroverted outgoing popular natural language genius in which case he is obviously coping just fine :-)

Ralph
(who has no first language)

Last edited by ralph; 07.01.2009 at 00:51.
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  #69  
Old 07.01.2009, 10:41
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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... Such a kid will "not be able to express his fleeting perceptions easily without hunting for words" because, to put it as bluntly as Richard, he simply will not be fluent in any language.

This will lead to communication becoming less extensive and, following on from that, less interaction and, eventually, this is bound to have a lasting impact. The risk are: becoming introverted, socially inept, akward, inarticulate, etc...
I would agree with you if I believed that fluency was some kind of absolute state. But it is not. Language is by definition in flux. Chomsky's famous competence/performance dichotomy comes to mind. Speakers of any language, no matter how competent or 'fluent', will occasionally underperform (not be able to 'express their fleeting perceptions without hunting for words'). As to the second paragraph, is it really the lack of fluency that causes social ineptness and awkwardness or could it also be the other way around?
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Old 07.01.2009, 11:02
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

My daughter speaks fluent English, High German and Schweizerdeutsch.
She is more socially- outgoing than many of her Swiss friends (teenage) and had already a wide vocabulary range at an early age.
While she has no reservations at chopping and changing the language she is speaking according to her conversation partner, I do realise that this is to some extent dependent on character.
She went to Kindergarten at 5 years old to meet other Swiss children.
We had to make a special application to illustrate how she would benefit from this early start - being half-English and an only child.
We speak English at home, but she speaks Swiss German with all my husband's family.
High German she learned from watching KIKA (Kinderkanal) when she was young - she loved these programmes!
She has so far had no problem with French at school, so all in all, we have had a very positive experience with language and integration.
Young children are more than capable of absorbing and using many different languages. It's often the parents who have the problems "on behalf" of their kids.
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Old 07.01.2009, 11:06
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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I would agree with you if I believed that fluency was some kind of absolute state. But it is not. Language is by definition in flux. Chomsky's famous competence/performance dichotomy comes to mind. Speakers of any language, no matter how competent or 'fluent', will occasionally underperform (not be able to 'express their fleeting perceptions without hunting for words'). As to the second paragraph, is it really the lack of fluency that causes social ineptness and awkwardness or could it also be the other way around?
I find myself hunting for words in English and my husband is no longer fluent in his mother toungue and keeps filling in words that he can't remember with the word 'thing'

Our 2.5 year old son understands 3 languages but strictly speaks only English to me and thinks the few words he has said to me in German are funny.

Strangely, 'no' is always in German, colours are always in English but counting to 20 is always correct in whatever language he starts in.
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Old 07.01.2009, 23:38
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Anyone out there brought up in the mixed environment that I quoted above? (Parents with 2 different native languages., Living in a country with 3rd language, Going to school with 4th (and learning 5th & 6th) language and being subjected to this long term e.g. 20+ years).

Its fine to state that this is ok for the kids cos they r happy but it would be much more convincing coming from someone who has actually experienced such an upbringing themselves.
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  #73  
Old 08.01.2009, 04:45
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

To me semilingualism is an outdated value laden term. It corresponds to the study of vertical and horizontal literacies. To outsiders, speaking in mixed languages means that you are semi-literal and therefore semi-intelligent. To me the opposite is true, most people who have horizontal literacy (parochial) also have vertical (schooled) they can switch between them. I mean would you say that a person who uses IM abbreviations or the weird structure of some management jargon as semi-literate? They just choose the one that fits their environment best. It makes them much more socially adept and encourages holistic thinking. Languages change with time, they adapt to the needs of their environment. Identify children as semilingual is politically divisive, it gives value to some groups and discriminates against others. Creole to me is a language, as is Schweitzer-Deutsch but many German or English speakers will tell you that they are dialects. To be of value they must have an officially recognized written form. On the flip-side this can work well for the people who speak the dialect, you can't learn their language from studying it, you have to live it and won't be accepted as a member of the group until you get to grips with it. I encouraged my kids to learn both standard and non-standard languages, I still insist that they use the WH in what where and when, although this is now considered archaic, I like the sound of it, just like I teach them to eat with a spoon and fork the English way. In the end they use what the situation calls for it is just good to give them lots of experiences. If a child is late talking it is imperative that you do not just wait, in the belief that exposure to multiple languages means that they will be initially slow in language development. You run the risk of denying your child early intervention which could play a major role in development if the child has a learning disability. Just get them checked out and lay your worries to rest. I also found that the best way to learn language is through music, language rhymes etc. It vastly improves memory retention and helps them to build up a store of language frameworks for comparison. If you show kids that you enjoy playing with language they will enjoy it too. Don't go second checking every utterance with a Thomson and Martinet grammar book, leave that to EFL teachers!
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Old 08.01.2009, 12:20
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Anyone out there brought up in the mixed environment that I quoted above? (Parents with 2 different native languages., Living in a country with 3rd language, Going to school with 4th (and learning 5th & 6th) language and being subjected to this long term e.g. 20+ years)...
Yeah, this seems to be a really harsh environment to be growing up in. Try to put things into perspective, though. Things could be worse, I think, For example: 'anyone out there brought up in a mixed environment (parents died in a war, living in a 3rd world country, no school, working in a shoe factory to feed my brothers and sisters -- and being subjected to this long term eg 20+ years)'.
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  #75  
Old 08.01.2009, 20:55
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I was a nanny in a household where the dad was english, the mum was colombian and they lived in France. None of the parents could speak french, so they spoke their native language to the children and they learned french at school. They hired me because i am fluent in all 3 languages, english french and Spanish (i am spanish).

The girls were twins and at the age of 3 they couldnt speak one language, they mixed them all. When i left, all of a sudden, they started speaking them all! I was so proud

Now i am in a similar situation. I am spanish my future hubby is Swedish. We live in Switzerland but we mainly communicate in english. We are both fluent. We know that we will speak our own native language with the kids (when we have them) and that they will learn german in school and so. but english? I speak to my fiancee in english! we dont really know how to focus it.

I can speak some swedish and my fiancee can speak some spanish. But we are fluent in english that is why we have it as a common language. We dont speak german yet.

Any advice for us?
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Old 08.01.2009, 21:05
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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This will lead to communication becoming less extensive and, following on from that, less interaction and, eventually, this is bound to have a lasting impact. The risk are: becoming introverted, socially inept, akward, inarticulate, etc.
I've met quite a few people who only speak ONE language who are introverted, socially inept, awkward, inarticulate, etc.,...

However, I have met MANY more people who are the opposite and speak multiple languages. Even if they have to struggle to get their thoughts out articulately, who really gives a damn?
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Old 08.01.2009, 23:07
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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I am spanish my future hubby is Swedish. We live in Switzerland but we mainly communicate in english. We are both fluent. We know that we will speak our own native language with the kids (when we have them) and that they will learn german in school and so. but english? I speak to my fiancee in english! we dont really know how to focus it.
So the plan is you'll speak to the children in Spanish, your husband speaks to them in Swedish but when they hear you talk together it will be in English and when they go outside they will hear French and learn German at school?

What a mess

(joke)

It might be worth considering where you are heading next - are you more tempted by Sweden or by Spain or by Francophone countries? That might help reduce the quantity.
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  #78  
Old 08.01.2009, 23:20
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Heheh french is not involved, we live in Luzern so they will only learn german outside the house. I am just concerned that they will hear us speak english and...i dont know...:P
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Old 09.01.2009, 00:06
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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I've met quite a few people who only speak ONE language who are introverted, socially inept, awkward, inarticulate, etc.,...

However, I have met MANY more people who are the opposite and speak multiple languages. Even if they have to struggle to get their thoughts out articulately, who really gives a damn?
Well at least you get to be ' introverted, socially inept, awkward, inarticulate, etc.' in more than one language, but you are still accessing more social circles, so I guess it's a start! I do not switch languages well, unless I am in a situation where everyone is switching languages, possibly because I feel more relaxed. Those who switch easily constantly all day tell me that it is just practice. I think that is true, because when they don't speak a language for a while, it takes time for them to become fluid. One problem to me is that vocabulary and speech patterns develop according to situation. So typically you can get a non-native speaker moving to Switzerland whose language skills revolve around domestic stuff, while their partner's revolves around employment language. That's fine unless one partner gains more social status because of their command of language than the other.
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Old 09.01.2009, 00:31
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Now i am in a similar situation. I am spanish my future hubby is Swedish. We live in Switzerland but we mainly communicate in english. We are both fluent. We know that we will speak our own native language with the kids (when we have them) and that they will learn german in school and so. but english? I speak to my fiancee in english! we dont really know how to focus it.

I can speak some swedish and my fiancee can speak some spanish. But we are fluent in english that is why we have it as a common language. We dont speak german yet.

Any advice for us?
It is a lot, considering also that there are 2 languages (Swiss German & German) that they would need to learn outside the home. I'm Irish, my wife is Mexican - I speak English to my daughter, my wife speaks Spanish to her, and we mainly speak Spanish to each other. I did think about speaking to my daughter in Irish, and to my wife in English (so that my daughter would pick up English and Irish), but that would have required a lot more discipline and I thought it would be one language too much.

Having said that, in your case I would go for the 3 language approach in the home. Some exposure to English at a young age would be good, and as it's the most important global language and now being taught as the first foreign language in many Swiss schools, they would be at a great advantage.
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