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elizabeth
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi,

I am a monolingual English speaking parent who is about intermediate in Spanish. My husband only speaks English. Starting in August and until recently I was speaking to my two year old mostly in Spanish, while my husband speaks to him in English. He also goes to an English speaking daycare and we live in Baltimore in an overwhelmingly English area. He picked up understanding Spanish quickly but since, when I started this he was already speech delayed (not due to other languages)  he is not really saying many words. We plan to have him evaluated soon.

Anyway, about a month ago I started to really miss speaking to him in English and then a couple of weeks ago he got sick with H1N1 flu and I got sick as well. At this point I stopped speaking to him in Spanish as it was just too much effort for me when I was sick. I am now better and contemplating starting back up again BUT this is the problem...

I REALLY miss interacting with him in my native language. I am an English major, a teacher, and a lover of books and especially children's books, and I am the more verbal one in the family compared to my husband and I just really miss sharing the richness of my own language with my little boy. There are only so many ways I can express myself in Spanish though I am studying all the time to get better. Also I do feel my husband is not as deliberate in speaking to my son who is speech delayed and I feel he needs a more concerted effort to push him to be verbal in English.

On the other hand I desperately want him to be fluent in another language. I have struggled with learning another language as an adult and to see him understand so much Spanish after such a short time is amazing and a true gift to him. 

Here is my question- do you think I could choose a time /times to speak to him in my native language so I don't feel so stressed about him not getting enough English and so I can share with him my love of my language? What amount of time would be good? I know the more of the other language the better in terms of him becoming fluent but in light of my issues is there a good compromise? In past weeks I was speaking to him in Spanish about 2-3 hours  a night during the week after daycare and all day on the weekend days though his father was around and of course spoke to him in English as well. He probably got about 20-30 hours a week depending on how much his dad was watching him during those periods. I 've contemplated speaking to him in Spanish during the week and English during the weekend or vice versa or all in Spanish except one weekend day where I would speak Spanish, etc.

Any thoughts? Suggestions? Or should I just keep speaking only in Spanish?

Thanks,
elizabeth

Regina
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi, Elizabeth,
A few thoughts from a Brazilian mom married to an American and living in New Mexico. First of all, I respect your wish that your kid learn Spanish - I speak four languages well, it enriched my life, my career and my cultural life. But I think one should always speak his own language to his kids (language involve love and emotions). Besides, the fact you define yourself as monolingual and intermediate is definitely not a good sign. You are passing vocabulary. Probably not the language itself, with its nuances and history. Besides, school, TV, his friends and his Dad will make English way beyond dominant. My girl is bilingual because I speak full time in Portuguese with her (and spend lots of time with her), read in Portuguese and travel twice a year to Brazil. But English is still dominant. Finally: I am also French, but raised as Portuguese as my first language. I am trying to introduce it to my daughter, but it turns out so artificial, I am considering hiring a teacher when she is older. Good luck with your quest.

Erik K
Reply with quote  #3 
My mother says I did not start speaking until I was three years old. Don't worry if you see confusion; it should be temporary.

One thing you must decide is: How much do YOU want to learn Spanish for your own benefit? If you like the idea of getting competent in the language, then your need to teach your child is your best source of motivation, and you should continue speaking Spanish as much as possible.

But you can experiment with adding a day of English-only, so you can enjoy sharing it with him. If you are still not satisfied, you could make any two days of the week into English days, and see if that's better.

It would be even better if this effort was supported by your son interacting with native speakers, in situations where he must speak Spanish to get what he wants.

Maybe you could transport your son to another part of Baltimore where native Spanish speakers are common, and get him in a Spanish language preschool.

Or post on various Hispanic-oriented web forums, stating your wish to find Spanish-only speaking kids for your son to have play-dates with. You might get lucky.

elizabeth
Reply with quote  #4 
Hi Regina and Eric,

Thanks for your responses. I respect both your ideas. Regina I get what you mean about love of language and that is why I am frustrated but I don't think stopping talking to him at all in Spanish is the answer. Yes, I understand even in the best of situations English will be his dominant language and that the Spanish he gets will not be too advanced but I have seen him soak it up in a way that will not be replicated when he is in school and think this is the best chance for him to learn well over time. School can later smooth out the rough edges he has. I classify myself as monolingual and intermediate because I am but I study with a teacher every week and am going to Guatemala for a stint to study over the winter holidays and am trying t get much better and I plan to bring my son to Latin America at least once a year to help him with this. I agree that my English is the richer language that's why I want to speak to him some in it but think he can gain a lot from the Spanish. I have started a Spanish speaking playgroup and belong to a group of Latina moms (though I am not one) that have a Spanish playgroup. They don't meet often but it's something and wonderful when it does meet.

Eric thanks for your advice. I'll try doing some kind of Spanish and English schedule I guess. And yes, I do want to learn desperately myself and just by speaking to him these last weeks I have gotten so much better! I keep an electronic dictionary with me and a notebook at all times so I can improve and express to him with toddler appropriate vocab and I read Spanish children's books to him and such.

Any other opinions out there?

elizabeth

Tony
Reply with quote  #5 

Hi,
My name is Antonio and I am Italian. I lived and worked as a teacher in the UK for almost 8 years. We relocated to Italy in 2007 and even though our two-year old son Dennis was "made in England" he was born in Italy. Since day one, I've always spoken to him in English because I'd like him to be bilingual one day.
He is 27 months old and understands English and Italian at the same level. He doesn't speak much English because living in Italy he goes to the nursery wehre educators speak to him in Italian and his mother speaks Italian but the funny side of all this is that some words that sometimes he sues are in English only. These are: sink, baby, horse, frog, ant some 10 more.

I must say that my wife and I think that sometimes he understands English more than Italian. Whether is the fact that I am stricter and set down more rules than my wife or not I don't know.

We visit friend in the UK once a year but since we still have a house there we want the visits to be ever more frequent so that he can interact with other English speakers.

The paediatrician in Italy asked me to stop speaking to him in English because I could have delayed his speech. I didn't listen to her and in fact his Italian has come along.....It's the English speaking that is a bit delayed. I must say that whenever I speak to him  he interact in Italian: it's then  that I repeat his answer in English and he repeats after me and sometimes my wife gets into the conversation in Italian to see his reaction and he funnily repeats the three or four-word sentence to her in English.

I only hope I am not forcing him into speaking the language. I am doing it for his own benefit. it's the best resource I can pass on to him.

What do you think? Comments are very very welcome

Kind regards,

Antonio






Tiziana
Reply with quote  #6 
Hi. I think you are doing fine. I am an Italian native-speaker, married to an Italian native-speaker, living in an Italian environment (north-east of Italy) and speaking from "month 6" in English to my son. I don't have a great knowledge of the language (I am not a teacher) but I love English and think we all should give our kids the chance to learn foreign languages with zero-effort. My son now is 6, goes to the Primary school and always speaks English to me. He understands TV and people speaking in English. I regret here in my area there are not many chances to get in touch with native-speakers but I keep on carrying on my "project". Probably the intonation is not British, the pronunciation is not perfect but I think "better than nothing", he will improve in the future. You will face ups and downs but don't give up.
I suggest you to see the following site: http://www.bilinguepergioco.com. Very interesting and motivating. Bye
Vens
Reply with quote  #7 
We are in similar situation. Me and my wife are native Bulgarian speakers but since day 0 I speak to our daughter in English only.
She is 2 now and understands both Bulgarian and English. She nows that though I speak English to her I understand and communicate with mummy in Bulgarian.
The only exception is when when sometimes we sing songs in Bulgarian together.

I read everything about non-native bilingual child raising that I can get my hands on. From what I've learnt - it is most important to be CONSISTENT when using both languages.
Examples:
- Speaking language A at home and language B in public
- Speaking language A when in private and B when other people are present (presumably not undesranding language A)
- Speaking language A most of the time and speaking B on weekends
- etc. - there are many variants.

So my advice is to continue spekaing Spanish to you child and introduce well-defined moments when English will be spoken - like one day a week or even better - everyday's bedtime story.

I understand you so very well and wish you luck in this challenge!

elizabeth
Reply with quote  #8 
Thank you all so much for your replies. I just wanted to say that things are going well I think. If my son picks a story at night that is English I read it to him in English and use that time to really talk with him in a rich way, asking him questions and sharing that nice time together. If he picks a book in Spanish I attempt to do the same to the best of my ability. Other than that I only every to English when I feel I cannot express myself properly in Spanish and that he would be "missing something", ie not connecting with me well or missing a nuance. This past summer my whole family went to Nicaragua for a month and he attended a Waldorf inspired preschool while I studied Spanish one on one with a teacher. He learned a lot but still does not really speak it. His teachers said he understood the majority of what they said. I learned a lot too. I still have a long way to go but I am exposing him to another culture and he is making friends with other Spanish speakers. We hope to go back next summer. I also hope to get him into a Spanish daycare as it seems to be getting a bit more popular here in Baltimore to start them but there is still not much out there and I have not found one near enough to us.

Thanks again,
e

Joanna
Reply with quote  #9 
Hi
My name is Joanna and together with my husband and our 4 year-old son we live in Poland, being Polish-native speakers. The phenomenon of the kids acquiring a language so effortlessly has always been a great inspiration to me. As a student of English Language I specilized in bilinguality and in simultaneous acquisition of two languages in the early childhood. And it was then when I decided to raise my child bilingually (Polish-English). Our son was born in September 2006 and from the very beginning I started speaking English to him. And I was as desperate as you are Elizabeth. And I still am! We have the following system. I use only English when addressing Victor, his dad speaks only Polish to him, we (my husband and I) use Polish when talking to each other. Needless to say, the whole environment is Polish-speaking (grandparents, friends, pre-school teachers, etc). His Polish is definately dominant but he is as bilingual as he could have become in so called "artificial" environment. And as you Elizabeth I miss interacting with him in my native language and sharing the richness of my native langauge but he will pick that up from his Polish environment.
There are instances when he asks me in Polish "What do we call that in English" And there are many instances when I don't know. But then I promise to check it (I ask my American friends, use the Internet or a dictionary). At the age of 4 he is fully aware of two language systems, is able to translate and is fully communicative in both.
 We are very blessed because twice a week we are supported by our American friends who live in Poland. They come twice a week for 2-3 hours and simply play with my son. They say his accent is Polish but he can easily communicate in English.
The systems seems to have been working so far. If it happens that I occasionally ask him something in Polish, he answers in English as if not noticing, or asks me "Why are you speaking Polish?" And that makes me the happiest mother on earth!!!
So don't give up and use Spanish as much as possible. Here is what I found while doing my bilingual research:
(an English/French bilingual adult)
"I don't think speaking two languages is so extraordinary, but on the other hand, speaking only one language must be a bit odd, like only seeing with one eye; you somehow lack the depth of perspective" STICK TO IT AND YOU'LL BE ALL RIGHT
Joanna
thank you so much Joanna!
Reply with quote  #10 
Dear Joanna,

I just read your response and it made me feel soooo good. It was great to hear how well your little boy is doing and I loved the inspirational quote and have put it up in my classroom (I'm a teacher). I have been getting a bit sloppy recently  in speaking to him in Spanish (ie doing a bit too much Spanglish when tired, stressed etc) but I am renewing my vows as of today. This has been a great day for two reasons...one is the fact that I got your email and the other is the fact that after a year of concentrated searching I have finally found a Spanish speaking daycare that seems perfect for my son. It is not quite finalized but we visit again today and I think it is going to work out! So soon he will be in a completely Spanish daycare fulltime. This will help immensely. Though the kids will be native English speakers, having a childcare provider who only speaks Spanish 5 days a week will vastly improve his understanding and hopefully encourage him to speak more. It will also make me feel that I have a little more luxury to choose a couple of well defined times to speak to him in English perhaps, 2 nights a week since he will be getting it so much during the work week or one day of the weekend.

Thanks for your support,
elizabeth

Joanna (to Elizabeth)
Reply with quote  #11 
Dear Elizabeth,
I am so happy that my experience and my words (including the motto) has inspired you. I have also entered your blog and ... I would like to ask you some questions but, if you don't mind, I would like to do it on "a private field". I have subscribed to your blog, my email starts with joamor. If you don't mind, do write to me on my email, ok?
Good luck wit the daycare center. You are so so lucky to have found one. I am completely alone here in Poland. But I will never give up.
Hope to here from you soon
Joanna
Hatice Ciyanci
Reply with quote  #12 

Hi,

My son is 22 months old and I have been talking to him in English for a year. In the beginning it was so awkward sounding like somebody else speaking that I was feeling like an allien in a majority of Turkish speakers. I was using English only we were alone. Then I got used to it completely in 6 months. From that time I cut off Turkish. Now if I say something in Turkish directly to him even he gets very surprised, quickly swivels his head towards me. So both of us are doing well so far.

But I miss my own language deeply to be honest. I cannot confess that easily that I am criticized severely by many people around. So I keep my head straight and keep going what I have started.

Sometimes but very rarely I hug him and sing some Turkish kid songs just to make myself better. He starts asking "baaa baaa"- black sheep. Small, tiny breaks might help to feel better.  

This post was motivating to me, thanks to everyone..

Hatice
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