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panna cotta
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I started posting this on the Italian-English board then figured I could share some more things. I am Italian and my parents moved to England (expecting it to be a temporary move) when I was about 6 months old. We spoke only Italian at home but inevitably I heard English all around and went to English play groups.

I remember being about 4 and thinking to myself 'now I'm able to think in English too, not just in Italian'. I spoke only Italian when I started play group and one piece of advice I'd give you is to stay with your kid at the play group for the first few days if the language is new to them. Being left in a room full of people who did not understand me was traumatic and also for many years I was bullied (physically and mentally) rather badly by the rest of the kids (only English kids in those days, I was the only 'different' one). So watch for signs of bullying even if your kid doesn't say anything.

I also remember translating constantly and feeling very proud to do that when grandparents visited from Italy. I don't know if there is a connection but I found French very easy to learn at age 6 or so and my accent becomes fairly native after I've been in France for a while. I have a native accent in Eng and It and supported myself as a student largely by interpreting. I can speak Mandarin and Japanese but not with a native accent (I started at 20), understand and can manage in Spanish and can 'figure' out the basic gist of languages I've never studied (Swedish, Danish, Bahasa).

I think the most important languages to teach kids now are a/ the ones that tie you to your culture 2/ones that are important - obviously English, but also Mandarin, Spanish if you live in the US, Japanese (because it's useful and because it opens a door to a very different world- also it's great mental training because it's difficult to learn as an adult. Easy pronounciation, hard grammar, the opposite of Mandarin) . I'd also add Arabic and Hindi on my ideal wish list, but if my son can speak Italian, French, Mandarin and Japanese I'd be more than happy (:

One thing.. I remember 'forgetting' English when we frequently moved back to Italy for a few months before I was 10, but it came right back when we moved. I had the same experience as some posters - social workers (in the 70s) harassed my parents to speak only in English, the belief then was that bilingual kids will be slow' and unable to speak in any language. So happy that thinking has gone!

Learning the Asian languages has convinced me that the only way to 'break though' and start speaking without thinking about grammar and so on is to live in the country or have someone speak it to you every single day. (the only way to communicate with person X is in language Y). You can study many years at home, but I think that breakthrough can only happen when you are forced to do everything in the language because there is no other choice.

Now I'd like my kid to know one of the Asian languages too but I think it would be confusing for me to speak in 2 languages to him. Has anyone done this? one parent two languages? My parents used to speak to me in French one day a week for a while and I think that helped my French...but it felt weird. Also I followed some of the Italian school curriculum with my mum, when we were living in England. That gave me another shared experience with my cousins in Italy and also allowed me to slot into primary school there a few times we went back for extended stays. Now I want to get schoolbooks for my son (he's only 1 and doesn't speak yet. I speak to him in Italian) too so we can follow them here in San Francisco

Also.. I can't tell you how important it is to make it 'cool' for your kid to know other languages. At some point they might not want to be 'different' and 'want to fit in' . For me, knowing Italian meant I could talk to my cousins and has meant I understand Italian culture and can teach that to my son too. My husband was not taught his native language by his parents and regrets that now. There is much he doesn't know about his native culture and can't pick up on in group discussions with his family. So language is not just language. Good luck to all.
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