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Hello everyone My son has been raised bilingually in the "minority language at home" system. My husband and I speak to him in our mother tongue. We are both immigrants to the UK but speak our mother tongue as natives. We have only ever spoken to our son in our mother language, never in English. My son has been speaking English at school for the whole academic year (he is just finishing Reception at almost exactly 5 years old), having previously had very limited exposure to English before the age of 3.5 as he was at home with me all day. So in fact our mother tongue was his dominant language when he started nursery at 3.5. I have had no problems since he started school last September, the minute I picked him up from school he switched back to our mother tongue, he has never insisted on speaking in English to me, until NOW ! I wonder what the reason is, we were doing really well all year, he would hardly ever speak to me in English (unless there was a word he didn't know in our mother tongue and he would simply just slot in an English word like a true bilingual !!) but for the past 2 weeks I just get a barrage of English from the minute I pick him up from school. I have been refusing to reply back in English (without being pushy or bossy or mean I have simply said "please say that in our language we don't need to speak in English at home"). His own explanation is that he can "say it easier" in English and this is what is worrying me, I know he is not getting enough exposure to the minority language. Unfortunately my husband and I may be separating soon and I don't like travelling back to my country of birth because of the political instability there and because both my parents have passed away so I have no immediate family there to go to. I am desperate for my son to keep speaking to me in my mother language, mainly because I know how useful it is to be bilingual (I am one too and it has brought me nothing but huge advantages all my life) : ) Unfortunately things like immersion courses and mixing with others who speak the language is not going to work for me either. I just don't have that possibility for various reasons I let him watch DVD's in our language, but that is as much as I can do right now. How can I reverse the refusal to speak it ? I am hoping the long summer break will help as he will hear less English during the summer. Please help !!
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My experience was very different. I also speak my language to my children wherever we were. Sebastien, funny enough never spoke a word of French, which means I spoke French he replied in English. Then we moved to France, he kept on speaking English and I French, it took him over 6 months to finally use French.
One added thing, Sebastien is now 8, he goes to school in France and speaks perfect French and perfect English. He learnt to read and write French at school. He also reads English, and nobody taught him. My theory is : our kids are ultra clever, they just adapt to their environment, the majority speak English so do our kids. However, they still understand and learn our language and culture through us. Carry on the way you do , it's great. Your kid is bilingual. Enjoy.
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Thanks Christel, I hope he doesn't just become a passive bilingual, I was hoping he would continue to speak actively. I hope it's just a phase and he will soon realise it's our "secret language". I often tell him that he is lucky to be the only one who knows our unusual language in a school of nearly 500 other children and that he will always have this special skill to communicate with mummy (like I did with my own mummy !) I'm still positive and will keep going. I have been very consistent for 5 years, I can keep it up forever because it's so important to me. I hope he will change his mind soon and reply back : )
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Here are some ideas for helping your child. Your child is probably reading for reading. Make flashcards in your own language. Tape flashcards to objects in your house, table, chair, etc. Start keeping a journal or diary with your child. Print in large letters/characters in your native language. Example: Today I went to school. I played with my friend Jason. We had a good time. We ate _______ for supper. Try to write in the journal almost every day and read from previous journal entries. Find a friend for your child on the internet. Using the Sound Recorder (or Free mp3 recorder) have your child send and receive messages in your native language. You might find someone in Canada or the USA or Britain. Play games like Dominos or other games in your native language. I hope that some of these ideas work. from Skippy Mardon in Canada I speak English and a little German and my son, daughter-in-law and grandson speak German and English. My son also speaks Japanese and is reading some to the boy in Japanese.