Wow! This website is impressive--really great info!
Since our baby was born--she is going to be 9-months tomorrow--we've been struggling with finding the best way to raise her bilingual. We'd like to do that for all the reasons posted on this website and hope that being bilingual and learning additional languages later on will make her sensitive to different cultures and give her a competitive edge in life.
Any thoughts or ideas would be greatly appreciated. Here is our particular case:
- My husband and I are both from Romania and thus non-native English speakers, living in the US. I speak very fluent English with almost no accent and, if I can put it this way, English has become my second 'native' language. My husband speaks fluent English with accent, but correct grammar.
- My mother, also a native speaker of Romanian has been helping us since the baby was born, in fact functioning as a full-time nanny. She understands English very well but has some problems speaking. She learned English in her 50's and I am really proud of the effort she put into it and how far she got. However, she would have a hard time speaking English beyond disparate words and colloquial expressions.
- We try to speak mostly Romanian at home, although we frequently go off in English and incorporate many English words into Romanian.
Now, my baby girl has been exposed to Romanian since birth, but also to English through TV, games, toys, and just by going out into the community (not a lot). We've got the Baby Einstein videos (in English) and most of the books she has are in English. She, however, spent 4 months in Romania this summer with my mom where her exposure to English was minimal, limited to the educational materials mentioned above.
She's coming back in September when she will be 10 months old. The only words she is saying are 'mamma,' 'dadda, ' and 'babba,' although we can't tell if she is associating the words with us or just bringing together a bunch of sounds. She is otherwise developmentally advanced: standing up by herself with no support, cruising on furniture, plus the usual fine motor skills for her age.
My husband and I are struggling with choosing the best system to bring her up as a bilingual child. We thought of different options and got down to one alternative we would feel comfortable with, although we don't know if this would be best for her--and this is where I really need your guys' advice. We plan to continue speaking Romanian at home and exclusively English when we go out, including trips to grocery stores, playground, playgroups, or when inviting English-speaking kids over for play dates. She would also have all the books and games in English, although my mom would read her stories and sing songs in Romanian as well.
The bottom line is that we don't want her to lose the first language (Romanian) while making sure she keeps up with her English-speaking peers. We researched pre-schools and got down to a list of 2 very good and competitive private schools (pre-K to 8th grade). If she gets in, she will start at 3 with an accelerated curriculum. Both schools would introduce a foreign language--either Spanish or French--by K or 1st grade.
We plan to have her in some sort of school or organized play group around 2, so she can have more exposure to English. Until then though, there would be limited opportunities for her to hear English since we don't go out that much. Any suggestion how could I introduce some English at home while still keeping the distinction minority language at home/community language outside? Or how much interaction does she need in English per day/week and so on before she gets into a structured program?
I know she will learn English when she gets into preschool, all kids do. What I am trying to avoid is for her to be excluded from the group and considered 'different' when she gets there. Young kids are sensitive.
Thanks so much for any advice and sorry for this extensive post.