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Hi. I live in Norway with my Norwegian wife and our two kids (girl 6y boy 120 months). My wife and I speak Norwegian between us (with occasional English) while my native language is Hebrew.
With our first born we had plans on following an OPOL type system. That failed miserably since I wasn't consistent enough. I just couldn't bring myself to speak a language NO ONE else around me understood. Later on I of course regreted that and made some attempts at redeeming myself. We tried to come up with a fun "school" system to teach her vocabulary. It worked to some extend and she now understands some words, but her vocabulary i very very limited. We now speak almost only Norwegian. When she was 4 y.o we got our second born, a boy. I felt then that I must use this chance and managed to speak almost exclusively Hebrew with him. I remember thinking that maybe his sister will pick some up and follow along with the Hebrew. I think that it worked to some extent. I feel that he is picking up Hebrew through me rather well. He doesn't speak much yet, but some of his words are in Hebrew and he definitely has the right sounds for the language (some sounds that just don't exist in Norwegian that he uses) so I am pleased with my efforts so far. However I feel that my girl is being left behind. I don't think she is tagging along as much as I had hoped. I think she might be getting a little frustrated. My wife thinks that the girl feels like she should be able to speak more and is disappointed that she can't. That gave me a horrible guilt feeling that I haven't been active enough with her. So, here is my challenge: I need to teach my 6 year old daughter Hebrew! There is no one else around us that speaks the minority language. We visit Israel once a year, but only for 7-10 days. Luckily she loves those trips. She is to begin school after the summer and I feel that I am losing my chances here since she will be very much involved with school once that starts. I got very excited when a friend told me about this community. I am in desperate need of advice, tips and motivation to make this work. Non from my side of the family speak Norwegian and thus cannot communicate with her in higher level then simple non verbal language. This is not good! I really hope you guys can help and will be grateful for any advice. Michael.
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Hi Michael, I can really emphathize with your frustrations. We also missed the boat when our kids were infants, and are trying to start now that they are ages 3 and 5. I was very encouraged lately to read a book by Kendall King and Alison Mackey that debunked the myth that it's too late to teach older children. It's called "The Bilingual Edge."
For kindergarten or school age kids, they can benefit from some formal tutoring--but by tutoring, I mean lots of games, songs, etc. not boring grammar. Perhaps you can order some Hebrew children's music online, and also some simple children's books online. Or perhaps you remember some songs (preferably with actions) from your own childhood. My kids love dancing and one of them seems to have a more musical learning style, so she has picked up a lot of language through song. In our family, we have incorporated language learning into special "daddy time." The kids get to go on an outing or do a special activity with daddy, but it's all done in the second language. Your daughter might appreciate that in particular because she is the oldest child and sometimes the oldest craves one-on-one time with parents. Also, maybe you could start planning now for an extended trip of a month or two sometime in the future and use that as motivation as well. Don't worry, it's not too late! I wish you the best of luck!
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Ok, this seems almost too easy to fix. You daughter is only 6 years old. She's been exposed to the language through you and the sounds are familiar to her, even if she doesn't produce each one perfectly. I suggest you do two things. 1)Start Hebrew lessons for your kids and maybe even your Wife, and 2)Make a special Daddy-Daughter time with her in which you speak only Hebrew.
Once a day, and I do mean , you should practice Hebrew for anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes each day, depending on how much time you have. Teach her a new phrase everyday, call her on the phone and speak Hebrew to her during the day. Say things that ever little girl wants to hear from her daddy. "I love you" "You are a good girl" "come here" "Stay there" "Give me a kiss" "Good night" etc are all words that you can begin to speak only in Hebrew. everyday Ask day to day questions in Hebrew such as "Do you want.../ Who did this.../ Where are you going?/ Did you make this for Dad, thank you, my love." etc. The Hebrew lessons should follow the basic method of progressive vocabulary suitable for beginning children. AlephBet --> Colors --> Numbers --> Greetings --> Everyday objects by theme -- Writing, etc. Every lesson should include a basic phrase in which the kids can use the new vocabulary they just learned. Such as saying "I have [number] [color] [object]" i.e. "I have two red shoes". The kids need to learn words that are useful to them. Such as I want/dont want, I like/dont like I need/dont need "here" "this" "that" "what" "how" and "why" are all words that kids need early on. Starting school is absolutely no reason for your SIX YEAR OLD to not be able to pick up a language. Start reading to her EVERY DAY in Hebrew and prompting her to participate. Share with her stories in Hebrew of your childhood. Tell her about her Hebrew speaking family in Isreal and then make it a real, living experience for her. Let her call the family once a week or so, and have a small conversation in Hebrew with her relatives. She's gotta have cousins right? Maybe a little girl or boy her age? Let them become penpals. 6 years old may be too old for baby-absorbing type learning but its not too old to learn. Theres tons of Hebrew media available. Tell your Hebrew speaking family that you need some and ask them to send some. I'm sure the family will come through for you. Best of luck.