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Reply with quote  #1 
Hi! What a great site this is! I've already got lots of information, but would just like to get some more advice from the List Moderator and from any other parents because the situation we have seems to be slightly different to most other families bringing up multilingual children.

My husband and I are both British English native speakers living in the UK with our little son Luka who is now 13 months old.

I spent 4 years from 1993-1997 in the Czech Republic and became pretty much fluent in the language. Although my strengths are definitely primarily in listening and speaking, I do read and write fairly well in Czech. The experience of the whole Czech culture was to become a real passion and has even directed the course of my career. I am a university lecturer in Music, and my PhD was in the rhythmic approach of Czech musicians and the ways in which their culture influences that approach - one whole chapter was dedicated to language connections too. I have a very, very close network of friends over there, and because of all this I have travelled there frequently - at least once every year since I left. My husband does not speak Czech at the moment, but is learning by attending courses in the UK so that he can experience more when we travel there, and also in the anticipation that Luka will learn some.

Due to the fact that we travel to the Czech Republic so often, I would love Luka to have a fairly good grasp of the language, at least in listening and speaking terms. I don't feel it is necessary for him to be totally literate - after all Czech is not widely spoken throughout the world, and he is living in the UK. However, I would like him to be able to really take part in the experience of travelling frequently there, and in the experience of my close network of friends (pretty much like a 2nd extended family really!!) over there - and of course speaking to him regularly back at home  would be a great way to keep my own language skills going and indeed developing whilst I am in the UK. I also would love Luka to be to some extent bilingual just so that his ability for learning foreign languages is aided in the future, and for the development of his general inter-cultural and international awareness. I just think it's a great opportunity being fluent in Czech and of having such a close connection with the country. And you never know, there may be some point in the future when we spend some more intensive time there - who knows - and he will of course benefit from learning the language now rather than later if that is the case.

My concern is exactly how to set up a good, effective language system at home with me being a non-native speaker of Czech and with the fact that I am Luka's only point of contact with the Czech language for most of his everyday life. At the moment, I am thinking of creating a system whereby I speak Czech to Luka two out of the three days a week when I spend time with Luka alone at home. This will mean that he will hear Czech most weeks for 2 days - apart from when other people are around on those days - and occasionally more intensively throughout the year when we go over to the Czech Republic or when Czech friends come to visit. The rest of the time he will hear only English - at nursery, with his father and all his other relatives, when I am speaking to my husband at home, within the general community when we go out, and on one day a week with me alone at home.

I have three main concerns, and I would really appreciate some responses from the forum on each of them:

1. Is this much too little an exposure to Czech for Luka to have any chance of attaining the kind of fluency we would hope for? Should I for instance really work towards speaking Czech to him at all times when I am alone with him? I am a little reluctant to do this since it may be quite difficult with it not being my mother tongue, and since it is not vital for us that his knowledge is fully literate. However, if I heard that he would really not have any chance of learning any kind of amount, then I would persevere!
There is also the fact I suppose that we may eventually have other children - we are planning at least another one!!! And I guess more exposure could develop that way if the children were to speak to each other in any Czech at all!

2. Mostly, will Luka be confused by the fact that I speak to him sometimes in Czech and sometimes in English?

3. The other thing that concerns me is that Luka will of course learn imperfect Czech from a non-native speaker. I understand pretty much everything still when I go there - except when the conversation gets onto really specialised subjects - but my speaking, whilst being fluent, is inevitably dotted with some grammatical errors, some strange turns of phrase, and some lacks in vocabulary all consistent with a person who does not speak Czech as a mother tongue, and who has been living primarily back in the UK for almost the last 10 years.

Thanks so much in advance to everybody for any thoughts they have on this subject. It's wonderful to read about so many different kinds of experiences, so I am hopeful that it may work!!

Sarah Stout
Reply with quote  #2 

Dear Josepha


I am no expert but here are a a few thoughts in helping Luka with Czech.


Why not invest in some children's books, nursery rhymes and lullaby cds, videos/dvds when you are next visiting so you have some great tools that he canenjoy without realising they are educational too.


There may even be some dvd language courses aimed at children learning Czech if you search the web. Something along the lines of Muzzy, if you know this course. 


To enhance the exposure to native speakers, can you afford to pay for a tutor to come and play with him for an hour each week? Through them you may become friendly with other Czech people and he can make little Czech friends.

Just a few thoughts. Hope they help.


Good luck,


Reply with quote  #3 
Hi Sarah,

Thanks so much for the advice. I had thought of getting some resources next time I visit, and have a few things already. But I hadn't thought of the tutor idea - good thinking - thankyou!


Karolina Stehlikova
Reply with quote  #4 

Hi Josepha,

I just want to add something to Sarah's advice. The Czech radio (Cesky rozhlas) is broadcasting on the Internet. I would recommend to record Hajaja (the bedtime story) which is broadcasted every day at 18.50 at CRo 2 Praha.

With my husband we use the freeware called Total Recorder to record programs from BBC. You can find it on the Internet. It is a great tool. You can then store the recordings in MP3 files and burn it to the CD.

Best wishes.

Karolina Stehlikova


Reply with quote  #5 
Hi Karolina,

Thankyou for this gem of advice too. I didn't know about this at all.

All best,

Reply with quote  #6 


I'm a non-native French speaker.  I'm a French professor. I started speaking French to my 2 kids when the older one was 3 and a half and the younger one was 9 months old. I had to ease into it with the older one and went cold turkey, 100% of the time with the younger one.  A year on, both understand French almost perfectly. Neither one is particularly keen to speak french to me. I don't despair b/c I dream of taking them to France for a summer where they will be forced to speak Fr when they play with Fr kids. Understanding (and the occasional prodding to speak like I do now) will surely help.


My kids both go to pre-school 3 days a week and speak English there. their father speaks English to them. I am the only regular contact they have with French. I am native-like but not native. Yeah, sure, they are hearing and imperfect French, but you've heard lots of "imperfect" English and it's still English, right?


My advice is to speak Cz to them as much as possible. They'll go for any breach in the wall, and if they know you speak English on Sun, Mon, Fri and Sat, they'll test the limits with Tues and Weds and Thurs. That's what kids are professionals at (testing limits).


Do the best you can do. That's much better than nothing. Some days, some months, you may not speak as much Cz as you want, but you will make up for it in other ways and you are still giving them the gift of Czeck.  What a wonderful gift indeed.



Reply with quote  #7 

Hi Josepha,

I’m native Polish speaker (Polish is very similar to Czech and non native English speaker. My son has 12 months now, and we introduced him English even before his birth. But form begin we use OPOL method. That is mean I’m speaking to my soon only in English and my wife only in Polish. OPOL is most common method of bilingual family. Advantage of this for  child is that he could very easy sort words on mother or father language (because he don’t know what is mean English, Czech, Polish or other language). Thanks to this period time of mixing languages is short. Yours idea to speak in Czech only in several days is very often criticizes by experts. Because child couldn’t easily mach words to proper language. Breaking rule of  OPOL make very possible to delay speaking process (or even refuse speaking in  Czech – because your son will be know that you could speak with him in English so he want speak with you with language that he knows better – children are very lazy). Also is another system ML@H (minority language at home) but will be good for older children (when they be aware about meaning what is the language general). In this case simply use Czech only in home. According yours issue with language – do not wary – but you should remember that you couldn’t be only one source of this language for you son. Tray to find. songs,  books, moves in Czech it will help for both of you.

So I wish you only success days.


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