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Reply with quote  #1 
I am currently trying to teach our son Danish, but am getting little support from my husband who is perhaps feeling a bit left out as he doesn't understand what I'm saying. He would like me to speak English to our son, but I don't want our son to lose the opportunity of learning a second language with ease.
Would it be ok if I speak Danish with my son when we are alone together and speak English with him when we are all together as a family. I think this may also be more comfortable for me as I might get more support from my husband.
Thanks for your help.

Reply with quote  #2 
How will your husband learn Danish if you make it a closet language? After a while he will pick-up little words and depending how old your child is can learn with him to count, songs, magic words like "please" "thank you" etc... If you have to hide the fact you speak Danish to your child: it might put a strain on your familly and send the message to the child that Danish is some kind of forbiden language... Technicaly this make the father even more an outsider but one unaware of it... Any your own language is part of who you are: you want to transmit and have it recognized. Let your husband imagine the reverse: if you were living in Danemark would it be fair to deny him the right to speak English to his child because you do not understand it?
Myself I do not yet know the language my wife speaks to my child (Russian) and feel silly when needing to ask about what is being said. But I have only myself to blame and would not dream to "forbid" a language in my presence especially considering all the advantage it has for my child. I just have to learn it (more slowly than my child for sure). Read in this forum all the children story sad their parents (often mother) did not stand up for their language and regetting the opportunity to learn lost. Good luck but you might need to teach more than one person!
Reply with quote  #3 
I am trying to teach my daughter Danish too, while living with her English dad in London. He is supportive, so I speak to her in Danish - but translate when he is there. I am not sure about his side of the family though and feel uncomfortable speaking to my daughter in Danish when we are with them. Is that ok?
Reply with quote  #4 

I think you should still speak danish to your child even when your parents in law are there. I live in Turkey with turkish in laws. Even in their presense I speak english to my kids. It would feel unnatural for me to speak turkish with them. During a family dinner I will speak turkish to my in laws, turkish and english to my husband and english to my kids. It becomes second nature. If your in laws don't like it, don't worry. They will get used to it!

Reply with quote  #5 
We are in a similar situation. We have a trilingual environment (English, Portuguese and Arabic). My husband doesn't support my decision of using Portuguese (my first language) with my son, even after all my speech on how it is important to him to be multilingual from the beginning, etecetera. He feels left out and doesn't really want to learn this language himself. Sometimes we carry on huge arguments on this matter, but I won't give up. In order to preserve the harmony at home, I use Portuguese mostly when my husband isn't around us (around 70% of the time) and use English when we are all together (if I use Portuguese, I try to translate simultaneously).
My son is 21 months and has some words in Portuguese and some in English. He understands both and also Arabic (spoken by in-laws and husband). I wish he was more open on this matter and I also know that in-laws talk to him behind my back, telling him that his son will talk things he won't understand and all sorts of mistaken statements.
It's bad that it has to be sort of a "closet" language as someone mentioned, but it's either this or to loose the opportunity of teaching my child my mother tongue. As he grows up I'll do my best for him not to feel that this is a "forbidden" language and to include my husband as much as I can, but for now, that's how it has to be. I'm just following my heart.
Reply with quote  #6 
Hi Christina,

I am soooo with you!! I am german, my husband american and we live in the US. Our daughter is 27 months and I speak german with her and my husband english and doesn't know german. We had, yet another, argument last night about this, and he also feels left out if I speak german to dh when he is around. I have done the german first and then translating into english "method", but I guess that is not "good enoiugh" for him.....
I also feel strongly that I am more true and more diciplinary (if this is a word) when I am speaking german to her if I reprimand her for something. I have lived in the US since 1991 and speak english fluently, but there is somehting about speaking your native language to your child. Don't know what it is....

Ok, my husband also feels left out, has learned a little german, but not enough to have a conversation, and feels that we live in the US and he doesn't want to learn german now (this sonds maybe stronger than it is meant, as he has been to germany with me a few times and loves picking up german words).
So, today, he is around and I am talking english to her when I know he can hear me. It feels weird!!!!! I have said a few things in english FIRST and then in german. It just doesn't feel riht!! but I do see his point of feeling left out. But then again, as a mom, what do you speak on an hourly base with your toddler...ha ha
I am also working 20 hrs a week, dh is in daycare 2x/wk for 6 hours (english) and we attend german playgroup 1 or 2x a week.

So, I would also love some input from experienced BL parents and what has worked for them. I know every family is different but good advise goes a long way....

I do have to say, so far my daughter speaks as well german as she does english....We also have skype and go online appx. 2x a month.

Reply with quote  #7 
Christina and Conny, I really would like to keep in touch with you. Our situation is so similar and yet so lonely. This "closet" language (let's call it Special language) gets hard sometimes.
I also feel weird talking to my child in English when H can hears us. Sometimes he will be reading in the living room, completely connected to his book and yet if I slide and talk to our son in Portuguese he might get and give me a look or make a remark...
In our last talk on this subject I tried to explain to him that once more I was doing what I felt right for our son and that in the future he will be glad we did it (all his close family is bi-lingual and two nephews trilingual-lingual) and that I wouldn't change my mind, no matter what. I also told him that I would try my best to use the common language together and make an immediate translation if I use Portuguese. He isn't that tyrant, he doesn't bother to hear me on the phone with my family speaking Portuguese or when we watch Brazilian TV on satellite. He actually watches a soap opera with me everyday and is catching some words. I'm not sure how is that this affects him so personally, if feeling excluded is the only reason or his family says things to him when I'm not around.
Now our son has started speaking some words (some in English, some in Portuguese) and that sad part is that I can't share with H every progress he makes, every little word or sound he repeats in Portuguese (last time I did it resulted in our last "talk" on the subject).
Anyway, it's great to be able to meet someone else like us and I really would like to keep in touch (we can exchange e-mails if you like, instead of only using the public board).
By the way, how does skiper work?

Mom to Shadi - 21 months, being raised in a trilingual environment.
Reply with quote  #8 
Hi Tereza,

yes, I would like to keep in touch too. I don't know how to email you "privately" so we can exchange info outside this forum. If you know how, please let me know. I also have a friend in my playgroup who is from brazil and her husband is american. maybe I can also get you in  touch with her. Where do you live? We live in San Diego CA, USA.

As far as our situation is right now, I have translated everything the past few days and so far DH seems satisfied. It is a little weird for me, but I guess I have to make some compromises....  I am glad and happy to hear that you are told your DH that you won't change your mind. I think it is really important to be strong about our native languages.
I hope we can "talk off forum" soon.

Reply with quote  #9 
Hi Cristina, Conny and Tereza,
I read your stores with tears in my eyes as I recognise the situation you are in so well. I live in Scotland but I am Dutch originally. We now have an 18 month old toddler M and my husband and I are having lots of rows about me talking to M in Dutch. It feels sooooo unnatural not to speak to him in Dutch and like mentioned all over this website it is SUCH an opportunity for him. I try not to use Dutch when my husband is around. But M will say things to him in Dutch which will then kick off another row. I cannot believe how selfish he is being. He is afraid to be left out, I can understand that, but it is only through his own attitude!! He expects all of my family to speak to M in English when we go and visit Holland, how barmy is that!! (usually he stays at home) Is is sooo difficult. I want M to have the opportunity to be bilingual but it is getting so bad I am afraid it may cost me my marriage. What good will it do to M to grow up with his parents divorced ? I really don't know if I should persevere or just give up for the sake of the "harmony " in our little family. Anybody have any advice ?
Conny Steinberg
Reply with quote  #10 
Hi Renate,

I know sooo much what you mean....I can tell you that doing the translations thing has REALLY worked for us. What I do is, I speak to dd in german and when DH is in hearing distance, I will translate in english. After about 3 days of doing this (back in december when I started) dh has given me many compliments and has said that that was one of the BEST things I have done for him!!!!! So, this is not an issue anymore. I do have to say I am a little bit nervous about dd at some point jsut talking back to me in english because she "gets it", but this could happen even if I demanded to speak german with ther (prove are my german friends who have kids in pre-school or school here). I think we have to give the little ones as much of our language as possible whenever we can, but don't loose sight of our fragile husbands...... ha ha....Remember, they feel left out as it is....specially if you are nursing and i fhe has a full time job and you are home all day with the kid...
I know it is really hard to understand sometimes where they are coming from and really how sensitive they, specially, since most of them don't readily admit it.....

Good luck to you and keep us posted. email off line if you want to for some more support. I am leaving to german on tuesday with dd for 2 weeks.....!!! yeahh!!!


Reply with quote  #11 
Having read all the comments posted here it makes me laugh the reaction of your partners. I am a 28yr old male living in Tokyo. I am English, my wife is Japanese. Quite simply, if they married a foreigner, they should try and immerse themselves in their partners language/culture. Having had to learn the Japanese writing system from scratch I am now capable of reading novels in Japanese. My work involves using both Japanese and English on a daily basis and I converse solely in English at home with our son. We have created an English only environment at home and my son, who is approaching 4yrs old is enrolled in a Japanese language nursery. His English ability is equal to that of his Japanese, according to my wife as in his 4yrs I have rarely heard him speak Japanese in my presence. In my experience, English speakers are quite stubborn to learn another language and can't tolerate being singled out when they can't converse in a second language. I find myself quite fortunate that I can converse freely in a second language and wish to pass this on to my own son. Unfortunately, this is a rarity in my native country, England.
Reply with quote  #12 
Thanks, Conny for your suggestions. My husband hates the whole Dutch thing so much that I don't think translating is going to work for us. My thinking at the moment is that Dutch will have to be a "closet" language, something reserved for my son and I when we are alone or when friends or family are visiting or we are visiting them. At least that way (hopefully) he will be able to master enough of the language to understand it and then when he is a little older he can make up his own mind if he wants to keep it up. As you say, give them as much of the lingo when they are young and at least they will have a fighting chance. And then I guess it depends whether he takes after me or my husband....Well, I guess you are in Germany right now with your dd enjoying a good immersion in the German language. Does your hb come along by the way ?? I hear what you mean about kids refusing to speak the minority language. I came across an odd couple in the swimming pool the other day. Dad was speaking to his 8 year old son in German and the son would reply in English, but qu
ite obviously undretsanding German perfectly well!!
About feeling left out, I also work 4 days a week so no excuse there!
Anyway, you mention e-mailling offline, how do you do that ??
Viel spaB in Deutschland ! Renate

Reply with quote  #13 

I think you hit the nail on the head!!! English speakers (specially americans- sorry, this is not discriminating..) are a bit stubborn! I guess they figure english is just THE english around the world....Well, than that is A reason to take on the minority language, since english will be learned anyways, right???

Thanks for your input and thoughts and  I am amazed that you learned Japanese and are able to READ NOVELS!! WOW!

Reply with quote  #14 

Wow, what a fascinating discussion!  i live in Germany (i'm US-born, native English, 2 kids ages 3 and 1.5, German husband, who speaks English fairly fluently), so i obviously have had to immerse myself in a foreign language and culture (with pleasure--and pain, too, of course), but the table is turned the other way for me. Because English is sooo highly valued here as THE second language (the third languages being French and Spanish, sometimes Latin) in schools and beyond, NO ONE bothers me about speaking English to my children, as my native language. I cannot agree more that, for a mother, this is absolutely the most natural and essential part of her culture she can bestow upon her child (it's not called mother tongue for nothing). Although i speak German fluently, i do not feel right speaking to my children in German, so i don't. in any situation where i have to switch to German, when addressing my in-laws, for example, I switch automatically back to English when addressing my children (my in-laws don’t mind this, they say, but they don’t understand what I’m saying, and I can sense my father-in-law’s feeling left out, which would be a problem if we visited more than every 2-3 months)—someone already pointed out that this becomes second nature, and I agree completely.

Concerning the fragility of husbands (same for wives, in the reverse situation, believe me), I’m afraid Conny is absolutely right, all joking aside. Your husbands are being left out. And they are fragile (all of them). So, try to be sensitive to this. It was hard enough that they couldn’t nurse their children, or be home during the months of infancy. It’s painful to see your child forming a bond with someone that excludes you, their parent. I exchanged roles (as primary care-giver) with my husband after my son reached 5 months of age, and my son grew completely attached to his father, the way our 3 yr-old daughter is inextricably bonded to me.

Back to the point: Language between parent and child is an intimate exchange. It’s so precious, and we all know the feeling of being excluded from conversations among friends in our presence that we don’t understand--This is nothing compared to the same situation between parents and children.  Don’t give up your spouse for the sake of making your child bi-lingual, but DO plead your case with your spouse, explaining the benefits and IMPORTANCE of this linguistic connection (that it's important to you!). I think talking about the issue, the fears, the insecurities, the feelings of jealousy (so natural, even if irrational) is the most important for you, your children AND your marriage in this situation.  If you can’t talk about these things with your spouse, then the problem is probably a bit deeper.  …but that’s enough cyber-psychoanalysis for today.

By the way, David, I do agree with you. As you may have noticed my sit. is more similar to yours than to others’. I wonder however, how it would be for me if (1) my husband did not speak my native language, and (2) did not value it. I don’t think my husband married me because I speak English or am US-American (for some the latter is reason enough to avoid me). The spouses of all those who’ve written so far, would seem to have other reasons to have married, too. Nonetheless, despite frequent claims, you can take a language out of its culture, but you can’t take the culture out of the person.  It’s naïve of these husbands in question to think the culture of their wives is not extremely important to them. 

To Cristina, Conny, Tereza and Renate: Good Luck and Stay Strong!!

Reply with quote  #15 
To Renate,

18 month old children get their languages mixed up all the time. But they will eventually figure out which language goes with which parent. My 2.5 year old son occasionally speaks to my English-only husband in Chinese, which when I am around, I'll give a quick translation.

Be persistent!


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