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Helena
Reply with quote  #1 
I am a native English speaker, living in the UK, who is trying to speak Polish to her daughter (1 year old now!). I am getting increasingly frustrated and am really wondering if I am doing the right thing. I am becoming more and more aware of gaps in my Polish vocabulary and grammar and although I'm trying to do something about it, progress is slow. In the meantime I am subjecting my little one to my substandard Polish and am wondering if I am doing damage to her language development. From what I understand, children need to have at least one language spoken to them well if they are to develop the language learning part of their brain properly and the crucial time for this is 1-3 years. My husband (also English) speaks English to our daughter but is out most of the day, so it is me that she gets most of her imput from.
I really want my daughter to be bilingual. I was always upset as a child that most of my friends spoke another language at home while my Polish dad never spoke to me in his language. Ironically although perfectly bilingual, none of my friends have chosen to pass this on to their children. I guess you don't ever appreciate what you have.
I am toying with the idea of starting up a Polish toddler group and am meeting someone from the council next week to discuss it but am beginning to wonder if there is any point.
Would appreciate your advice
Helena

sheilagh
Reply with quote  #2 

Helena, CHIN UP, yes, you are doing the right thing!!!


I'm a non-native speaking French to my kids. Some days the going is incredibly tough, other days I am on top of the world.  Make sure you read the sections on this wonderful site about non-native speakers.  There are a gazillion of us out there.  Definitely get a toddler group going.  And if that doesn't work out, just get a couple of Polish speakers to come and have coffee at your house (or in the park, or at a cafe, or outside of the library or community centre...)  The more opportunities you give yourself to speak Polish, a. the more polish your child will hear   b. the more confident you will feel. 


It took me a long time to get a playgroup together, but what I discovered along the way was that the older francophone ladies would come out of the woodwork at the supermarket when they heard me speaking Frenc to the kids.  It's great to have older people doting on the kids in the target language.  If there is a part of town where some Poles live, or a deli or something where you know there are Polish speakers, maybe make a point of going there once a week.  If you can get a tape or CD of songs for kids in Polish you'll find that you are an instant expert on Polish baby talk.  Also, there is nothing wrong with making a list of expressions you want to be able to say in Polish (e.g. nighty-night, sleepy-bye, toast soldiers, etc) and then asking people how to say them (don't forget to write it down).  Who cares if you are missing a few words or maybe your accent isn't perfect.  Ever noticed how a lot of native speakers speak English??? They're missing words, and they've got some interesting accents. 


You are doing a wonderful thing for your child -- now go treat yourself to a pedicure or a massage or something -- you really deserve it!    P.S. maybe you could get a Polish babysitter come to the house an hour a week.  Some days you could stick around and just listen.

helena
Reply with quote  #3 
Thank you for the encouragement and advice, sheilagh. I've noticed how supportive you've been to other people in the past too!
If you don't mind me asking, how did you come to learn French yourself? And what language does your partner (if you have one) speak to the children? Does it get easier or harder to sustain speaking in a foreign language when your children get older? Sorry to bombard you with questions.
I've recently met a couple of Polish mums at a local toddler group and am going to make an effort to go there every week. Apart from that I don't know any other Polish people round here but am working on ways to set up a Polish toddler group anyway.
Am still concerned about the need for my daughter to hear at least one language spoken properly on a regular basis. I know that when she starts school she'll hear lots of English - but up until then will it be damaging if she just hears my imperfect Polish for most of the day?
I've looked through this site and it is full of great advice. I check the messages regularly, too. I do wonder how my level of Polish measures up to other peoples' non-native language, if you know what I mean. I think my accent is okay - it's really the vocab and grammar that I need to work on.
Anyway, thanks again
Helena
sheilagh
Reply with quote  #4 

Hi, Helena, how good to hear back from you! 

 I learned French in high school, studied it in college, went on a junior year abroad, then stayed in France a second year. Then I became a French teacher. When I was going through grad school it was an unwritten "truth" that it was bad, or silly, or lame (or something) to speak a non-native language to your kids.  And silly me, I bought that load of hogwash. Some days I feel so dumb for waiting til my first one was 3.5 years to start; other days I say, thank God I started at all!

 

When I started speakign French to the kids I had just gone back to teaching after a 6 year break from it.  My dirty little secret was that my French was rusty.  And you can be certain that I had NO child/baby-related vocab. I made the decision to speak French before I had any materials or backup or support or anything.  I discovered this wonderful site a couple of months into the whole endeavour.  Just the act of speaking French has made me get un-rusty.  Talking to the kids all the time, listening to DVDs and music and stuff has got the juices flowing again.  I have learned so much vocab and contextual stuff for kids by listening to music, seeing DVDs and listening to how other people (particularly the older ladies I keep mentioning) speak to the children. And I'm shameless: I'll say, "hang on, what was that you said?" and I'll write it down and then integrate it into our lives.

 

As the kids get older they get lots of positive feedback from other adults: "aren't you lucky your mommy speaks French to you?  I wasn't that lucky..." Today at CVS I said something to my daughter (along the lines of no, we are not buying that lollypop) and she announced proudly to the cashier, "WE speak FRENCH."

 

Keep going to the toddler groups and don't be shy or afraid to speak to the Polish moms. And Helena, don't make the mistake I made in the beginning of feeling inferior (b/c I am a non-native speaker). Just remember how you feel when speaking to a non-native English speaker who has an accent or makes mistakes?  Do you even consciously notice it? Probably not. My husband speaks French too, but he doesn't speak it to the kids. I've treaded a bit carefuly because he thought this whole thing was a bit weird (I think he thought it was a phase I was going through).  Over the past couple of days I have been speaking to him in French in front of the kids whenever I can. CHRISTINA, if he, too, replies in French is this going to be a worse thing for the kids (in terms of them learning to reply in French) or is this a good thing. Will it reinforce their tendancy to reply in English?

 

Hope you have a good day.... I'm off to bed.

 

s

Helena
Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for sharing your story Sheilagh. I had a look at some previous posts and I see you didn't start with the French that long ago. You must be really proud that your daughters are doing so well already. I wonder if your husband will start using French more and more as your daughters do. It seems a distinct possibility to me. My husband is picking up quite a few Polish phrases.
Thanks again for your encouragement
Helena
sheilagh
Reply with quote  #6 

Hi again,

 

OK, and I looked at one previous post and realised that I accidentally got it wrong when I said my son was 10 months old when I started.  When I started he was about 13 months old and my daughter was 3 and a half. We've been doing it since about October.  So it's been long enough now... no more excuses.

 

It's good to talk to you too (that's why I LOVE this website).  Just over the last few days things have seemed a little more promising on the language front.  I realise that I'm speaking English to my daugher (the older one) more than I need to now.  I guess I never made the transition myself out of the transition I put her in from English into French.  She is capable of more than I give her credit for, and I really hardly need to speak English to her at all. LIke if it's hard for her to understand what I'm saying in French, it would probably be hard for her to understand in English anyway (e.g. "mommy, where does God live?")  So over the last few days I've just been forcing myself to speak French to her (so much of it is habit) and I have encouraged her to scold me (hilarious) if I accidentally speak English.  It's hard work, but I repeat in French almost everything she says in English.  Maybe she'll get so sick of it that she'll give up and speak French ; )

's

ListModerator
Reply with quote  #7 
Hi Helena,

Sheilagh said it very well! I just wanted to point you to a variety of ideas for boosting your child's language. Sill, the playgroup is by far the best -- so go for it! Maybe you saw it already, but if not here are some practical tips for starting that playgroup and even a poster template for advertising it (also in A4 format).


Best of luck, and don't forget to advertise your palygroup in our new Classifieds Pages!!
/Christina
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

Michal
Reply with quote  #8 
Czesc Helena!
Since more then one year I surfing in web searching any kind of information according non native bilingual – and I find your post.
It is really amazing because I have very similar problems as you but… according language opposite. I’m Polish (living in small town in Poland) but I spoke with my son (1 year old) in English. Of course English is not my native language.
So… we(me and my wife) choose OPOL method(my wife also know English but she speak in polish with our son). Begin was very difficult for me, because expressing feelings in non mother-tongue wasn’t natural, but only during one month.
After was better and better… and now I see something very strange. When I’m start talking with other children, first words coming in my head in English. My idea to start with bilingual was connected with my work (is only in English). Thanks to this I very smooth move from office to home. But still my English is not perfect (I could say sometimes worst then ever even now I don’t know how many mistakes I did in this text) but I not give up. I take extra English lessons (now on pre-advance course) I learn a lot of kids vocabulary (because I’m engineer so my vocabulary was limit to software technique).
I read my son a lot of English books, play English songs, we watch also English cartoons ect.
So please could you contact with me (on my email) to share experience. From my side I could offer you support in Polish, songs, moves, books of course all in Polish.
I will be waiting for reply from you.

Michal
dokonia@wp.pl
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