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Kristina Nagy
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi,

I am new to this list, and hope to find help tin making a very difficult decision. We live in English-speaking Canada, and have two children, 2 and 4 years old. My husband is Hungarian and I am Hungarian+Swedish (born in Hungary, grown up in Sweden and equally fluent in both). My husband is traveling a lot and is so away from home almost half the time. Our language system is: English outside the home. Only Hungarian at home when my husband is there. Only Swedish with me when my husband is away. We have followed this system pretty strictly since the oldest was born, and it has worked well for us.

We both work full time, and the kids are attending an English-speaking daycare/preschool/Kindergarten. Our families live overseas, and we have extremely limited opportunities to practice the minority languages outside the home.

For the kids, English is obviously not a problem. They fully understand both Hungarian and Swedish. However, they hardly ever speak anything else then English. When they respond in English, I repeat back to them the equivalent in the "correct" language, but so far, we have not forced the issue of their responding in English.

Here are my questions:

1. Is there any hope that they eventually will start speaking both Hungarian and Swedish if they have not reached that level at this age?

2. Would it be beneficial/OK to "step up" by requiring them to respond in the minority language (in order to get what they want for example)?

3. Or is the amount of input they get simply too low? Is it "better" to keep going the way we do, and end up with the kids understanding but not talking any of the minority languages, or should we drop one minority language and focus on the other only? That way, the quantity would be higher, and the chance of them actually speaking it better. 

I am struggling with these questions, and would love to hear from anyone else who have been in a similar situation.

Thanks for a fantastic website!

Kristina

Living in Canada
Speaking Hungarian and Swedish at home
Kids 2+4 years old



Erik K
Reply with quote  #2 
I have not been in your position, but I'll take a chance and reply anyway.

The problem you mentioned is so common that this website has partly answered your question in the Frequently Asked Questions:
http://www.multilingualchildren.org/faq.html#refuse

Answering your question #1: Your kids could easily start speaking those languages if they wanted. It is purely a motivation problem, as far as I know.

Answering your question #2: I have no idea. I'm guessing it would depend on your kids' temperaments (whether they would rebel and fight). I see no harm in trying, but I don't know if that is the best approach.

Answering your question #3: I think your system is excellent; don't change it. The amount of exposure to the languages is fine.

Your children really need to play with kids their own age who speak those languages. I can think of a couple of ways:

1) Can you afford to travel to Hungary and Sweden periodically? Immersing your kids, even for short periods, would certainly cause them to speak those languages.

2) With careful web searches, you might discover people near you speaking those languages. If there are any websites devoted to your town, maybe you can post a classified ad or a forum message, asking if there are any recently immigrated parents in the area whose kids still speak Hungarian or Swedish rather than English. Maybe there are forums devoted to Hungarian or Swedish expatriates; you could also advertise in those websites too.

Also see http://www.multilingualchildren.org/tips/play_group.html

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