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Jocelyn
Reply with quote  #1 
I am a native English speaker, working and living in Bosnia.  I've been here long enough that I can speak Bosnian at an advanced level.  I have a 3 1/2 year old son.  He was adopted a year ago from America, so he is relatively new here.  I also have a 9 month old son, who has been here since birth.  I know that the best family language system is one parent one language.  I totally understand that it's the best way for kids to learn two languages.  However, children have other needs besides language.  My older son has emotional needs that are difficult for me to meet when speaking to him in Bosnian.  Those of you who have been there: do you think that a family language system in which we alternate English days and Bosnian days might work?  Will it confuse my baby?  Both of my sons need to learn Bosnian well enough to go to school here at some point.  My older son goes to a Bosnian speaking day care 3-4 days a week and also watches a lot of cartoons in Bosnian.  He's finally starting to speak a few words and phrases.  I can tell he has some understanding.  He also mixes his Bosnian phrases with made up language, and often uses Bosnian phrases in the wrong context.  His English is extremely advanced for his age and was well developed before he came here to live with us.
S. Hernandez
Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Jocelyn,  I think you can keep on speaking to them in English and not sacrifice the emotional aspect, which from what I read is your priority. Since you're living in Bosnia and your children are very young, they'll learn it very quickly as they start to interact with other kids at school. So I think there's actually no need to talk to them in Bosnian. If you were going to teach them a minority language (other than English), in that case you could use the every-other-day approach. Wish you good luck and Happy Holidays!
Siya
Reply with quote  #3 
I see no reason at all for you to Speak Bosnian to the kids if you are living in Bosnia.

Get a Bosnian friend for your boys and read to them in Bosnian but speak to them in English on a day to day basis. You can start to say some things in Bosnian.

If your boy is in school already than you might want to start explaining somethings to him in Bosnian, like cleaning up toys, and sharing. Talk about emotions in Bosnian if you can, but let it be like a psuedo lesson, and draw the themes from whatever books your reading or whatever pictures you'll are looking at, but the need for you to speak Bosnian to them is minimal. Help your oldest with a few Bosnian phrases but mostly keep it to minimum.

As the oldest explores Bosnian and starts to master the language, he'll help his little brother just fine. You'll see. Best of luck to you and your little boys.


Alex
Reply with quote  #4 

I was interested in reading your posts. I am in a similar position but for different reasons. My husband and I are native English speakers living in Australia. I studied French for 9 years and wish to expose my 18 month old son to French while he is young. OPOL will not work for us because I am the primary care giver so if I speak only French to him he will not get enough exposure to English (and meanwhile his French will only ever be as good as mine, which is imperfect).

Therefore I have been speaking French to him every other day. Everyone else speaks English to him every day.

I found your website while researching my trial system after a friend told me that speech pathologists had advised her and her husband against starting to speak Chinese to their two year old (to whom they had up until then been speaking only English). Their advice was that now that the child has associated both parents with 'English', if they suddenly change languages on her she will become confused. Therefore they have engaged a Chinese nanny to speak Chinese to her.

This scared me at first. I wonder whether he'll end up babbling an unintelligible garble of French and English, or not speak at all cos he's so confused.

But on reflection, while I agree that OPOL (or ML@H) are probably the most effective systems if they happen to work for your household, a different system (like 'every other day') is still better than nothing. Children are very adaptive and I believe their little brains will sort it all out.

We've only been going for a month but already he's picking up that there are two words for the same thing, and can follow basic commands in both languages.

I'm very interested to hear of others' experiences.

Lek
Reply with quote  #5 
Hi,
I'm in a similar situation. We live in Thailand. I'm Thai, my husband is French and we speak English together. I have decided to speak both Thai and English to my baby from birth. She's now 4 months. I cannot just speak to her in Thai as she will not be sufficiently exposed to English. So I have decided to alternate Thai and English daily. I'm not sure how this will turn out and would like to listen to people with similar experiences and advice to give but am unsuccessful so far. Good luck with your every other day system, at least you know that you're not alone.
Alex
Reply with quote  #6 

Thanks for your reply and good luck.

Another suggestion is rather than alternate days, try grouping days together. Eg instead of:

Thai, English, Thai, English ...

you could try:

Thai, Thai, Thai, English, English, English ...

I've found this works a little better for continuity: they remember words better from day to day. If they only hear a language every other day I imagine they will take longer to learn words. I experienced this just recently after returning from holiday where I spoke only French for 5 days (his primary language is English) and his French improved noticeably.

Of course it depends on your schedule, what suits your family etc.

Anyone out there who's been doing this for longer than a few months who can share their outcomes with us?

Speaking of breaking 'the rules', I know a bilingual mother who speaks both languages indiscriminately all day every day and her child understands both fluently. She's only 2 and a half so it's hard to judge her own speaking but it goes to show whatever system you use you will be giving your child at least a passive understanding of both languages, which is no small feat.

Well done to all bi- and multilingual parents out there. It's a little harder work in the beginning but your child will thank you.

Sandi
Reply with quote  #7 
This is all so very interesting, and now my mind is swimming with all the possibilities!  I'd love to hear others' advice on this situation:  I'm a single mom in the U.S. - native English user, but I am conversationally fluent in both ASL (American Sign Language) and Spanish.  I am in the process of adopting a 9-year-old daughter from Guatemala.  She is profoundly deaf but speaks some Spanish as she was raised with only speaking/ no sign language.   I have visited her in Guatemala eight times now (our adoption process began in 2007 when she was six years old), and when I'm there, I find myself using a combination of spoken Spanish and ASL to communicate with her.   However, when she's home in the U.S. she'll need English for literacy and to communicate with majority language users.  I also have been researching the possibility of using a system called "Cued Speech" that essentially makes oral language (any language) more visible by coding the phontetic sounds... which is not like sign language at all (sign language is based on meanings or concepts, not phonetic sounds of spoken languages).   As a single mom, I can't do OPOL and raise her trilingually (ASL, Spanish, English)... so I'm considering the idea of alternating languages... I've been using flag stickers on books and flash cards (American flag for English, Guatemalan flag for Spanish... which I know is an oversimplifcation, but it's visual for now). I've already explained to her that there are three distinct languages, and I've even made trilingual flashcards with basic sight words.   I wonder if there are other ways to make it clear to her that we are using different languages, and when the best days/times/situations would be for those languages?   It's hard to figure out what the "minority" language is... because she will go to a school where some teachers use ASL and some use sign supported speech (mixture of ASL and spoken English), but we live in the U.S. so the larger community is speaking English.  Her majority language in Guatemala has been spoken Spanish, but that's about to change. Obviously we are facing lots of challenges because she is already 9 years old, so she may not gain as much fluency in all three languages as she would have if she started them all as a baby.  Anyone have thoughts/ suggestions?  
Ann
Reply with quote  #8 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex

I was interested in reading your posts. I am in a similar position but for different reasons. My husband and I are native English speakers living in Australia. I studied French for 9 years and wish to expose my 18 month old son to French while he is young. OPOL will not work for us because I am the primary care giver so if I speak only French to him he will not get enough exposure to English (and meanwhile his French will only ever be as good as mine, which is imperfect).

Therefore I have been speaking French to him every other day. Everyone else speaks English to him every day.

I found your website while researching my trial system after a friend told me that speech pathologists had advised her and her husband against starting to speak Chinese to their two year old (to whom they had up until then been speaking only English). Their advice was that now that the child has associated both parents with 'English', if they suddenly change languages on her she will become confused. Therefore they have engaged a Chinese nanny to speak Chinese to her.

This scared me at first. I wonder whether he'll end up babbling an unintelligible garble of French and English, or not speak at all cos he's so confused.

But on reflection, while I agree that OPOL (or ML@H) are probably the most effective systems if they happen to work for your household, a different system (like 'every other day') is still better than nothing. Children are very adaptive and I believe their little brains will sort it all out.

We've only been going for a month but already he's picking up that there are two words for the same thing, and can follow basic commands in both languages.

I'm very interested to hear of others' experiences.

Hi there:

I am wondering how old your child was when you started speaking to him every other day?  Thanks so much for your help!  Ann
Alex
Reply with quote  #9 
I started the 'every other day' system when my son was around 18 months. After a month or two though, when we both got used to French, I started speaking exclusively French with him except when other English speakers are present. He's now 2 years 2 months. He's still too young to be able to assess his bilingualism but I'm very happy with his language development. He's very chatty and SEEMS to be favouring French with me, English with others which is promising. I use lots of French CDs, DVDs and we go to a French playgroup so he hears lots of native French too.  

I should share the advice of a speech pathologist I spoke to the other day, even though I'm wary of it. She herself is French/English bilingual and works in a bilingual school. She advised against what I'm doing because (1) it's more natural and spontaneous to raise your child in your native language and (2) he will pick up my imperfect French and non-native accent. (3) She also said she knows 3 teenagers who were raised in an unstructured bilingual household and they end up speaking neither language properly, even up to the age of 18.

Here's what I think about that.

(1) Fair enough. And raising a toddler in a second language is certainly more tiring than in your first. But my French is perfectly adequate for 95% of what I want to say to a 2 year old during the day. And my passion for my son to learn a second language overcomes this concern for me.

(2) Even imperfect, non-native French is better than no French at all.

(3) Speech pathologists only see the cases that have gone wrong, not all the success stories, which have no call to go to a speech pathologist. And I cannot believe that my son, who is raised in Australia with a very articulate father, grandmother and going to an English speaking school, will not master English, even if his (full time) mother speaks 80% French to him.

I know another mother who spoke only non-native Chinese till her daughter was 3 and it didn't have an adverse affect on her English who's now doing brilliantly in school. (They abandoned it from age 3 and still regret it.)

As that mother said to me, if you have the will and the enthusiasm you should by all means do it!
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