I’m new to the forum. My wife and I were born and raised in the US and English is our native tongue. Our parents are from India, and we grew up speaking Gujarati at home — we are fairly fluent in Gujarati though not as good as our English.
We live in the US, and have been speaking Gujarati to our 3.8 year old son ever since he was born (I speak 90% Gujarati to him and my wife speaks about 70% Gujarati/30% English to him). My wife and I speak English to each other. Our nanny speaks Hindi and poor accented English. The grandparents speak mostly Gujarati. He started English-speaking preschool just before he turned 3.
He is fluent at Gujarati, and he understands English. He is shy and rarely speaks at all to other kids. My concerns are:
1) When he does speak English, he speaks it with an Indian accent. Why isn’t he picking up the majority (American) accent. I’ve never heard of anything like this before, where a kid would not pick up the majority accent.
2) My theory is that his discomfort with speaking English may be adding to his shyness. He may be afraid to talk to other kids because he doesn’t want to use English. This is hindering his social development and ability to make friends. Could this be, and if so how do I address it?
Posts: 97 Country (residing now): US Country (originally from): Spain Children, Ages: Girl, born in March 2016 Majority Language: English Minority Language(s): Spanish, German, and hopefully French some day!
Based on what you mention in your posting, it might simply be a case of your son trying to figure out this 'bilingual scenario' and taking his time to 'digest' it. Not all bilingual/multilingual kids reach the same milestones at the same time, and there are as many differences as colors in a painter's palette. My own daughter, for example, who was born in the US and began attending daycare at 6 months old (now she's almost 3 and a half) doesn't use much English, to my surprise (our first ml is Spanish), and I don't think I can tell anyone about her English accent because I've never truly heard her speak it. I think I remember one day I heard her utter a sentence in English, and for a second I thought there was a touch of her Spanish accent in the sentence, but that's as much as I can tell you. She understands English, but at least when I'm around, she doesn't use it. She'll begin Pre-K next year, and my guess is that her English proficiency will improve significantly. Maybe this is something similar to what your kid will experience as soon as he begins attending regular school.
I'm attaching the following link from one of the main experts in bilingualism, Francois Grojean:
It's always very interesting to read what he has to say, so I'd definitely recommend checking it out, even if some of the situations he describes aren't relevant to your case, but anyway, I decided to send it to you so that you can read what he says in question #9. You mentioned your kid is shy, so maybe it'll take him a little bit longer to reach a point when he's comfortable speaking/communicating in both languages and using the US accent in his English, but based on what he mentions in that particular question, I think it'll be taken care of naturally.
It's also very interesting what he mentions in question #10. I don't mean to imply that your kid has a speech impediment because of this situation with the US English accent (not at all!!), but I wanted to point it out anyway just in case you might have considered using more English with your son as a way to 'fix' that. My humble opinion is that the long-term effects of using the ML with him at home might have a more negative impact on his bilingual development, especially if this is simply a case of your son taking his time to understand what's going on with this bilingualism ordeal.
As parents, we naturally worry about anything that has to do with our children. Am I giving my kid enough veggies? Is (s)he eating enough pieces of fruit every day? Shouldn't (s)he be taller than (s)he's right now? Why does our neighbor know the letters of the alphabet, and my kid is still trying to learn them, if they are the same age?...and the list goes on and on. I'm definitely a good example of that, and I'll be honest, I can't help it...so sometimes I look around, breathe, and say "give her some time and space, that's all she needs to figure it out." So far, it's worked for me. Each case is different, and I'm not saying that you should take a completely laid-back approach to this (extremes are never good), but if you're consistent with the use of your ml, chances are that by the time he begins school, this issue will be solved.
One of my daughter's teachers at day care was from Peru. She began speaking Spanish with her kid, but her husband told her that she should use English with their son because if he wasn't fluent in English, he'd be the 'different' kid, and his socializing skills might suffer significantly from this. So....she began speaking in English to her kid, which means that he barely knows Spanish, or feels like using it. I honestly don't think his "socializing skills" would have been jeopardized if the mother had continued speaking Spanish with him. I see that with my own daughter: I always use Spanish (and some German) with her, and no English at all, and sure, her English proficiency might not be at the same level as the rest of her peers, but that has never been an issue when it comes to relating to other kids. Sure, your son might be shy, and he might not be so 'social,' but I think this is just a personality trait, and even if he only spoke English, you might get a similar situation when it comes to this social development.
So...maybe is just a matter of adjustment. That's what's been with my daughter, for example. Next year will be the key one! Hopefully we'll be able to continue our ml experience while she gets more knowledgeable of her ML.
What you mention about your son speaking the ML with the ml accent isn't completely unheard of (I can think of the case of a soccer player from Argentina whose family moved to Spain, and to this day, he retains his original Argentinean accent, even though he's been surrounded by a different Spanish-speaking accent most of his formative years; he did arrive to Spain when he was 10, though, but he never changed his accent).
We live in Spain and both my husband and I speak English to our kids. My daughter, who will soon be 6, started nursery school when she was 1. At that point, and until she turned 3, she only spoke English (our ml). When she started speaking Spanish, she had a heavy English accent, and it lasted a long time. I'm talking years.
When my daughter was 4, we all thought she was very shy. She also let other kids walk all over her. That summer, we went to the UK and, to my surprise, my daughter stood her ground when having an argument with an English girl her age. What we thought was a personality trait was in fact a language barrier. But, my daughter is very proud of speaking 2 languages and wouldn't trade it for the world, no matter how frustrating this process may have been for her.
I think your son's accent will change with time and end up being like the one spoken arround him. My kids borrow from the other language all the time and say things that make no sense like "I'm going to tap it", meaning "cover it", because the Spanish word for "covering" is "tapar". They also do this with sentence structures: "the car red", and they do it both ways; their Spanish is affected by their English too. I think putting each language in their 'folder' takes time, be it words, grammar or accent.
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