My oldest is 5yo. He’s in ML daycare and there’s some ML at home because my husband doesn’t speak the ml. I’ve been working really hard on the ml, increasing his language exposure through many different ways and now, his ml is stronger than his ML. He more naturally uses the ml to express himself, his ml vocabulary is much more developed than his ML’s.
I’m wondering if I went too far in my approach and need to back down a bit and introduce more ML in his life. I don’t think he’s behind his peers in ML but his level in ml is amazing.
So what do you guys think? Keep going as we have and assume the ML will get better as he starts kindergarten? Or introduce more ML so he can expand his ML a bit?
I am in the same situation as you (French living in the US), married to an ML speaker, but the comparison stops here. I cannot claim my girls are more competent in ml than ML. Your post does not seem to indicate that your son is behind his ML peers. If you are worried, that's what I would look at first: What is his ML level compared to other kids in his daycare class? Did the teachers/caregivers say anything about it?
The fact that he is more comfortable expressing himself in the ml is remarkable for a child who goes to daycare in ML! Your hard work has definitely paid off.
Will your son be spending longer hours next year in school? If that's the case, his abilities in the ML will likely improve. I know my daughter started playing much more elaborate games with her friends during recess, inventing stories in ML, etc. So I would expect your son will also go through that change, and it will be greatly beneficial to his ML skills.
Contrary to what Tatyana mentioned, I did not see any real steep change in my 6 year old when she entered pre-K, or Kindergarten, but she had been in a ML daycare since she was 8 weeks old, and for 9+ hours every day. So the input in ml has always been very small in comparison to the ML, and developing the ml has been a constant battle for 6 years now. You seem to have done very well so far developing both languages with your son. Unless there is a real issue with his ML skills that his teachers can discuss with you, I would keep doing what you have done so far.
I second the others' opinion. Don't change anything. Starting nursery school can have a huge impact on bilingual kids. It definitely killed of the little mls (we have 2 mls) my eldest had, and I dread the impact on my youngest who'll start next September.
Balanced bilingualism is a myth, according to world expert François Grosjean. I would tend to agree. We handle 3 languages and I can tell there is always a dominant one in each of my daughters (ML for my eldest, ml2 for my youngest).
If the ml is stronger in your child for now, brilliant! Make the most of it.
Observe the ML evolution in your child when he begins school, and see whether there is a need to adapt anything. My personal opinion: the ML always finds its way. Its social status is far too important for your child not to pick it up. No later than this afternoon, one of my relatives was shocked that I do not speak the ML (my native language) to my kids and asked "but how does she learn the ML?!". But I think it always finds its way, especially in sociable kids that happily play with any child.
Posts: 116 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!
I second all the previous comments to your post. At this moment, my daughter (she's almost 3 and a half years old) is definitely more fluent in her ml (Spanish) than the ML (English), even though she's spent an average of 8-9 hours a day at an ML daycare from Monday through Friday. I'd say keep the same strategies that you're using to support your children's ml knowledge/usage.
My guess is that I'll begin noticing some changes in my daughter's use/command of the ML as soon as she begins going to regular school (i.e. mid August), so I'm doing my very best to keep a strong, fun ml routine (tons of cool reading, watching ml cartoons, ml music, ml 'artistic' activities...you name it!). We'll see how that goes, but in the meantime, and in your particular case, what I'd say is...you're doing a great job with your ml!
In my case since, I would say all my three children currently have a wider vocabulary in the ml than in the ML, I think because I read aloud a lot to them and my husband does not. It is often then when they ask my husband (ML native speaker but also proficent in the ml) what does a ML word mean he just uses the ml translation and usually they know it.
Like Amy says the ML finds its way and it is a really big advantage if the ml is strong in the early years. The time they spend with you will decrease and the time in ML activities will increase as they grow older, so I would say use the most you can these early years.
Thanks everybody for your input. I talked to his teacher and she said his ML was fine. So we will stay the course. Fingers crossed that starting kindergarten won’t do too much damage to his ml. He’s been in full time ML daycare since he’s been a baby so it’s not like his exposure is going to increase but of course you never know!
Just jumping in to say that it’s really a mystery to me how some children seem to stay ml-dominant despite being in ML daycare! My kids have both been SO influenced by daycare that they basically dropped the mls when it started. In my daughter’s case, part-time ML daycare was enough to make her refuse to speak anything other than Spanish (our ML at the time), and my son will now only speak French (our current ML), even though in both cases they clearly understood/understand the mls... It’s really amazing how different children are! I do wish I could know ‘why’ though - it would help a lot in determining strategies for balanced multilingualism!
It’s really amazing how different children are! I do wish I could know ‘why’ though - it would help a lot in determining strategies for balanced multilingualism!
Nellie, I think you just nailed the answer: it is because each child is different that we cannot find a common "why" and hence a common strategy for balanced multilingualism.
I remember once meeting a trilingual family with an almost identical set-up (they just had Norwegian instead of English as one of the mls). And I remember the sheer frustration at hearing how they had never had any ml resistance from their boy where we had struggled with our eldest. I just came to the conclusion that each child and bilingual journey is different (as frustrating and unfair as it can be for struggling bilingual parents).
My question is somewhat related to this. My child is four, and seems to be fairly balanced in both ML and ml right now. But on a recent trip to a country where the ml was dominant, I noticed she seemed to be more comfortable than she is at home. She was more engaged with people, and seemed less shy, which is a marked personality trait at home in the ML. I wonder if we have hurt her social development in our home country by focusing so much on ml? On the one hand I was thrilled to see her connect so well in the ml, but I'm concerned that perhaps it comes at a cost for her local life?
Jordana - I'm not sure whether this helps, but my little boy (22 months) generally seemed a lot more engaged and excited when with ml2 (Spanish) speakers than when he is with ML (French) speakers. I suspect it may be simply because his experience of Spanish is more 'fun' than his experience with ML. It's definitely not a language issue per se, because most of the words he uses are ML, and he definitely understands ML very well.
It's funny what you say about shyness being a personality trait in your home country. Everyone always thinks that Latin Americans are very outgoing, but my experience in Chile was also that people do tend to be very shy. Of course, it's a generalisation, but it was something that struck me.
Nellie You raise an interesting point. I certainly am very different when it comes to socializing in French or in English. I am actually much less shy in my second language (English) than in my mother tongue (French). I actually realized that during my first times in the US when my English was not fluent. I have no idea if cultural differences would be picked up by a 4 year old and would facilitate socializing in one culture versus the other... My 6 yo is just as outgoing in both languages. She's also a super extrovert!
Caro C.: My daughter, 2yo was rocking her bunny while trying to sing her own way. This was something completely new so I made a video... just s couple of seconds had passed when she clearly says a whole spontaneous sentence in the mL: "this is the music". #EpicWin
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Caro C.: It is just now, many hours later that I came to savour the moment since I had a pretty busy/moved day... so excited about this, something small but meaningful 😍😁
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Adam Beck: Good for you and your daughter, Caro!
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