I had ambitious plans when I was pregnant but the reality just hit me. I am Polish, live in Denmark. I speak Polish very rarely, as most of my friends and acquaintances are not Polish. I occasionally connect with my family on skype as we all are busy and are free at different times during the day - so in our communication we rely on written messages rather than calls.
My daughter will turn 3 in December. When I was home on maternity leave, the first 7 months, I spoke Polish to her. Then I returned to work and her dad took over. He is Danish and he of course speaks Danish with her. I only speak Danish at work, and at some point after returning to work the business took over and I started speaking Danish to my daughter as well. We had limited time together all 3 and it was just natural we make things together and laugh and have fun together. And then suddenly all Polish disappeared. My daughter currently only understands some single words, but that is all. Does it mean the war is lost or can I still win even though I lost the battle? Can my daughter speak Polish and be at least a bit billingual? She is catching a lot of English when watching TV and listening to music. The same is not happening with Polish.
Now we also have a little son that is 5 months old and I speak Polish with him, she listens but is not interested.
Anybody have some good advice how to get back “on track”- I know it is not possible to get on track, but how to make minority language interesting for a 3 yo when she doesn’t speak it at all? And how to prevail with my son’s language development even though I do not have a success story in my experience?
Nothing is impossible but you will have to commit. Because to be quite honest, so far my experience of raising my kids trilingual is that you have to commit 100% (I didn't realise that when I started either) and NEVER make exceptions nor give up.
I would suggest that with your 5-month-old baby you start to speak to him a lot more in Polish. Maybe say your sentence in Polish "Do you want some milk?" using a lot of gestures to emphasise what your are saying, and just after it say a few key words in English ("milk?") just to make sure he gets what your on about and does not freak out at you suddenly changing communication language.
With your daughter, introduce Polish books to her, same with nursery rhymes and cartoons. As she grows more familiar with Polish, gently increase the amount of Polish and reduce Danish to 0 (at least when it comes to you being on your own with her. If daddy could be supportive and do that too that would be great).
I suggest you dedicate a specific ml time for your daughter (Time & Place strategy) such as the shower time, whereby you exclusively use the ml. As she develops her Polish, let Polish spill over the shower time.
Play lots of music, radio, telly in Polish in the background. It does not matter if you or the kids actually pay attention to it. What matters is that they bathe in the ml. Kids ALWAYS hear things, even when you least expect it.
Once you feel your kids have developed at least a passive bilingual ability in Polish, do switch to the exclusive use of the ml with them. It is important to condition them to only using the ml with you.
Other very helpful things to do: - invest in LOADS of ml resources - try to get daddy on board even if he does not speak the ml - the journey is hard enough as it is without every little help you can get! He can play music/cartoons in Polish when you are not there. - try to organise Polish play-dates for your kids. - meet up with Polish speakers - let your kids see the ml in use. - arrange regular Skype calls with your relatives - travel as much as possible to Poland and have family fly over.
And finally, remember the 2 inseparable core pillars to bilingual education mentioned in Adam's book: 1) Exposure and 2) Creating the need in your kids to use the ml.
Amy gave you an excellent list of things to do. I just wanted to add something to help you switch to Polish. I have the same issue as you, the ML is very much prevalent in my life at work and at home and I only speak ml with my kids. So when I am tired, it is easier to speak the ML with my husband. He understands the ml but not fluently, only for casual conversation. I am actively trying to speak more ml with him when the kids are present, and I have found the following tip helpful: when I commute back from work, I listen to podcasts in ml and try to talk to myself in ml. In other words, I try to reset my brain and mentally switch from ML to ml before arriving home. I also now exclusively read books in ml because at some point, my ml vocabulary had decreased significantly.
When my oldest was 3 years old, she went through a rebellious phase and did not want to speak ml with me. She loved stickers so I got some ml magazines with stickers that she had to place to complete stories. I would let her take a sticker only if she could name what was on it in ml, or at least repeat after me when she did not know the word. I was not too harsh on her, I tried to keep it playful. Since your daughter knows some words, that could be a good starting point. She won't have to say full sentences. My second daughter is now 3 and I still use that technique. The key is to find something that they are interested in and work from there.
I wish you the best of luck in this journey. Let us know how it goes!
Mayken: We're at Harry Potter Book Night at the English bookshop in Paris. The activities are all in French but my daughter teamed up for the treasure hunt with a girl who also speaks ouf ml German!
Feb 8, 2020 3:50:49 GMT 9
Amy: Was stunned to hear eldest had an anglophone (ml) accent when she began to read in the ML this afternoon!! Didn't last more than a paragraph until her brain switched language, but chuffed mum here!!
Mar 7, 2020 23:05:49 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter found the secret stash of ml books I'd bought at the closure sale of the ml book store two months ago and hidden away for later. Guess it's a good time for new books now, right?
Mar 18, 2020 5:29:38 GMT 9
Caro C.: My baby (16mo) perfectly knows what "hi5" means and readily shows her hand even when we are not showing our hand first. It feels like the first minor blossom of the bilingual seed.
Jun 1, 2020 13:05:36 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice, Caro! Give her a high-five from me! And I look forward to hearing about many more happy developments to come!
Jun 8, 2020 15:12:21 GMT 9