Hi! I am super excited to join this forum. I discovered Bilingual Monkeys and Adam Beck several years ago but got distracted with a lot of other things going on in our lives. I wish I had started applying his techniques several years ago but better late than never. My husband is from Mexico so fluent in Spanish with decent English ability but only speaks Spanish with our family etc. I am from Canada but my first language is English. (My dad's first language is French). I am fluent in Spanish (as a learned second language). I am determined that our children will speak (and write and read) both Spanish and English 100% fluently and I have exerted considerable effort to try to ensure this, but it is proving more difficult than I anticipated: Both our boys (3.5 years old and 2 years old) have excellent Spanish comprehension but prefer to respond in English rather than Spanish. Any advice to help our children overcome this tendency would be sooooooo appreciated. Thank you!!
I think we need more information to be able to help you, like:
- What's your language setup? Who speaks what to your kids? What language do you and your husband speak to each other? Who spends more time with the kids?
- What other people are in your kids' life and what languages do they speak? Do they attend school? What language is spoken there?
- What are the efforts you mentioned you've made so that your kids speak Spanish?
Sorry about all the questions, but in order to help you out we (or at least I) need to know what your situation is and where there's room for improvement.
Having difficulties along the way is par for the course, so don't worry about it. It's all about keeping at it, making adjustments along the way and finding out what works best for your family. This really is a trial-error process. This being said by someone whose kids are 6 and 3 (soon to be 7 and 4) and just made a major change in our language setup.
Katie, welcome! As Raquel mentioned, if you can offer more details about your situation and your experience, I think we can offer more effective feedback. If the children's ability in the minority language is currently more passive, there are apparently some shortcomings in the two "core conditions" of exposure and need. My guess is that you've been pursuing your bilingual aim with the use of OPOL: for the most part, your husband is using Spanish while you're using English. This could account for those shortcomings in exposure and need. Since you also have ability in Spanish--and I doubt your boys will have any real difficulty acquiring good English--you might consider shifting toward both you and your husband using Spanish more consistently at home ([email protected] = minority language at home). By reshaping the basic circumstances in this way, in order to put more emphasis on Spanish and less emphasis on English (at least for the time being, until their Spanish is stronger), I expect you would be effectively addressing the apparent lack of exposure and need and this would gradually result in your sons using Spanish more actively.
And Katie, as your kids are still small, your timing is fine, in terms of now strengthening your strategy and your efforts.
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo and the author of "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability"; "I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!"; "28 Bilingual English-Spanish Fairy Tales & Fables"; and the award-winning humorous novel "How I Lost My Ear".
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Adam Beck: Najwa, it's hard to respond to your question without knowing the full details of the situation. I suggest starting a thread at a suitable board and offering as much information about these circumstances as you can.
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