Country (residing now): Mexico Country (originally from): USA Children, Ages: 2 daughters: F. (Born September 2013) and P. (Born January 2016) Majority Language: Spanish Minority Language(s): English
Well, I've been trying to speak more ml in public in the last few days and I've made a few interesting discoveries already. First of all, I think most of the weird looks and stares were mostly in my head (!) and actually, up to now, kids are the only ones who have openly commented on it. Of course, they're naturally curious and mostly, they just want to interact with my daughter. So, I try doing the ml with her and ML while talking to the other kids. One older girl actually started practicing her English (ml) with my daughter and it was really cute. The other thing I've noticed is that my daughter is slowly starting to use more ml words with me, so that helps keep me motivated.
Thank you very much for all your comments and for being so open about your progress... It's been a great boost for me.
Thanks for starting this thread with your question, Sam. I also feel awkward sometimes speaking English here in Japan to my baby, especially when we are with friends who don't speak English etc. On the outside, it looks like I'm trying to set us apart from everybody else. People also tend to react by staring here or just looking at us curiously, probably because I look Asian and can easily pass off as a Japanese if I speak the ML. I'm also still struggling to keep talking to my son in English at home, even in front of his Japanese grandparents (whose house we live in) and risk having them think that I'm building this barrier between them and us.
But after reading your responses, Adam and Reina, I feel like it's courageous to keep going and going, no matter what happens. I am hopeful that my efforts will pay off in the future. In fact, recently, my boy has started to say some words like 'egg' and 'car', especially after our trip to Singapore! We just got back, you know. That trip definitely helped to boost his language skills. I'm very happy that he is beginning to babble, moreover in English. It encourages me to keep talking and reading to him in English. I guess it does get more and more interesting when he starts to communicate in our language, instead of his baby talk and makes our bilingual journey more meaningful.
Sam, I'm just rereading your original post. Do you mean that you sometimes don't speak Yiddish to your son in public and instead speak to him in English? Or do you mean that you get quieter in general and speak to him less because when you do, it's still in Yiddish? This is my case sometimes around French speakers, I realize I'm speaking less to Charlotte...
Perhaps all of this will get a bit less complicated when our babies can talk! Or not...
Sometimes, I just don't speak to him at all. I'll let other people talk to him, and rather than joining in the conversation (as I'd otherwise be inclined to do), I just smile and nod. Or I'll say what I'd want to say to him, but directed to the other people around him (i.e. instead of saying to him in Yiddish "smile!", I'll say to the other person nearby "maybe he'll smile!") And now and then I'll actually say something to him in English. But when we're alone, or when we're in public but the other people in the room aren't part of our conversation, then I talk and sing and read a lot to him in our ml...
Thanks for all of these helpful and interesting replies! I've gone through and made a list of all the concerns that people wrote about, and another list of all the advice people have given. What's really interesting to me is how this common problem (an emotional struggle with speaking the ml in a ML environment) manifests itself in so many different ways:
- Don’t like being the center of attention / being stared at - Don’t like being perceived as a tourist - Don’t like being perceived as an immigrant - Particular languages might be viewed negatively in a certain country (i.e. Spanish in the US and English in Mexico) - Don’t want to be harrassed in public by intolerant strangers, and don't want our kids subjected to this, either - Don’t want friends/family to think we're creating barriers
- Keep the end goal in mind: bilingual kids are more important than the parents’ temporal discomfort - Enjoy the privacy: you have a secret language nobody around you understands! - Go out in public with other ml speakers - “Overuse” the ml in public to push past personal discomfort (by talking, or by reading books that you always carry around) - If anyone complains, talk with them politely in the ML (even just asking what time it is, etc.) - If anyone complains, explain why you are doing it, so they can empathize with you - If anyone complains, be polite: their antagonism may stem from a fear of foreigners, so if you are polite with them, then you can alleviate their fear - Remember that if you are ashamed, your kids may sense that and also become ashamed of it; but if you show pride in it, then they will also sense that and begin to feel that the ml is something to be proud of - If kids are ashamed by it, see if you can go to their class at school and teach positively about your language/culture, so that your kid no longer will feel like the weird, misunderstood person. - Remember that there will always be naysayers, so don’t worry about them; you can’t change their minds anyway. - It’s not fair to expect kids to go through the difficult effort of only speaking their second language with us if we don’t hold ourselves just as accountable. - It will get easier when the kids start talking. Keep it up! - Have faith that it will get easier over time, the more you get used to it. - Embrace the feeling of being a tourist/immigrant in your own city — it gives you an interesting perspective that you might not otherwise have.
Sam, I loved the sum-up. I think it will be useful for many parents.
It is of course a wild guess as I do not know your situation in detail, but maybe you just simply need to change the approach. If you cannot overcome your embarrassment of talking Yiddish openly in front of others, maybe you could just simply stop doing it and change to Yiddish at home, English outside the home. My personal opinion is that is a pity that you miss moments of communication with your child outside the home when others are around, as you do not feel at ease speaking Yiddish with him. Passing on a language is important but communication is the most important thing in a father/mother-child relationship. If you decide to go for the ml-home/ML-outside the home, you'll need to somehow increase the hours that he is exposed to ml. Maybe a playgroup in Yiddish?
I do sometimes feel a bit embarrassed talking the ml in public, but I find that as my daughter is growing up and starting talking, I am not as embarrassed.
If I am with someone who only speaks ML, I will speak ML to my daughter if I need/want the other person to understand. If I only need my daughter to hear what I am saying I will talk to her in ml. I don't want to be rude to other people by excluding them, but people who know me and what I want to achieve don't mind and understand.
I haven't had any bad reaction so far. I had the opposite actually.
One day, My daughter and I went for some breakfast in a local coffee shop. I was speaking ml and a lady at the table next to us smiled at me. When my daughter dropped her cup, the lady picked it up and starting talking ml to us.
It turned out she was an English lady who had travelled a lot and had lived in France so we chatted for a while. It was a nice experience.
That does also mean, be careful what you say in the ml, you never know, somebody might understand! ha ha
My family pretty much always speaks ml (English) at home, and when the kids were smaller, I had no issues speaking ml with them in public. However, once they got into elementary school, they started asking me to speak ML (Japanese) with them in public. I thought this was because they were just embarrassed. When I saw this topic come up again at Bilingual Monkeys, I asked them about it, and they gave me their own take on it. For my kids it is not really an issue of embarrassment. They told me it is because they don't want people to think that they are not Japanese. Kind of an identity issue, I think. They are always getting asked where they are from, and all the other questions foreigners in Japan get. Because my kids see themselves as Japanese, this is a real pain, and they need a feeling of acceptance as Japanese. They said they don't mind me speaking to them in English in front of their friends because their friends know they are Japanese, and accept them. This was an eye opener for me. Thanks guys.
For my kids it is not really an issue of embarrassment. They told me it is because they don't want people to think that they are not Japanese. Kind of an identity issue, I think. They are always getting asked where they are from, and all the other questions foreigners in Japan get. Because my kids see themselves as Japanese, this is a real pain, and they need a feeling of acceptance as Japanese. They said they don't mind me speaking to them in English in front of their friends because their friends know they are Japanese, and accept them. This was an eye opener for me.
Peter, thank you (and your kids) for contributing this perspective to the discussion. It's an important insight, and another valuable point to keep in mind. (And, of course, helpful to me personally!)
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Wow! What a reply! This solves all my doubts! Thanks a lot for the tips.
I am Ukrainian and live in Brazil. As almost all people have grandparents who are immigrants, I never hear negative comments. People are actually very interested in foreigners and happy to chat.
But I have this embarassing thing: my family is bilingual - at home we speak Russian and at school or university Ukrainian. I have many friends in Brazil from post USSR countries who are bilingual too and we speak Russian to each other. I thought that I would teach my children Russian as ml and Portuguese as ML. And it would be great exposure to ml as we meet and chat a lot in it.
But I always felt a little guilty to omit Ukrainian because of its rich culture and history and as it is so natural for me even though I don't use it a lot. I even have a blog about Ukraine in Portuguese and I love to share interesting cultural and historical stuff.
After what is happening in Ukraine now, most people stop using Russian and it is almost embarrassing not to know Ukrainian. I think in 15 or 20 years from now just old people who were born in USSR time will still understand Russian in my home country. And that is the time when my baby boy will be adult and may travel there himself or decide to move back. So I just can't teach him Russian as ml now. The last 3 months I speak just Ukrainian to him, I asked my mom to speak to him and around him in Ukrainian, ordered quite a lot of books in Ukrainian. But I still didn't face my Russian speaking friends and talk in front of them in Ukrainian. I am like Sam, don't care that much and I know why I am doing this, but still have this little fear.
Thanks to Reina, I feel way more confident and calm now.
Post by Gabriela Guarnerio on Oct 11, 2015 12:55:30 GMT 9
Yesterday I took my baby to the doctor for his 16 months check up. I speak English to him but Spanish is the ML. I was speaking Spanish with the doctor and at one point he asked me to raise my child to hear his lungs (my baby was lying down) so I did what we do every morning: took him with both hands and say (in English) "one, two, three, up!". It came out naturally! My son smiled at me and raised up. The doctor didn't comment more than how healthy my son is. I realized this while I was walking back home:
It is natural for me now to speak English with my son and Spanish with the rest of the world. It will be unnatural otherwise.
And I also did this little "exercise": I keep my hears open. We shop at a Chinese supermarket, so when we go there I tell my son "listen, they speak Chinese, that's another language, and they are bilingual just like us". Where I buy fabric, they are Jewish, and they speak Hebrew, so I explain the same. And now there's a lot of people from Africa that sell jewellery on the streets, and among themselves speak their own language (and have the best prices in town!).
I like to show my son that there are many cultures and there's place for all of us.
I came across this thread while surfing on this wonderful website and thought I'd share my concerns. This subject is very important to me since speaking to my daughter in the ML in front of other people is a constant internal struggle and it is already troubling me due to the outcome this struggle could have in the long term.
I'm a Spanish mother of a girl of 2 and my husband is Irish. We live in Spain and we decided to take the ML@H approach since my husband and myself always spoke in English between ourselves and because we think that having my husband as the only source of the ML would be very little exposure for our daughter. We always speak in English to her when we are together and my husband speaks to her in English outside the house as well. But for me, speaking only in English to her in front of Spanish people is very difficult.
The main problem is that most of the times I am very conscious and feel really "embarrassed" about what the people could be thinking when I'm talking to her in English. I am not an English native speaker and I'm constantly worrying that people might think "what is this one doing speaking in English to her daughter with her Spanish accent". So, when we are in the playgrounds, shops, etc I try to speak to her only in English but in the end I always end up switching into Spanish. These feelings and fears are really holding me back when having to speak to my daughter in the ml in front of other people and in the end I feel frustrated and scared that she might just end up speaking Spanish to us in every situation.
The second problem is that we live in Spain and therefore, absolutely everything around us is in Spanish. So we have to speak the majority language almost all the time outside the house when interacting with other people. Same applies to my husband when we are meeting friends, family, etc. Our daughter hears our interactions in Spanish and obviously she realizes that not only we understand Spanish, but that we speak it. Trying not to do it in front of her is very difficult in some situations. For example, every day I go to pick her up at the crèche and the first thing she sees is me talking in Spanish to her teacher about how the day went, what they did during the day, what she ate, etc. She is always present and aware of these exchanges. Then we go to the playground for a while and there we always meet a few parents with their kids and she listens to me talking to them or their kids in Spanish. In some situations it is very difficult to talk to her in the ml when you are addressing kids telling them that they should share a toy, or be more careful, etc. Add to this my "embarrassment" of speaking English in front of the other families and the result is that way more of the majority language is probably used than desirable.
Other important situations are when we are visiting my parents or brother. There, the conversations (including my husband) occur in Spanish. The grandparents are talking to my daughter in Spanish and there you are caught in the middle of it, and in the end, you turn into Spanish as well.
I am becoming almost obsessed about these two issues, my big fear being that she, knowing well that we understand Spanish and speaking it in front of her a lot will become very lazy and speak only in Spanish to us. I know she's still very young, she's only 2, but we have been told already at the crèche that her language abilities in Spanish are very advanced for her age, that she speaks more than most of the kids her age. We have already noticed that with us for some expressions she uses the majority language instead of the ml. For example to say “I want” or “I don’t want”. She would say “quiero apple” (I want an apple), “no quiero juice” (I don't want a juice). And no matter how much we repeat “so you want an apple”, she will just nod and say “apple”.
Any ideas of how to overcome this situation? Thanks a lot for your post and contributions, I find them very helpful.
I am also a Spanish mom who has decided to raise her kid in English. My baby is just two months old and so far I have just spoken in English to her. But I have realised that I speak to her less and in a quieter voice when we are with people. I think I do it because I think some may think I want to show off or that I am a sort of eccentric. But what I try to remember is that there will always be people who will criticize me for raising my kid in English or for any other reason. But what I don't want to do is sacrifice my bilingual project for people who I don't even know.
What I also do is check this site from day to day to feel more reassured in my promise.
Thanks a million for your words of reassurance...after reading your post and re-reading some of the replies here I feel stronger about the journey we are taking with our kid and I'm going to do my best to overcome my fears. Now I think it's just a question of refocusing what the real important thing is...and that is that my kid becomes bilingual and not what people might think about what we are doing or the way we are doing it.
Reina...your reply was very inspiring...thanks for your comments.
Joana...welcome to the world of English bilingual kids in Spain...hope we stay in contact through the chat to share experiences and ideas.
Diana, I understand your fears and frustrations, which are shared by many families.
First, I think it's vital to take a longer view of this journey and recognize that, though it's impossible, given such circumstances, to use English as "purely" as you would like, as long as you and your husband continue doing your honest best each day, you will surely succeed at your larger bilingual aim to a satisfying degree over the years ahead. In other words, our focus on each day is very important, but if that focus isn't balanced with a longer-term perspective of the greater arc of the child's bilingual development, then our enjoyment of this experience can become undercut with anxiety.
I realize this isn't easy to do when the child is still small, and you haven't yet seen enough evidence of success, but I would encourage you to stay confident in an approach which emphasizes English as much as possible while "de-emphasizing" Spanish to the extent that's practical and comfortable for your situation. You needn't be perfect to succeed, and I suggest that your daily, playful persistence (along with regular trips to Ireland and other forms of exposure beyond you and your husband) will successfully fuel strong progress over time.
So do your best, Diana, but don't be too hard on yourself! Enjoy the long journey, day by day!
"Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids", now available at Amazon (http://amzn.to/22XKuCt) and all global Amazon sites
Post by Gabriela Guarnerio on Mar 29, 2016 9:37:01 GMT 9
Hello Diana! Glad you found this forum!
I know how you feel, believe me, I'm Argentinean and raising my son bilingual in Buenos Aires. I know people don't approach us in the playground because we speak a different language, but they may feel awkward, too. A few weeks ago we were climbing in the park so I was saying "up, up, up" and this little girl approached us and asked why I was saying "pa, pa, pa" to my son, ha ha. So I just explained to her, in Spanish, that we speak a different language at home...and she looked at us like she didn't care much and we all kept on playing.
I know people look at us when I speak English, but I also know that every bit of language exposure matters. So I guess you just grow a tough skin and start caring less about what the world thinks and more what your heart tells you (at least for me, that's the way it happened). I had all odds against me, yet my son only speaks English. (Next year he starts kindergarten so I know this won't last long.) He loves to hear phonics songs, and we set the TV in English so only the commercials are in Spanish. I speak Spanish to my husband, and English to my son, it's that simple! This is so natural for us now, that I feel weird when I have to say anything in Spanish to my son, it really does!
I read Bilingual Monkeys blog for inspiration daily. It works wonders! Knowing I'm not alone in this trip gives me that extra push.
And, perhaps this will make you feel a little better, I felt weird speaking Spanish with my strong Argentinean accent both in Spain and Mexico!!
Post by Gabriela Guarnerio on Mar 29, 2016 9:53:05 GMT 9
Hi Joanna. During my son's first year (he's 22 months old) I was very quiet as well...trying to figure out how to be a mom, and doing it in a foreign language. My solution was narrating everything I do (just now I said "Mami is writing a message, please give me 5 minutes"), singing a lot, and reading aloud. It's hard at first but later it becomes second nature. I know it may be weird to see, but even when we go shopping together with my son, I read aloud the shopping list, name everything that is in the aisle we are passing by, name the colors at the stoplight on every corner, name the color of the cars we see, etc etc... I try to name every action we do, the clothes I put on him, I tell him the time...
Mayken: My girl and I are going to see her ml grandma in our ml country for the Easter weekend. (And buy more books!)
Apr 13, 2017 4:35:53 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, I hope you two have a fun, book-happy weekend!
Apr 13, 2017 5:23:08 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Paris to Cologne we sat next to another ml mother and daughter from our school! Only noticed when almost in Cologne. It's a small ML-ml world!
Apr 13, 2017 21:40:37 GMT 9
Amy: Got fleeting impression during Skype call with daughter on holiday at grandparents' in ml1 country, that her ml1 pronunciation has improved! She even seemed more confident speaking in ml2!
Apr 14, 2017 23:12:48 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken and Amy, you and your kids are both doing so well! Keep up your wonderful efforts!
Apr 15, 2017 21:26:50 GMT 9
Mayken: During the traditional German Easter fire, my daughter met her friend from her school day in the ml school! So many birds with one stone! (Sorry for the birds ;))
Apr 16, 2017 18:51:11 GMT 9