Hello! I'm the father of twin girls who will be 4 in October. I'm a native speaker of English and have learned to speak Russian and German pretty well. With the aim of making our children bilingual, my Russian-speaking wife and I adopted the one-parent-one-language approach at birth. We're living in Kazakhstan where the main languages are Russian and Kazakh.
Up until the children's third birthday my wife and I shared the childcare pretty much 50/50 and the girls were fairly balanced in their bilingual development, mixing Russian and English with a slight preference for English.
Around their third birthday, the children started attending Russian preschool, and at the same time I started working full time, so my childcare time decreased. Now my children massively prefer Russian over English and their Russian is much more developed. When my parents came to visit in the summer, my children spoke 90% Russian to them which was really awkward and quite upsetting. I'm now thinking about how to bolster their English and look forward to discussing ideas with people on this site.
James, welcome! Our lives are naturally different in key ways, but some of the circumstances--English as the minority language; we're the main source of exposure to the minority language, yet not the main caregiver; kids entering a majority language school at preschool age--are quite similar and I can empathize with your challenges.
It's certainly true that the start of schooling begins a new stage, with new challenges, and this has preoccupied my own journey for the past eight years, since my 11-year-old daughter entered preschool at the age of 3. In fact, I've written about this pretty extensively at my blog and the links to those posts can be found at this site's Schooling in the majority language thread.
Clearly, the shift in your circumstances--the combination of your busier work schedule and your children's more intensive exposure to Russian in preschool--is now driving the different rates of development in their two languages. At this point, I don't know your situation well enough to suggest specific options, but I would encourage you to dig into this forum, and my blog, for ideas and resources that could be helpful in supporting their English side more strongly, then stay as proactive as possible, day after day, as you carry out these efforts. Reading aloud, as always, should be the bedrock of these daily efforts, but to counter the heavy exposure they're now receiving to Russian, you'll need to be proactive in a range of ways.
One good place to focus your thinking might be the Take a Challenge board. These "challenges" consist of a variety of actions that are at the heart of effective efforts to raise bilingual children.
James, you can do it! And we're here to help!
Adam Beck is the founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, and the author of the popular non-fiction book Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability amzn.to/22XKuCt and the humorous novel How I Lost My Ear amzn.to/2EsjVRS, both available worldwide.
Mayken and Adam, thank you for the warm welcome! I've been dipping into the forum here and Adam's blog and they really are great resources. It's really encouraging to know there are others in similar situations, and to get practical ideas which have worked for people.
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Agnese: Thank you for the suggestion!
Jul 21, 2018 15:40:43 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter met some inversed ML/ml kids today who live in our ml country. Their parents probably weren't thrilled they found n ML (for them) friend in their ml country. I'm sorry...a little bit.
Aug 7, 2018 2:07:34 GMT 9
Amy: Looks like the 3 weeks in ml1 country paid off: my ML mother reports my youngest would only speak ml1 to her! Lol Not sure ML childminder will be so happy when she returns... loool!
Aug 25, 2018 0:38:50 GMT 9
Mayken: Sounds like fun times ahead, Amy! Keep us posted.
Aug 27, 2018 23:15:08 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Something Strange Happened 2 Days After We Moved into Our New House (And Its Significance to Change and Transformation on the Bilingual Journey)buff.ly/2ww8WDD
Aug 31, 2018 10:30:39 GMT 9
Amy: Happiest bilingual mum in the world : the new lady who conducts activities in ml2 with my eldest just assessed her level as pretty much equivalent to that of a native ml2 child! After that awful back-to-school start, this is like music to my ears.
Sept 6, 2018 0:00:13 GMT 9
Wojtek: I've been thinking for a long time to write an update and hopefully, I will do it one day. My brother married a Russian woman. That was nice to see that my 5-year-old daughter could play with her and speak English together!
Sept 7, 2018 21:37:25 GMT 9
Wojtek: After some time, she ran up and told me: "She is speaking English!"
Sept 7, 2018 21:38:31 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Nice to hear your happy news, Wojtek! And congratulations to your brother and his bride! It sounds like they may have a bilingual child in their future, too! Cheers to you all!
Sept 7, 2018 21:58:17 GMT 9
Mayken: Victor's flashcards look amazing! I hope I'll win the giveaway - if not, I'll purchase a set for Christmas for sure. Thanks Adam for sharing these gems with us!
Sept 26, 2018 23:32:30 GMT 9
Marisa: Adam, I second Mayken's enthusiasm and gratitude for your posting about Victor's flashcards, they look amazing, thank you so much for the post! I already bought one set
Sept 30, 2018 10:25:51 GMT 9