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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Amy: Right you are Mayken!
Mar 28, 2018 1:43:20 GMT 9
Marisa: Way to go, Mayken! That's the (bilingual) spirit
Mar 29, 2018 0:55:54 GMT 9
Kristin T.: Will check out your podcast interview on my next run!
Mar 30, 2018 23:24:37 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter brought home her ml report card (she gets a separate one from the regular report card at her bilingual school), and it's straight A's! (Better than her marks in ML on the main report card.) I'm so proud!!!
Mar 31, 2018 6:10:44 GMT 9
Amy: Gratuliere (Congratulations) Mayken!!
Mar 31, 2018 16:54:17 GMT 9
Mayken: Thank you, Amy! As a reward, we allowed her to purchase a big item from her Christmas money--a Playmobil house, with which she now plays in ml!
Apr 4, 2018 3:37:31 GMT 9
Amy: Reward all the way round . Bilingual education can be a virtuous circle
Apr 4, 2018 5:26:18 GMT 9
Nellie: What great news, Mayken!
Apr 5, 2018 4:36:26 GMT 9
Raquel: I totally missed this. Congratulations, Mayken!! You have reason to be proud
Apr 10, 2018 20:08:02 GMT 9
Mayken: Thanks everyone! Today my daughter helped a classmate finish her ml homework just before school - all in ml. (My daughter had finished hers the day before at home.)
Apr 11, 2018 3:58:56 GMT 9
Raquel: I'm so sorry to hear about your mother's passing, Adam. She sounds like an amazing woman. Sending you a big hug from Madrid.
Apr 12, 2018 18:16:38 GMT 9
Marie: I am sorry to hear about your mother Adam. Thinking of you and your family.
Apr 13, 2018 4:25:21 GMT 9
Jana: What a beautiful tribute you wrote to your mother. Sending condolences from the SF Bay Area!
Apr 14, 2018 5:34:03 GMT 9
Kristin T.: I enjoyed reading your post about your mother. Those were some amazing photos to cherish forever. I am sorry for your loss. I know it's ever the more painful having been an expat so long. Take care & be kind to yourself.
Apr 16, 2018 2:24:35 GMT 9
Nellie: I'm so sorry to read about your mother Adam. She sounds like an incredible woman. Your friends across the world are thinking of you and your family!
Apr 17, 2018 0:50:25 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Thank you, everyone, for your warm expressions of sympathy on the loss of my mother. Your friendship and support has meant a lot to me at this challenging time.
Apr 17, 2018 7:44:14 GMT 9