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 book "Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability", praised worldwide by parents and experts in the field. Available at Amazon amzn.to/22XKuCt, the global Amazon sites, and other booksellers.
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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Raquel: I love it, Mayken! What a sweet lady. I would have listened in and not asked, hehe. Did you use it to show your daughter how useful the ml can be?
Dec 21, 2017 20:35:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, my daughter loved it - both the coincidence, and that this lady was learning our language!
Dec 24, 2017 22:25:47 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Happy New Year to you all! Let's make 2018 a really good year!
Dec 31, 2017 7:04:50 GMT 9
Joanna: Packing to go home from Canada...luggage scale reading 23 kg of minority language books!
Dec 31, 2017 23:48:06 GMT 9
Amy: Happy new year to all! . May 2018 bring you every success in your bilingual endeavours!
Jan 1, 2018 23:08:58 GMT 9
Mayken: Happy new year to everyone! I shared a little New Year's Eve story in the Snack Bar.
Jan 5, 2018 5:08:21 GMT 9
Mayken: 7yo wrote her Christmas letter in the ml and sent it to Santa's address in our ml country. This week she received his reply - and was somewhat offended that he replied in the ML
Jan 5, 2018 21:47:21 GMT 9
Adam Beck: That's very cute, Mayken!
Jan 6, 2018 7:57:09 GMT 9
Amy: Oh no Mayken!! I'd also feel very gutted in her shoes! Hope he made up for it by spoiling her on Xmas!
Jan 7, 2018 1:12:53 GMT 9
Mayken: He totally did, Amy! Especially her most important wish - the second illustrated Harry Potter (in ml, of course).
Jan 9, 2018 0:06:05 GMT 9
Raquel: Happy 2018!! How come Santa replied in the wrong language? That's weird.
Jan 9, 2018 19:26:41 GMT 9
Mayken: Raquel, he gets letters from all over the world at that German address, and I guess the reply is in the language that matches the country fo the child's return address. Next time she'll use my mom's address (if she still wants to write to Santa then).
Jan 10, 2018 0:38:19 GMT 9
Raquel: Mayken, I just was surprised that, reading a letter in a certain language, they would reply in a different one. But if it's an standarized letter, then it makes total sense.
Jan 10, 2018 21:42:23 GMT 9
Mayken: It is. Our local ML Santa, to whom my daughter wrote the year before (in ml) replied in ML too but started the letter with her name. But then he's serving a town of 37,000 people only.
Jan 10, 2018 23:18:32 GMT 9
Raquel: Makes sense, Mayken. Thanks for explaining.
Jan 11, 2018 22:31:51 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter called me out twice this week for using the wrong language with her. The second time it was only one work (number of a métro line).
Jan 12, 2018 0:16:39 GMT 9