I haven't participated at The Bilingual Zoo in a while and it's great to see so many parents helping each other out with their language challenges.
So here's the most recent challenge I've faced with my kids. My daughter (4) and my son (3) both communicate with me in their ML (English), comprehend most of what I say in ml (Japanese) but do not speak back to me in ml. Often enough, whenever it's my turn to read a story to them or select media for them to watch or listen to, my kids will demand it be in the ML and then make a big fuss when I select something in ml. At times the mother will have to intervene and insist that whatever we're doing be in Japanese, or, much to my chagrin, insist that it be in English because of the headache it causes. Another instance is when my son will either demand that I speak to him in Japanese. Or, if I'm reading a story in Japanese, he will quickly lose interest or not be interested at all. This would never happen when I'm reading an English book.
Of course, this doesn't happen every single time, but it happens often enough that I feel that it impinges on the overall exposure to ml.
Now, I understand that their preferences of books and media are in the ML because that's the language they understand best, but I find it discouraging being the parent who's trying to encourage the ml but facing outright resistance.
Is anyone out there going through this? Any suggestions to address it?
Children always complain about everything (e.g: going to their tennis class yet once there they have a good time). The same applies to languages. Maybe you could have a look at this thread about Complaints from children.
Personally, this time last year my eldest daughter was in the same situation as your kids. She was bilingually passive: understood everything but hardly spoke in any of her two ml. We went to the extreme situation of banning the ML at home overnight (see my Track Your Progress thread if it can be of interest to you). However, I think it worked rather well given our family language set-up; i.e: two ml and my husband and I both understand one another's language - which leaves no room for the ML. Might also work for bilingual ML-ml families with the ML parent speaking the ml and accepting a ml@h strategy.
Now, almost a year later, my eldest daughter is bilingually active. But she does occasionally try to put up resistance, bringing back some ML home. I confess (and she knows it very well, that cheeky little thing!) that it peeves me off. However we don't give in. When disheartened I try to remember that kids are ungrateful and always moan about things (as described above).
To start with, maybe try to secure your spouse's unwavering support so that she does not give in just to avoid a headache. In education, we are stronger if united, otherwise kids notice it and try "to divide and conquer". If Daddy says no to sweets but Mummy says yes, kids will know where to go to get it their way.
Also, if it is not already the case, try to always do everything in ml; i.e. never read a story in ML (translate it), always watch the DVD in ml, always speak in ml. Always stick to your language for whatever you do with your kids. Overtime, your kids might get the hint that with Daddy it is ml full-stop. Eventually, maybe they'll slowly stop bickering over the language because they'll know it is something that cannot be discussed.
Hope this can help.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Basically, I would encourage you to emphasize Japanese and "de-emphasize" English during these first few formative years, at least to the degree that's possible and practical for your situation. Given the circumstances I'm aware of, I know this is very challenging for you, but the more you can playfully persist in providing daily input in Japanese, the more progress will be made over the months and years ahead. And even if their early ability is more passive, that ability is still a significant achievement and can then be activated more easily at a later stage.
In line with the post about resources, I would also suggest that you be as proactive as you can about bringing in appealing Japanese materials on a regular basis and trying to get your children "hooked" on popular characters and stories, like Pokemon, Doraemon, etc. This was my own strategy from early on--doing what I could to "condition" my kids to prefer resources in the minority language, while mindfully limiting such materials in the majority language--and this approach was not only productive at the time, it established a long-lasting interest in books, music, movies, and other resources in the minority language. I realize, of course, that the complexity of written Japanese is a disadvantage in this respect, but the basic principle still holds true: the more Japanese resources you have, and the more those resources appeal to your children, the more engagement and progress you'll surely generate through the whole length of childhood.
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.
You are already in good hands with Amy and Adam here.
All I can add is, you can try different kinds of interactions in the ml until you find that thing that sparks his/her interest in ml. Just keep trying and please post in here. I would like to learn your process as I am also going through the same ups and downs with my kids.
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Amy: Agnese, it is simply because they never had the opportunity to be acquainted so closely to that language. Just smile and keep going. Over time (even if this may seem long), the comments will fade. Don't show your son you are embarrassed by your ml.
Jul 16, 2018 3:56:41 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Agnese, I strongly second Amy's advice! Stay strong and continue speaking Italian!
Jul 18, 2018 6:22:37 GMT 9
Adam Beck: And Agnese, keep in mind that, above all, the highest priority is your bilingual aim, not the other passing concerns that are part of this experience (for us all). Don't let these distract you from the greater goal.
Jul 18, 2018 6:24:49 GMT 9
Agnese: Thank you! After this setback I feel stronger than ever! The same day of the incident I ordered plenty of books in the ml on Amazon and I'm reading every day new research on bilingualism and bilingual education. I'm ready to defend my goal! Thanks
Jul 19, 2018 18:37:58 GMT 9
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