Good evening! Thank you for sharing your expertise! Although I have just joined this community of experts, I've already garnered so much useful information. My husband, infant daughter, and I all live in the United States. However, I have lived and taught in five different countries on three continents; I love learning from others around the globe.
Currently, I teach languages and world cultures concepts in secondary and post-secondary settings. My interest in this site is twofold. I first and foremost hope to raise our daughter speaking the languages I do fluently (now I alternate between Spanish and English) as well as introduce her to Danish and Chinese (the language my family is learning together!).
My other primary purpose is to advocate for additional modern language usage in U.S. schools at a primary or elementary school level. While this is available to a certain degree, it is not commonplace. I'd love to hear about your experiences with your families as well as any advice you may have for me as I try to impact educational systems and create more opportunities for early language learning in private and public schools in the USA.
Thank you in advance! Looking forward to our synergistic conversations!
We're in the US as well. I do think great things are happening in the language education area here. Bilingual schools are popping up all over the place. We're in California and both my girls attend a Spanish immersion school. We've been told that right now the most difficult problem facing such schools is actually finding qualified teachers, especially at middle and high school levels. They do have conferences about it though. In California it's called CABE. It's all dedicated to bilingual education.
Welcome Alicia! You might be interested in reading about an initiative that is happening in Scotland. It is still in the first few years of being implemented but all primary schools (for ages 5-11yrs) are supposed to teach a second language starting in the first year of school and a third language starting in the fifth year. It is a difficult thing to get off the ground and is only successful in some schools at the moment. It isn't anywhere close to a bilingual education - more familiarisation and introduction to the language.
The vast majority of people in Scotland are monolingual and see learning an additional language as difficult and unneccessary (the whole world should speak English!) I was responsible for introducing French and Spanish into one school over a two year period and it was great seeing the change in attitudes of the children over that period (changing attitudes in adults was much harder!) I loved seeing how it opened the children's eyes to the wider world and made them more flexible and accepting of difference.
Welcome, Alicia!! I love how international everyone is here. I wish I could have lived a few years in different countries. I love travelling, but living is a whole different experience.
Does your husband also speak Spanish and English to your daughter as you do?
In Spain we have different public bilingual programs, depending on the area where you live. Here, in Madrid, they're for Primary and Secondary School (age 6 to age 16), where at least 30% of the time classes are in English. Math and Spanish (we call it "Language and Literature") are always taught in Spanish. Science and English are always taught in English. The rest of the subjects are taught in either one or the other, depending on the school. Schools have language assistants (English native speakers) who assist the teachers teaching subjects in English.
Many Bilingual Primary Schools have at least a second language as an after-school optional class (I've seen French, German and Chinese) and most offer after-school English classes. Bilingual High Schools offer French as an elective subject.
Nursery schools (0-3 years old) usually have English teachers. The public ones usually have children spend between 2 and 5 hours in English a week. It isn't compulsory.
What's called "Infantil" (Age 3 to 6) is mostly in Spanish. Students have English class about twice a week (2h/week). It isn't compulsory education.
This may sound great, but there are some issues with it too:
- English isn't really being taught until children are 6, when they could learn it much easier when they're younger. - Some parents don't speak English, so they can't help their children do some of their homework or study for the subjects taught in English. - Children never learn how to say some terms we all learn at school in their own language: brain cell, stratum (I just looked this one up), etc... - Because these subjects are taught in their second language, they're taught at a lower level.
We're a trilingual family with a Spanish dad, a French mum bred in Spain but educated in an English school, and 2 little trilingual girls; all living in France.
It was natural Daddy spoke his mother tongue to our daughters. However, I had the choice of language, and one of the reasons that pushed me (and backed up by hubby) to speak in English to our kids was the way foreign languages are taught in France. As trilingual parents, we wanted nothing less than trilingual kids, and not kids that spoke "a bit" of English. Here, the teaching in state schools seems very old fashioned (taught very late with boring textbooks). They start to modernise with an hour or so a week of initiation to English in year 1, but for me who was educated in an international school, this is not enough.
***"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars" - Oscar Wilde***
Thank you for the thorough information about Spain! I loved living and teaching there. Your information about the challenges is also very helpful because it is difficult to promote primary instruction because of the obstacles. I enjoyed learning from you!
Thank you for the information about France, Amy! You and your husband are quite the inspiration! So many moms in the USA are reading and talking about a book that came out a couple years ago that features French parenting styles: www.pameladruckerman.com/books/bringing-up-bebe/
I had to read it to learn more about what so many of the mothers were talking about.
Alicia, welcome! It sounds like you've led a very multicultural and multilingual life, both personally and professionally. And I suspect your daughter will enjoy the same kind of internationally-minded future.
I wish you all the best with your good work in the U.S. Growing up (in the small town of Quincy, Illinois), I'm afraid the school system and community didn't give much weight to languages other than English. If the situation had been different, I might have gotten a stronger start, and gained better long-term success, in my own language learning.
While the U.S. has certainly evolved since then, and there now seems to be a far more positive view of world cultures and languages in many parts of the country, there's obviously still a lot of work to be done and your efforts in this field are truly important.
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.
I am a Mongolian living in Denmark. So any need for Danish books or other resources do let me know.
I visited the US for an internship a few years ago and realised there is a big sense of various communities. I even found a Mongolian community in the Bay Area, for example, where they opened a language and culture centre for children and youth. I am pretty sure it exists for other countries as well as Danish and Chinese where they can help you with your bilingual purpose and goals. At least this was my plan if I ever moved to the US with my family.
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Amy: Happy birthday to your 2 bilingual monkeys Mayken and Adam Beck !
Jun 30, 2018 5:15:05 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Mayken, that's true, but in our case, the U.S. didn't make it to the World Cup this time! Japan has gone through, but they'll probably get knocked out very soon...
Jun 30, 2018 7:22:16 GMT 9
Adam Beck: Wojtek, Poland won! I was disappointed, though, to see Japan hold the ball at the end of the game because they only wanted to go through to the next round. I understand why they did that but I wish they had played harder...
Jun 30, 2018 7:24:42 GMT 9
Wojtek: Well, it suited both teams to slow down the ball. However, it was really unexpected and peculiar
Jul 1, 2018 1:16:27 GMT 9
Mayken: On the train from Cologne to my hometown, I saw a boy about 9/10 and his older sister. She was fluent in German but spoke French with a slight accent, he spoke only French. They were visiting their grandparents. I was intrigued but didn't ask.
Jul 1, 2018 22:06:55 GMT 9
Wojtek: Does anyone know an online English speech language therapist? I thought that it could be a good idea to get my girl evaluated in her ml...
Jul 6, 2018 4:02:38 GMT 9
Mayken: Yay! My 8-year-old daughter passed her ml swim test today! After swimming & diving, the pool attendant asked her to recite the swimming/safety rules (our recent captive reading), and she knew them all!
Jul 6, 2018 21:28:23 GMT 9
Adam Beck: NEW! Bilingual Lives: Ana Cristina Gluck, Author and Publisher of Multilingual Books for Children (with a Book Giveaway!) buff.ly/2ziSQ4J
Jul 7, 2018 11:28:32 GMT 9
Agnese: First words. What to expect? My son is 10 months old. He's still babbling, but I've noticed some different sounds depending on the situation. I wonder if he'll start saying his first words in the next weeks (or months, who knows?). What should I expect?
Jul 11, 2018 0:30:24 GMT 9
Amy: Don't expect anything Agnese. Just let it happen, and then what he says will hit you like a train. It's an amazing moment. Just live it and don't overthink it. Whatever he says, in whatever language it is, it is a magical moment.
Jul 11, 2018 5:11:14 GMT 9
Agnese: I've recently found a further (annoying) challenge: when I speak ml (Italian) to my child (10m) in front of ML acquaintances, they are making jokes about what I said (mostly accent, similar unrelated words...). What do you think is the best way to act?
Jul 15, 2018 13:04:11 GMT 9
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