I bet that all of us here have lots of stories that happened to us on our bilingual journey with our kids.
Some funny, some probably less. I thought that this could be a really nice place to share some of them.
Here is mine:
Yesterday my family and I did the shopping. When my wife had gone to another shop, I was putting our things with Lucy into our car as we talked together in ml. There was a poor man that overheard us speaking.
He came and asked me: "You speak English?" I was surprised and quickly responded: "Yes I do."
Then he continued: "You speak Polish?" I answered: "Troszeczkę" (that means: a little bit). I didn't want to talk to him...
Anyway, he wanted to ask me for some money. I gave him some, saying in English that it is all I have got.
Then when I got into the car with Lucy, he wanted to speak more...but finally he said to me:
"Your daughter?" (He pointed his finger at my girl.) Yep, my daughter. Then he stammered slowly in Polish straight into my face: "Dbaj o nią" (which means: "Look after her"). Well, I responded: "Absolutely, I will..." I almost chuckled in front of him.
When we were leaving, Lucy said to me: "That man sometimes spoke English and sometimes Polish." Yes, I know Lucy...
That's my story too! Me and my wife are Polish native speakers. My daughter Lucy communicates with me only in English. However, we started when she was 18 months old. It was I think the last moment for such a change. She didn't speak Polish at that time, that's why I think she wasn't reluctant to her daddy's crazy idea...
At the very beginning she was looking at me like a dog...which sometimes turns its head with no understanding but I saw in her face that her brain was analyzing every new word coming into her little ears.
It is tough anyway... Who knows where we will be in 3 years.
P.S. The advantage of her now being 3 and a half is, for sure, her ability to speak English with me. At the beginning it was a monologue but now I am more confident in the presence of others to speak English with her. That's cool.
I keep thinking about this too. My girl is 3 and half years old now. She started speaking rather late. She struggles sometimes when speaking, repeating many times words like "because, because, because" before she finds the right word after that one. I am so baffled when she says something sophisticated like recently: "I haven't seen swimming pool so far". It happens once in a while. I have also noticed that she uses phrases that she heard when reading a book with me.
That reminds me my English teacher I had so many many years ago. One of the best I think now. Every lesson she used to give me one or two chapters of the book to learn by heart (maybe not word for word, but more common phrases used, I had to learn). Maybe that is the clue?
I mean to help our kids by teaching them how to describe the world?
P.S. I am also really proud of her when I can hear her speaking more advanced phrases. I always praise her for doing this.
Thank you! I have similar feelings. Lucy and I have a friend from US and she 'delivers' strange vocabulary for us (from time to time). We giggle, we smile sometimes, when we treat them as something unusual but generally, I just tell Lucy that it is just another word for 'this' and Shala our friend uses it because where she was born that word is more commonly used. That's all.
Can I ask you something? (off-topic) When you teach your children English, do you teach British and/or American words? English is not my native language and have recently been thinking if I should rather stick to British vocabulary I am more familiar with or also try to introduce some American vocabulary?
For example, in UK we would say: "boot" (the rear part of the car). In AE: "trunk". Do you teach the former word, the latter or both of them?
I will tell how Lucy and me set off on the reading journey together about 3-4 months ago. Lucy is three and a half years old now. She is a little girl and I don't push her too much with the learning process. I am very patient and slow.
We have started with letter by letter. First was A, later B and C. For each letter she has to say its name and sounds it makes. When she learnt A and B, we could start reading straightaway! AB, BA. When teaching learning, you teach what is the direction of reading and how to blend letters. So with AB, she says sounds: "A", "B", then she swipes her finger from left to right to finally say: "AB".
Initially I have also printed big versions of letters and words (A4 size), but later realized it was...too big for my little girl and I stuck with small version (about 5 X 3 cm size) for letters and words.
Now we know 10 letters (a few consonants and a few vowels, a few sight words) and we have about 40-50 different words, short or long which can be read from that set of 10 letters. That is my approach and it turned out to be working.
The child has to catch the concept of blending letters. So each letter is sounded out, and then connected to make a word.
I have also started leaving short words to read all over the house but because at this level it is rather boring, we just sit once a day for a couple of minutes and read them.
My daughter didn't speak too much until she was 3 years old. People sometimes think if the child is bilingual then parents can expect delay in speech development. However I heard it is not true.
I was also really worried about it.
Just before Christmas I found on youtube a video with a speech therapist demonstrating saying basic English sounds. For 2 weeks every evening my daughter had bath time...! We were filling up the tub with hot water full of lather, she was getting into it, daddy was sitting on the floor with the paper with those sounds, and we were practicing saying: a, o, i, u, etc. That video was so great because it showed how to say the letter and express it on one's face. Along with the sounds I showed her how to open her mouth properly, sometimes there were letters with hands.
I stopped doing this when she finally could articulate all of them. That helped a lot!
My wife and I noticed that when we were together at home all day, because of Christmas and New Year, she rapidly started speaking more. We both have full-time jobs and our daughter used to be with our grandparents at that time.
Last thing that just came to my mind was a story about my oldest brother. He started speaking when he was 4... My parents told me that the doctor at that time said to them that he would be very smart. That turned out to be true!
Well Adam. I had seen your link with the music before I asked Lulu and Roy but when I had just taken a look at Raffi I thought he had been just another man playing guitar and singing to children and at that time he seemed to be rather boring..
Now I am after the video I found on YouTube from one of his many concerts:
"...because from that moment on she started to reply to her mom in English (which she didn't do until they had this conversation)."
I would say... oh my..! Your stepsister had been struggling with her girl for about 5-6 years, so that she could answer to her in English until that conversion changed everything..? Respect!
But, well, it is a good thing... It means that we should never give up, our efforts will pay off one day, it is only the matter of time.
Joana, I am in the same situation. (I am Polish and I speak to my 3 year old girl in English).) She hasn't asked me this question (she is still young) but I am sure she will, one day.
I heard different stories, one was that a girl asked her dad to not speak in English with her in front of her peers (she was embarrassed and wanted to be the same like her friends) and she didn't understand why she had to communicate with him in English.
That answer about a bond between parent and child is true and I feel it too. I do it because I really like English, because I think my girl will develop better, because It will help her in the future. She is such a young girl now she can learn everything.
Melissa: Thank you for your reply. Yes I still act as narrator when I am with her. Describing my thoughts, plans, actions, whatever I do she hears that.
At the moment, Lucy has once a week meetings with our friend from the USA, however yes that would be great to find and arrange meetings with peers in the area who have English native speaker parents (I will have to add it to my wish list, however it can be hard...).
With regards to TV, we only have what is on youtube. On our satellite we have Polish versions of English channels. I wanted to get the signal from the UK but would have to install 2 meters satellite dish…
Adam: I know I have a tendency to panic…when things change in the course of time. English books are number 1 in our journey and literally I couldn’t live without them. It is sometimes the problem with getting appropriate items. Lucy needs books that are full of pictures to follow the plot otherwise she gets bored when listening to. That’s why I started to make a show with props, when I grab the book which lacks them. I will also have to get newspapers for kids.
When I was surfing webpages I came across website which offers: Children Learning Reading Program (Children learning reading).
They have a 12 week program that it says will help parents teach their children read in English. They say that even a 2 year old kid can learn to read. It is too expensive for me but as far as I know it all starts with phonemic awareness when child is taught that each word contains individual letters that all make a word. For example, you say: C – A – R (letter sounds) and the child should combine them to make a word – that is a first exercise.
How did you (Adam or other) teach your kids to read? I have always thought that my girl should know all the letters of the alphabet (name and sounds) beforehand to think about reading books. On that page they say that it is not necessary to memorize shapes of them. How is that in English?
My current wish list contains:
- Find peers - Find new picture books - Find music for kids - Teach Lucy to read - Travel to the UK for holiday. Does anyone have a nice place where we could stay in the UK for a week (three of us) so that Lucy could spend time with friends and play? I thought that maybe it would be possible to send Lucy to UK kindergarten for some activities everyday (for 2, 3 hours)
P.S. Yesterday we had a birthday party for Lucy. After Polish "Sto lat" we all sang "For she's a jolly good fellow" and you know what happened...she was terrified, she was sitting straight to the end of the song, when after all she burst into tears...but only for 5 seconds.
I have not written here for a long time. Lots of things happened in the life of my minority language girl. I am also writing here to sort the things out and to think up a new strategy towards my girl and changing circumstances. (I hope that you would support me a little with ideas and advice. Please!)
My girl will be 3 years old in about 3 weeks. She has rapidly sped up with language development in Polish and English for about 2 months. She can repeat everything, she knows a few chants and poems in both ml and ML.
A few months ago I was worried that her Polish was overwhelmed by English and, well, it was not long before things changed slightly. Now I get the impression that she speaks more in Polish and the reason for this is that people around my girl, like her grandparents are so talkative with her... They are playing songs, teaching chants, and speak with her all the time in Polish. How can I compete with them?! It is not possible. Of course she speaks more in English too, but.
I am trying to be flexible and to change our routines so that they can be useful for both of us. Could you please evaluate my ideas? Are they good/bad? Should be changed or abandoned?
1. Reading every day. It has been our routine for a long time.
2. I have started pushing her to speak more for about 2 months and do this:
When she wants to say something and she uses simple 1 or 2 words requests like "Daddy juice", I say “Can I have a juice please? Say it." If she says "This sticker”, I say “This IS a sticker” (she repeats that). Generally speaking, I am helping her construct right sentences and ask her to repeat them. (I don’t know if that is a good idea). I started saying, to ask / say things using full sentences. (Can I, I want to, This is, etc). In spite of the fact that it seems to work, she also learns it by heart and uses utterances in the wrong way…but rather rarely.
3. Recently I have given her a picture from a book and said to her: Now you are reading to me! Tell me what you see!
Using similar method as in point 2 I help her say longer utterances.
4. We have started learning letters, slowly. It is not easy, but I have some games with letters, like: puzzles, board games, cutting out the letters, punch holing them and entwining a ribbon through the holes, etc. Reading ability would help me in the course of time, but anyway it is a matter of probably 2 years after all.
5. Last thing I thought was to take a story we last read in the book (recently it was about a wily cat and a foolish mouse), prepare props like: cushion, plastic cat and mouse, a big pot full of cookies (fat) and to retell the story together.
6. We are learning songs by heart, She likes singing. A couple of weeks ago she could sing dozen times: "Q R S T U V, W X Y and Z now I know my A B C next time won't you sing with me"!
In about 3 weeks she is going to the kindergarten too. I need something STRONG. What can I do more? What I am doing wrong? What should I change/add?
I have spent probably 1.5 hours reading all the posts in this very interesting thread on our forum.
Everyone here was writing from a bilingual perspective, like: I have a family, we have two or more languages, ml parent wants to use ml everywhere to speak with the child, because this will only guarantee that the child will have enough exposure to ml, will have a willingness to talk in ml, etc. I understand how it is, how embarrassing it can be sometimes (because I feel it too), but...
Damn it! I hear from my friends who also have kids, that at the nursery or at the kindergarten, kids have 2 or sometimes 3 language classes, when nice looking native language speaker lady comes to play with them in English on Monday, French on Wednesday, and Chinese on Friday! And now I am asking myself, why the hell it is okay to teach them 3 languages at the educational institution but it is not, to talk to them in front of other people in the language they learn? Huh?
I will tell you why. Because other people are jealous! The child with more than 1 language has high-status! As Adam is always saying, it is a gift we are all giving and someday your child will thank you!
I have a feeling that people sending their ‘infants’ to language classes don’t treat it seriously. I mean they don’t even think that their child could actually speak in that language. If only they could support their children on a daily basis then things would be different.
Next time, if a stranger comes to you asking stupid questions, you have your middle finger on that occasion! Or you can also say what Dr. House used to say: "You are an idiot"!
I am in the same situation (and I was a little concerned about it, too).
In my family there is English and Polish language. Currently my daughter is 2.5 years old and her ml (English) is definitely stronger than ML. It is easy for her to say simple, short words that are easy to learn than Polish counterparts.
I think the reason is complexity of the language. English words are easy to say and when the kid starts playing with his/her tongue trying to articulate vowels and consonants, it finds English words much easier to say.
As Adam would probably say, kids are pragmatic. That was also probably the reason why in Adam's family, English was easier to learn than Japanese, at least at the first stage.
I couldn't help the feeling that I could slow down a little (taking into the fact English is stronger), however as you all wrote here I SHOULDN'T!, well in the end her Polish will definitely be stronger no matter what I do in the current circumstances.
P.S. The other reason for ml to be stronger than ML is probably how much efforts the ml parent puts into raising his/her kid. If we give our time every day to our kid, day by day then we can see the results... Maybe in certain families ml parent overwhelms ML?
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Mayken: Time to update my profile: my little girl is 7 today. She got a stack of ml books and was totally thrilled.
Jun 30, 2017 4:59:27 GMT 9
Amy: Beautiful video Adam...and so true, as always! :). You enjoy your hiatus, and we look forward to reading you again in August! Otsukaresama deshita (thank you for your hard work)!
Jul 1, 2017 5:03:26 GMT 9
Mayken: My daughter's ML report card has the same percentage of A's as the ml one but surprisingly the non-A's are not in the same categories. Anyway, she's off to grade 2 at the bilingual school! (After well-deserved and ml-rich holidays!)
Jul 1, 2017 5:12:01 GMT 9
Nellie: Congratulations to your daughter Mayken!
Jul 3, 2017 9:57:10 GMT 9
Wojtek: Back from journey from Croatia. It wasn't English speaking country but ... I was with my daughter for the whole 2 weeks 24/7!
Jul 8, 2017 19:04:43 GMT 9
Wojtek: Being all day with daughter makes really difference! She spoke definitely more and I had more chance to correct her, suggest better phrases, etc. That was great!
Jul 8, 2017 19:08:01 GMT 9
Mayken: Wojtek, a lot of one-on-one time is one of the perks of holidays, no matter where.
Jul 9, 2017 19:55:27 GMT 9
Amy: Baby seems to pick up a lot of ml2! Yeaterday she surprised me answering back "whyyyy?" and this morning when asked how she was she replied "very well"!! <3 Beautiful moments of our bilingual journey <3
Jul 10, 2017 19:21:02 GMT 9
Mayken: Two playdates with classmates from my 7-year-olds ml class this weekend, and the kids and parents all spoke ml the entire time! ml interaction with other kids is precious during summer holidays. Very happy
Jul 26, 2017 0:04:20 GMT 9