It's great to find this forum and get some support with raising bilingual children. We live in England, my husband is English and I speak Finnish. My son is just over 2 years of age and he will be a big brother at the end of April. So our bilingual journey is only just starting slowly.
I have been wondering about how early to start insisting on the child responding in the same language as spoken to. My son turned 2 in October but is quite slow in picking up both languages. He is however just starting to speed up and shows interest in repeating words that others say. He has a lot of sounds and signs of his own invention that we as a family understand and up until now our main focus has been to respond to any of his attempts to communicate - however he chooses to communicate.
I am the main caregiver and speak the minority language, his father speaks the majority language when he’s around in the evenings and weekends and our common language is the majority language. So, until now I have been repeating whatever he says to me in his “own” language or majority language by using our minority language. Mostly he has only one word or sound or sign for any one object (and that is fairly equally so far divided between the majority, minority and his “own” language) and he is not using sentences in either language. Up until now for example he would say “car” when playing with his toy cars, and I would repeat back to him “auto” in our minority language. Or he would use a high pitched “ooohh” if something is big, and I would give him the word “iso” in our minority language for big. Up until now if I have asked him to say “auto” he would say: “car” and if I asked him to say “iso” he would say: “ooohh” and his answer would stay the same if his father asked him to say “big”. However I have now noticed he has about five objects that he can name correctly in both languages unprompted - a few times when playing with his cars and babbling his nonsensical baby talk he has spontaneously said “auto” as well as “car” - so, is it too early for me to “not understand” the majority language word such as “car” for those objects that I know he can say in both languages and coax him to always use the minority word “auto” instead of “car” when with me?
And how about his first attempts to name anything new?...colours are his big thing and he has been able to correctly point to the right colour when asked in either language for ages now - so he definitely knows his colours. But recently he seems to have deliberately chosen to learn to speak those colours in the majority language - this is his first group of words that he consistently seems to prefer to practice saying in a one chosen language whereas before for example animals or food items have been a mixture of majority, minority and his own sounds. However his pronounciation is way off the actual pronounciation of the colours in the majority language - (blue is “boo”, green is “gee”, yellow is “eeoo” etc). I’m wondering in those instances if I should model the correct pronounciation of the colour in the language he’s trying to say it, or should I just repeat it back in the minority language to communicate by using the minority language that I understand the meaning of what he is trying to say and confirm that he got the colour correct (even if he didn’t really pronounce it right).
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these dilemmas I have.
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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