My baby is nine months old today. I realised that my bilingual journey is much more like an odyssey...
At first, I'd feel so sad and disappointed noticing that I couldn't keep up with my expectations (full exposure to English with the OPOL method, not easy, not being a native). Even if I'd always continue speaking to her in English, I wasn't that happy, or as happy as I thought I would, because it felt so unnatural.
Then, I decided to forget the expectations and I was, and I am, intent on speaking to her as much as I can but if sometimes my mother tongue pops up, I just let it go...
Is it bad? Am I wrong? Am I creating confusion speaking two languages?
I know the theory, I know it is not about confusion, babies don't get confused with languages, I know they will adapt, eventually... But I am alone in my household in this endeavour and I'm getting cold feet...
Posts: 132 Country (residing now): US Country (originally from): Spain Children, Ages: Girl, born in March 2016 Majority Language: English Minority Language(s): Spanish, German, and hopefully French some day!
I can definitely tell you that no matter what 'the theory' says/dictates (and in my case, I'm fully aware of it, since I'm a linguist with a specialization in second language acquisition/bilingualism), the 'mom brain' might think something completely different. It has definitely been my case, for example, trying to decide whether I should speak to her in the ML sometimes.
I'm a native speaker of Spanish living in the US, and that's the language I speak with my daughter. I also know some German, so I'm trying to teach her that language too. However, I'm not a fluent German speaker (in my better days, I might be approaching a decent intermediate level, but that's about it), therefore German doesn't come to me naturally, and of course it's a matter of concern to me. Is she getting enough German input, and even if that's the case, what's the quality of that input, since I'm not a native speaker? I think it's only natural that no matter how much you try to speak in English, your native tongue comes naturally (it happens to me as well when I try to talk to my daughter in German). However, like everything in life, it's a matter of persistence and keep trying. Based on my experience with my daughter, no, she isn't confused. She knows mom speaks Spanish and also German, and she's OK with that. She has never asked me why I change languages, or why I don't use English like the other moms/dads do. Hearing mls around her is her reality, and she's OK with it.
My case is slightly different from yours, since the two languages that she's learning are mls in our household. I do wonder whether I should just stick to one ml, since that's the easiest option for me...but then I think that I'd be denying my daughter the opportunity to learn another language, and she might not learn it 'perfectly' or with the same degree of proficiency with which she's learning Spanish... But like I always say, any proficiency in a ml is better than none. I keep repeating that sentence to myself over and over again to continue with our multilingual journey. It also helps me challenge myself to learn more German and thus being better able to provide meaningful German input to her.
Our bilingual/multilingual journeys aren't perfect. There are better days, there are worse days. Sometimes you just want to quit, sometimes you're really proud of your accomplishments and hard work. The key is to be there and...again, be persistent. The kids will be OK. So will you. What now seems 'unnatural' might sound more 'natural' later, or at least you and your kid will be more used to it. Just keep trying, and you'll see the results. Think about this like learning to play an instrument: it's not an easy road, and you need practice and perseverance. If you stick to those, great things will occur and you'll be surprised to see how, at some point, you can play that sonata or piano concerto that were so difficult some months ago, ha, ha.
Antonia, your feelings are very natural, but please take to heart what Marisa has said. Her advice is extremely helpful and empowering. As she so wisely suggests, the bottom line for success at our bilingual aim, to whatever degree, comes down to this...
Persistent efforts, day after day, and perseverance, year after year.
I know it's not easy, but it's really that simple. Unfortunately, parents sometimes make this challenge harder by "overthinking" it. If you want to nurture some English ability in your daughter, from a young age, simply continue exposing her to as much English as you can on a regular basis, from as many angles as possible. The more input she receives, the more output she can eventually produce.
In other words, play the process, not the results. If you just play the process from day to day, the results over the months and years ahead will basically grow naturally, automatically.
Feel free to request a consultation with me, through HaBilNet, if you'd like to talk personally about your situation via Skype or Zoom. These consultations are free.
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My husband and I are also trying to raise our 10-month-old daughter as a bilingual in Italian and English (German will come naturally since we live in Germany and so it's the ML). We both are Italian but we have decided to introduce English from day 1. We are not using the OPOL method as you, but we use a puppet to mark the switch between English and Italian.
I was worried at first that not being a native speaker, my daughter would not benefit from us talking to her in English (our grammar is not perfect, nor is our accent). Talking to other parents living in our area, I also got a lot of "Why are you doing this? She is going to have a terrible accent and make all the mistakes you make. There is no point in making such an effort."
But we did not give up! I am very confident that there is more than a point in what we are doing, and that our daughter will still benefit a lot from our non-perfect English!
And, of course, English not being our first language, I daily find myself trying to explain something and realize that I do not actually know the proper word for it. What I usually do is still try to describe the thing or the verb I do not know the name for, using the vocabulary I am familiar with, and then, in the evening, I look for the right word and I write it down. In this way I am better prepared for the next time that word comes up!
Music also helps a lot, as well as books with rhymes. I have purchased the collection from the Hairy Maclary books. They are really nice books, with cute pictures and written in rhymes. I myself I learned a lot of words from them, and my daughter seems to enjoy them.
What I am also finding helpful are some books about idiomatic expressions. Those can be quite different from one language to the other, and it's not usually something you learn at school. On the other hand, if you aspire at a high level of proficiency in a language you have to know them.
To conclude, I think that the mere fact that you decided to start this bilingual journey is something you should be proud of! Don't give up, just keep going, day after day, like Marisa and Adam said!
I switched between the languages a lot at the start and slowly changed to speaking more and more ml (which is not my native language). Now they are 3 I am fairly strict about sticking in ml. Which I never thought I would be able to. You learn as you go along and it becomes more and more natural to speak ml with them.
I've actually found it harder to stick to ml with my baby than with my older ones now. I think when I'm talking to her I am really talking to myself so use more complicated words and phrases. Whereas with the children it is just naturally simpler language.
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Jan 6, 2023 20:02:18 GMT 9