multilingual concern
Thread poster: sonjakoopal

sonjakoopal
Local time: 16:09
Jul 26, 2011

Hello,

I am new here on this forum and would like to get some advice/opinions about the following matter.

Me (dutch) and my husband (russian) live together with our 1,5 year old son in Finland. We have living here for a while but decided recently to really settle here. We speak very little Finnish but will start learning it now since we decided to stay. However I know that I am not very good in learning languages besides Finnish is a very difficult language. At the mome
... See more
Hello,

I am new here on this forum and would like to get some advice/opinions about the following matter.

Me (dutch) and my husband (russian) live together with our 1,5 year old son in Finland. We have living here for a while but decided recently to really settle here. We speak very little Finnish but will start learning it now since we decided to stay. However I know that I am not very good in learning languages besides Finnish is a very difficult language. At the moment I speak dutch to my son, my husband russian. My husband and me together speak english since we do not speak each others languages. My son will soon go to Finnish daycare. Here comes my concern:

I am affraid that some day my son will come home starting to speak Finnish to me and I will not understand this since I think for me it will be a long slow process to learn the language. Anybody experience with this? What did you do in this situation?

How will I help him with school things if my Finnish will not be perfect to help him reading etc.?

Is it really like you read often with multilingual kids that one language is minority? I am afraid it will be dutch since we have some russian family living here and some russian friends with kids.

regards

dutch, russian, english, finnish family
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mitko999
Local time: 14:09
English to Bulgarian
+ ...
my two pennies' worth Jul 26, 2011

I've witnessed a child grow up speaking 3 languages. IMHO, it's better to speak your language well to the child than struggle with another language. I've spoken with a bilingualism expert, who said you should stick to your language if you want your child to learn it. However, my leading principle was to make sure you understand each other well, no matter what language it takes.

I've found it that they can struggle in their third year when they start forming (more) phrases - I then s
... See more
I've witnessed a child grow up speaking 3 languages. IMHO, it's better to speak your language well to the child than struggle with another language. I've spoken with a bilingualism expert, who said you should stick to your language if you want your child to learn it. However, my leading principle was to make sure you understand each other well, no matter what language it takes.

I've found it that they can struggle in their third year when they start forming (more) phrases - I then switched to one language only for a month, and it helped. Once they start reading, Finnish will probably get a boost (vocabulary-wise, etc.). It also depends on the time spent in nursery, I guess. But it can't be that difficult to understand the Finnish that a 3-year old speaks, which means you've got time to learn from the most familiar of native speakers...

There was an anecdote about a kid who thought all men spoke German, and all women - French, just like his parents. But you are not that isolated from either linguistic community - and with TV and the internet, there will be plenty of exposure to Dutch and Russian.
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Michael Grant
Japan
Local time: 23:09
Japanese to English
Dutch or Russian at home / Finnish outside the home Jul 27, 2011

I am afraid that some day my son will come home starting to speak Finnish to me and I will not understand this...


Hi Sonja,

As a native English speaking, single-father of two bilingual children(Japanese,English) living in Japan, I understand your concerns!

My kids learn so much faster than I that they have already surpassed my Japanese language ability...However, I find that my girls LOVE to take on the role of "teacher" when I do not understand something, and I use that situation as a chance to encourage their self-confidence and chance to give them praise.

If you have decided to live in a different culture from your own, then EMBRACE IT, don’t look back!

Be sure to learn enough Finnish to be able to get around comfortably in that society. That is certainly important! And, although each family dynamic is different, in most cases your son will naturally adopt whichever language he hears most when he is at home. Dutch may become a minor language for him while he is growing up, however, even if so, you may be pleasantly surprised to see he wants to learn Dutch when he gets older! A lot of that depends on how strong/deep his relationship is with you, his mother.

I would not be too worried about his school work, because to a large extent, it will work out for itself: after a certain age, kids learn more from their circle of friends at school then they do from their parents. He will need you more as a moral guide to get through life, then as a teacher of math or history...

Just, do your best to adapt to Finnish society, language, and culture, and encourage and support your son, as any good mother does. Make sure he has Finnish friends as well as his Russian friends/family...you will be fine!

MGrant

[Edited at 2011-07-27 07:02 GMT]


 

Edward Vreeburg  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:09
Member (2008)
English to Dutch
+ ...
kids speak it all Jul 27, 2011

Generally kids will speak the language the other person is most comfortable with. One clear example of this was a niece (4-5 y.o. at the time) I met in New York, both parents spoke French and where concerned their daughter never spoke any English... Although I'm Dutch and speak French (no so very perfect), I started out in English and the kid spoke to me in PERFECT ENGLISH ! The parents where flabbergasted! When I asked her about the fact she only spoke French at home, she replied, "yes, well y... See more
Generally kids will speak the language the other person is most comfortable with. One clear example of this was a niece (4-5 y.o. at the time) I met in New York, both parents spoke French and where concerned their daughter never spoke any English... Although I'm Dutch and speak French (no so very perfect), I started out in English and the kid spoke to me in PERFECT ENGLISH ! The parents where flabbergasted! When I asked her about the fact she only spoke French at home, she replied, "yes, well you know, mum and dad don't really speak proper English, so it's best if I just speak their French"...

Oh and it helps if somebody else besides yourself speaks Dutch, otherwise your kid will always look a bit bizarre at you, not knowing if it's a secret language, something you made up or in fact normal because lots of Dutch people speak it . (my mum visited me in Paris when our son was small, so he figured, my dad is not an alien after all)...

Don't mind what the "experts" (school, etc) might say - multilingual kids may be a bit behind at a young age (up to 4- 5) an average of 6 months, but they will have a HUGE advantage for the rest of their lives...



Ed
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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:09
Member
English
+ ...
Kids are sponges! Jul 27, 2011

I used to be on the bilingual families mailing list and our most spectacular couple were an Arab Dad, a Dutch Mum (who spoke English together) and who lived in Japan. By the time the child was six he was speaking fluent Arabic, Dutch and Japanese and had a strong foundation in English.

As for whether your child will speak to you in a language you don't understand, I think that is unlikely. My daughter switched from her first language English, to Catalan when she went to nursery. B
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I used to be on the bilingual families mailing list and our most spectacular couple were an Arab Dad, a Dutch Mum (who spoke English together) and who lived in Japan. By the time the child was six he was speaking fluent Arabic, Dutch and Japanese and had a strong foundation in English.

As for whether your child will speak to you in a language you don't understand, I think that is unlikely. My daughter switched from her first language English, to Catalan when she went to nursery. But that was becasue she had heard me speak Catalan and knew I was fluent in that language. I doggedly stuck to OPOL (One Parent One Language) and continued to reply to her in English when she spoke Catalan to me.

However, we soon learned when English relatives came to visit that she would only speak English to them, as they obviously did not understand Catalan. It is incredible (and a joy to watch) how they code switch so easily depending on the situation. So, don't worry. Keep up the Dutch and your child will probably speak to you in that language and then, as suggested above, help you out with your Finnish later on.
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Back to basics
Brazil
Local time: 11:09
Member (2012)
English to Dutch
+ ...
My experience Jul 28, 2011

I am Belgian (Dutch speaking), my (ex-) wife is French, and we lived in The Netherlands where our 3 kids were born. They went to the Dutch school.
At home, I spoke Dutch to them. My ex-wife spoke French to them, and the nanny always spoke English to them.
They just absorbed everything and now (they are 20 , 17 and 15) are pretty tri-lingual.
In the beginning, they did make sentences like "Look, maman, le big vliegtuig"...the words they used seemed to depend on the person with w
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I am Belgian (Dutch speaking), my (ex-) wife is French, and we lived in The Netherlands where our 3 kids were born. They went to the Dutch school.
At home, I spoke Dutch to them. My ex-wife spoke French to them, and the nanny always spoke English to them.
They just absorbed everything and now (they are 20 , 17 and 15) are pretty tri-lingual.
In the beginning, they did make sentences like "Look, maman, le big vliegtuig"...the words they used seemed to depend on the person with whom they used that particular word the most. It was as if they didn't grasp the idea that they were speaking different languages. It was only at the age of 6-7, that they started to make sense of the differences and themselves started to differentiate. One thing, though: they did all start to speak rather late, but caught up fairly quickly afterwards and even surpassed many of their class-mates as to linguistic capabilities.

What we did insist on, however, was that every person should always speak the same language to the kids (I ALWAYS Dutch, my wife ALWAYS French), in order not to confuse them. They could respond in any language they wanted, which most of the time was Dutch in the beginning, but they all had periods during which they changed their preferred language.

Bottom line: don't panic! Kids really are linguistic sponges!
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Melanie Nassar  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 16:09
German to English
+ ...
It's not so complicated Jul 28, 2011

I can understand your concern that you will not be able to help your son with his homework in Finnish. I faced the same situation (American mother, Palestinian father, children born in Germany and German as our "family" language and first language for the children) when we moved to Palestine as the children started school. At that time, they spoke no Arabic at all and I didn't speak or read it very well either. At the beginning, their aunt helped them learn the letters. You won't have this probl... See more
I can understand your concern that you will not be able to help your son with his homework in Finnish. I faced the same situation (American mother, Palestinian father, children born in Germany and German as our "family" language and first language for the children) when we moved to Palestine as the children started school. At that time, they spoke no Arabic at all and I didn't speak or read it very well either. At the beginning, their aunt helped them learn the letters. You won't have this problem, as Finnish uses the Latin alphabet, and maybe you will have a better command of Finnish by the time he starts school or a neighbor who can help out.

The most important thing about homework is to supervise, ask what he has to do, not necessarily participate actively. When my children had dictation in Arabic I asked them to practice first, then I "dictated" to them. Usually, after the first laborious words, they knew the rest of the sentence by heart. You can still check for mistakes.

But get children's books in Dutch and read a lot to him if you want to make sure he speaks it. And you can probably get Dutch children's programs on TV. Bilingual/trilingual children are probably never equally proficient in all languages, but you do want him to be able to communicate with your Dutch relatives, right?

I know the one parent one language method must be valid, but we never paid much attention to it, as my husband and I always spoke German at home and our interaction with the children was based on the situation, i.e. a mixture of 3 languages. Still, they all managed to learn all 3 languages and are grateful that they did it the "easy" way.
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sonjakoopal
Local time: 16:09
TOPIC STARTER
thanks Jul 29, 2011

Thank you all for the advise and supporting words. I feel already much better. Also I found a dutch school here where my son can go to from 3 years old. It is twice a month on Saturday for a few hours. In this way he might meet some more dutch speaking kids.

I am just wondering how much effort do you have to put in speaking/teaching. He is 1.5 years old now and I just speak to him Dutch no other language and look at books etc. Is this enough? I work part time so I am lucky to spend
... See more
Thank you all for the advise and supporting words. I feel already much better. Also I found a dutch school here where my son can go to from 3 years old. It is twice a month on Saturday for a few hours. In this way he might meet some more dutch speaking kids.

I am just wondering how much effort do you have to put in speaking/teaching. He is 1.5 years old now and I just speak to him Dutch no other language and look at books etc. Is this enough? I work part time so I am lucky to spend half a day with him only in Dutch.

sonja
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Iris Mesko  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 15:09
Member (2006)
Slovenian to German
+ ...
SITE LOCALIZER
Positive emotions Aug 5, 2011

Hello Sonja,

I am very happy you got so many usefull opinions, experiences and advices. Here I can add some of my own.

I was raised bilingual and this is the reason why I am still very much interested in this topic. My mother was a linguist and translator, also raised in a bilingual family herself, later she concentrated her studies well this topic and knew quite a few "rules" which are important to make the learning process successful from the beginning on.

... See more
Hello Sonja,

I am very happy you got so many usefull opinions, experiences and advices. Here I can add some of my own.

I was raised bilingual and this is the reason why I am still very much interested in this topic. My mother was a linguist and translator, also raised in a bilingual family herself, later she concentrated her studies well this topic and knew quite a few "rules" which are important to make the learning process successful from the beginning on.

The main rule to stick to would be "one person, one language". Sometimes this might be tricky, but you will get used to it. Just stick to it. Even when your child will grow older and you will be all (maybe even with friends or relatives talking all different languages) sitting at the dinner table together, always speak to your child in your own language. This is my advice.

On the other hand languages are strongly linked to emotions and a positive emotional input is probably by far more important than the time factor. So you should not be afraid not to spend enough time with your child.

I could observe the bilingual upraising of my both nieces and the positive emotional environment, which enabled them to master the second language easily. Positive feelings towards a language can be reinforced through reading interesting children books, playing games, singing songs, and later watching good videos or TV programs etc.

As for my first niece I have noticed, that she thought all children were speaking only one language and the adults the other one. So it was important to make her meet other children speaking this second language. It is very good you have found a school teaching Dutch; where your son could meet other children of his age speaking Dutch.

I suggest you to read books about this topic to get more information how to do it right. As you are a linguist yourself, I am sure you will be able to achieve your goal and teach your child your mother tongue. I can even suggest you to write your own case study, which might be of interest not only for you, for your child but also for other mothers, or persons interested in this topic, who are challenging the same or similar situation as you are facing today.

I have found some interesting information online and here is one of the links which I can recommend you.

http://princessa.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-raise-multilingual-children

One more tip, never get angry if by mistake he uses the word from another language. Just tell the right word in your language and repeat the sentence the right way. You have to stick to positive emotions linked to your language.

Wishing you a lot of pleasure and fun with the challenge of the bilingual education.

Iris
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