sprigs & sprogs


When your kids language skills exceeds yours…
March 7, 2011, 22:57
Filed under: Expat, Kids, language, postaweek2011, school
To raise bi-lingual kids is fantastic, but how many languages are too much? What is the best technique? Should I always speak my mother tongue with them?

And the fear of not being able to keep up with their language skills, and wake up one day and not understanding what they say!!!

My first son was born six years ago, at the time I had good intentions of raising him to be a bi-lingual child, speaking both English and Swedish fluently. I read loads of articles about raising bi-lingual children. Singing and reading for my son in Swedish at every opportunity… But with time it fizzled out, as I felt guilty speaking Swedish to my son, when my husband would not understand. It just felt wrong. So the Swedish my son was and is exposed to is mainly music and story books.  And of course the times when we go to family in Sweden or have visits from Sweden.

When he was two and a half we moved from England to Portugal, and he was now about to be exposed to a third language, which neither my husband nor myself had mastered.

To leave him at nursery the first couple of months were very hard for me, although his teacher spoke English. But he looked so small and vulnerable among all his new Portuguese friends. In the end my husband had to take him to nursery in the morning, as my worry rubbed off on him, and he started to get a bit anxious in the mornings. And with the switch, he started to relax and so did I. He stayed at this nursery for a year, as I wanted him to be around someone who spoke English until he felt comfortable with his new language.

Today he speaks Portuguese fluently, if it wasn’t for his blond hair he could probably be taken for a Portuguese. He has already acted as a translator for us many times. It’s a shame you don’t pick up languages as quickly as an adult. He loves to teach us new words or correct our pronunciation.

Since moving here we have had a second boy, who has not been as exposed to Swedish as my first, as he already had two languages to digest. He is now two and is already speaking some Portuguese and English.

My eldest knows phrases in Swedish, but he is not able to hold a conversation in Swedish. I am teaching my youngest Swedish phrases too.But when I read Swedish stories for him, he just looks at me and grins… Wonder what goes on in his head?

Do you think it’s too late to start a Swedish day, when I only speak Swedish to them?  I would love advice on this, as I would love for them to speak Swedish. But as I am finding Portuguese such a challenge, I worry that it would be too much for them?

Most bi-lingual children I have come across here, understand both languages, but will only speak one of them….Is this the norm?

As my son is heading off to first grade this year, I have started to worry about my own Portuguese skills. There will be home-work!  But also with time he will bring friends home, what if I can’t understand what they are talking about…

These are little fears of mine, and what spurs me on to learn Portuguese, my children’s everyday language.



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4 Comments so far
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Hej Emma
Jag ska se om jag hittar någon bra bok om detta och även höra på jobbet. Jag tror definitivt inte att det är försent att börja med Aron och jag tror inte heller att det är förmycket, Drottning Silvia är ju flerspråkig pågrund av att hon flyttat och haft många språk i familjen.

När du pratar svenska med barnen så lär sig ju även Hayden mer på svenska. När det gäller er portugisiska kanske ni ska hitta någonstans där ni kan läsa portugisiska som invandrare gör här “svenska för invandrare”. Ni är ju väldigt sociala av er så ni får ju fortsätta att vara aktiva i samhället så lär ni er efterhand tack vara Noah och Aron och deras vänner med familjer.

Kram.

Comment by Syster Linda

Tack for råd. Får forsoka knopa ihop en strategi.
De har Portugisiska for invandrare har ocksa, har provat. Men kanns som sloseri med dyrbar tid. Lektionerna varar 3-4 timmar tva ganger i veckan, men det verkar mest vara en social klubb. Mycket sma prat och inte sa mycket lektion. Men har nu gjort ett schema for “hemma” studier.

Comment by SprigsNSprogs

Hej Emma! Fin artikkel. Skjønner godt at det er vanskelig, og vet at jeg må snart takle noe liknende – selv om det ikke er Portugesisk i tillegg så er det jo Zulu og Afrikaans her. Men engelsk og norsk blir det først. Skal prøve mitt beste med å lære barn(a) begge språk, men man vet jo ikke hvordan det vil gå før man er midt i det. Jeg vil gjenre at Ryan skal lære norsk også, slik at han da ikke føler seg left out når barna snakker norsk. Og den beste måten å lære på for han må jo være sammen med barna? Muligheten for at vi en dag kanskje bor i Norge, om det er for en kort periode eller flere år, er jo alltid der. Så jeg tror det er viktig og nyttig å lære norsk for både Ryan og barna. Dessugten vil jeg jo gjerne at mine foreldre, søsken og deres barn skal kunne kommunisere med mine barn på norsk. Men jeg forstår at det er lettere sagt en gjort… men jeg tror iallefall at det aldri er for sent, du kan begynne å lære guttene dine svensk nå om du vil, det å ha en svensk dag er jo flott, der alt dere snakker om, peker på og come across oversettes til svensk. Hayden kan jo være med på det også, om det er på en lørdag eller søndag! Tror absolutt ikke det er for mye for dem, barn er som sponges og kan lett lære opp til 5 språk, har jeg hørt! Lykke til, keep me up to date – jeg vet vi kommer til å ha mange conversations om dette sammen i framtiden når jeg strever med det samme 🙂
Klem fra Katrine

Comment by Katrine

Thank you so much. Yes it is a challenge. But I am going to arrange a “Swedish-time” in our house and take it from there. I have finally arranged set times for practising Portuguese for myself… Pro-crastinating is banned! x

Comment by SprigsNSprogs




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