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Author Topic: Teaching 2 Languages at a time (split from "When do I start?")  (Read 34528 times)
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nohayo
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« on: May 28, 2008, 12:24:38 PM »


As for dual language, simultaneously exposing a child to 2 languages is not uncommon, and many bilingual families do that as a natural course.  Typically, it would be more in terms of exposure to the SOUND of the language, rather than the written word, but I don't see a problem with exposing your baby to more than one language for reading, though you may wish to focus more on the main language you want your child to be the most familiar with.

[EDITED to avoid confusion about when can we start using infant stimulation cards generally.]

This answered a BIG question I have...if it is OK to teach kids two different languages at the same time...

I have two related questions though,

1. How do you prevent them from mixing the two languages together, as in saying for example spanish and english words in the same sentence? What if you want them to speak both fluently but separately?

2. When is a good time to start teaching a third language? Schools usually start at Grade 1 here (around 6 years old)...is that the optimum? How much time generally should you leave between each new language?

The reason I am so concerned with this is taht multiple languages are such a great benefot to children and they are so much easier to learn and perfect while you are young, aren't they? smile

Thanks a million!
Love
Noha

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lawrence
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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2008, 02:32:11 AM »

Hi Nahoyo,

1. I'm not too sure about this one, I suppose it has something to do with how other people use it around the baby. If you mix languages, then you baby will probably adapt it.

2. I think for people, it is very easy to learn a new/third language all the way through high school, and for some people even during university. But I think the  to focus on is giving your children the ability to learn easily, and be interested in things, such as languages.

This, I think start from an early age.

Does anyone have anything else to add/correct me if I'm wrong.

Cheers,

Lawrence

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KL
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« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2008, 03:57:47 AM »


1. How do you prevent them from mixing the two languages together, as in saying for example spanish and english words in the same sentence? What if you want them to speak both fluently but separately?

I think it is usually quite obvious to a child that one language is different from the other.  The key to ensure this is to stick to one language at a time.  For example, you could declare Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to be English time, and you speak just in English, and the rest in Spanish.  Or at least keep the same language in short sessions throughout the day.
However, if I know my daughter understands a word in English, then I would quickly say the English word after the foreign word, and then the foreign word again, to link the 2 words.  The way I say it is quite obvious that I'm using English to explain the meaning of other words to her.  But apart from that, by and large, try to stick to one language at a time, and definitely don't mix up different languages within the same sentence! eg., "Look, this is a perro!". smile


2. When is a good time to start teaching a third language? Schools usually start at Grade 1 here (around 6 years old)...is that the optimum? How much time generally should you leave between each new language?

The reason I am so concerned with this is taht multiple languages are such a great benefot to children and they are so much easier to learn and perfect while you are young, aren't they? smile

Personally, I stick with 2 languages.  However, what I DO do is to EXPOSE my daughter to hearing the sounds of multiple languages, and this has been since birth.  Sometimes, I would get her to repeat some phrases from those other languages, just to try to get her used to not just hearing the sounds, but also pronouncing them.

KL

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Maddy
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« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2008, 10:48:06 AM »

Hi Noha

This is a really interesting topic  happy

Quote
1. How do you prevent them from mixing the two languages together, as in saying for example spanish and english words in the same sentence? What if you want them to speak both fluently but separately?

I have some experience of this - I babysat some bilingual kids in Israel and it was fascinating to observe their speech habits.

What I actually found was that the kids mixed English and Hebrew together seamlessly. This one little girl was crying and kept repeating, "I want my buck book!" I was going, "What book is that?" It turned out "buck book" was the Hebrew word for bottle!

I would tell the kids that they had to speak English to me because I didn't know Hebrew, but they would inadvertently slip in some Hebrew words. I don't know the exact age of the "buck book" girl, but I would say about three or four.

Meanwhile, my husband's daughter grew up bilingual in English and Cantonese, and at the age of two, made up "Christmas Aabaak" ("aabaak" meaning "uncle" in Cantonese) to mean Father Christmas or Santa Claus.

What I know for sure is:

- Children *will* mix the two languages - and it's adorable and completely harmless for them to do so! They won't know the difference between the two languages when they're very small, but at a certain age they will figure it out.

- You absolutely do not have to worry about your child mixing up the two languages when (s)he is older.

If you and your spouse have different native languages, then this is a golden opportunity. By each speaking your native language, you are giving your child the greatest linguistic gift possible. Otherwise, if one of you is merely fluent in another language, then it's fine to use it sometimes - but you should preferably speak in the language that comes most naturally, most of the time.

Quote
2. When is a good time to start teaching a third language? Schools usually start at Grade 1 here (around 6 years old)...is that the optimum? How much time generally should you leave between each new language?

It is never too early to start teaching a third language. Six is a very good age to start (and young enough for the child to be able to speak without an accent). You do not need to leave a set amount of time between languages. Children really are geniuses in this regard!

Best of luck Noha, and I hope you will share some cute Spanglish phrases of your child's in due course  :-*

Maddy

« Last Edit: May 30, 2008, 01:42:28 AM by Maddy » Logged

lawrencelb
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« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2008, 03:48:49 PM »

Noha,
I agree with Maddy.  Children very naturally blend words from various languages that they are exposed to.  I don't feel there is any harm (to the contrary, several benefits) to hearing more than one language presented at a time.  In fact, if a child hears a novel word (from another language) embedded in a sentence containing words from a more familiar language, he or she can learn from the context of the familiar sentence to gain meaning about the novel word.  For example, "le chien is barking a lot!" would allow a child who is a native speaker of English to draw from his or her knowledge base and he/she would be able to correctly infer that "le chien" is another way to label a dog.  (sorry to disagree with you, KL!)

Another thought:  I feel that it is very important for children in a bilingual family to hear
their parents speak in the language that is most familiar to them.  Too often I work with parents who felt they had to only speak English to their children - unfortunately, their knowledge of English was fairly limited at that time.  What happens in that situation is that the child is not exposed to underlying components of a language - semantics (word meanings and how words are related), syntax (information about word order), and pragmatics (how language is used to convey different intents).  If the parent was speaking the native language, the child would be more able to "pick up" this information, which would then allow him or her to apply it to the second language being learned.  By the way, although kiddos often initially combine both languages, eventually they are able to speak both languages separately (as you said you were hoping would happen). 

Just my two cents!  Thanks for reading.  Good luck with everything!

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KL
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« Reply #5 on: May 29, 2008, 04:10:16 PM »

Quote
sorry to disagree with you, KL!

1 karma point to you for disagreeing!! smile

Actually, I'm not sure whether we really are disagreeing.  I do agree that children sometimes mix languages.  What I was saying was that **I** myself would try NOT to mix languages, to reduce the possibility of confusion.

Anyway, always good to have different opinions! Keep 'em coming! smile

KL



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nohayo
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« Reply #6 on: May 29, 2008, 05:32:10 PM »

Dear all smile

Interesting answers !! Here's my feedback :

1. Just to put some perspective on this question; there are so many nationalities living here in Dubai, so for example Egyptians who have lived here all their lives talk in mixed sentences of English and Arabic when they are with friends no matter how young or old they are (they are fluent in both languages). This is eaxctly what I am talking about, I totally encourage the fluency part but not the mixing. Which is why I think this might be a good solution to try, like KL said:

The key to ensure this is to stick to one language at a time.  For example, you could declare Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to be English time, and you speak just in English, and the rest in Spanish.  Or at least keep the same language in short sessions throughout the day.
However, if I know my daughter understands a word in English, then I would quickly say the English word after the foreign word, and then the foreign word again, to link the 2 words.  The way I say it is quite obvious that I'm using English to explain the meaning of other words to her.  But apart from that, by and large, try to stick to one language at a time, and definitely don't mix up different languages within the same sentence! eg., "Look, this is a perro!". smile

I do understand that maybe as children they wouldn't know the difference between the two languages and thus mix them like Maddy and Lawerence said, but this is exactly what I am afraid of  yes This is where I want to step in and help them in distinguishing between them   :educated:

2. So basically it's trial and error then plus exposure, you guys are saying .... that is good to know:) Does anyone actually have an example of a child they have seen that is tri-lingual or something?

I agree with the fact that parents should speak in their native languages, but I was talking more about other languages that are not native to the parents anyway.

Thanks a lot for this great interaction guys!! much appreciated smile

Noha

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« Reply #7 on: June 01, 2008, 03:47:49 PM »

My kids are growing up in a, well... trilingual home. And soon, another two will inevitably kick in.
I speak French with my husband (who's mother is French), but since my parents are both Portuguese, I decided to stick with Portuguese at home, which is the language I feel most comfortable with. But then we live in Israel, so Hebrew will also come naturally. I used to wonder what was going to happen exactly, because it does sound confusing, even for an adult!
Well, he's 19 months now and he's speaking a bit of all three languages, though he seems to choose the easiest words of all three when he tries to say something. Kids are clever.  big grin
One thing I didn't want to do, was to introduce him to yet another language, English... it just seems way too much at this point.
I believe that at one point or another, one language will dominate over the other, because it always depends of how strongly the kid is exposed to it. This doesn't always happen equally.

My toddler is starting to understand that with some people, it's hebrew, with me, it's portuguese and with daddy, it's french.
Just some time ago, I called up my toddler (in portuguese), with no success, then I casually called I'm up in french... well, he came running and looked at me very surprised!  wub
He knows only dad talks that way.

I've also read that when children learn more than one language, they develop a "second brain", another whole way of thinking to fit the way that other language is understood (with all it's nuances and meanings). Anyone heard about this?




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« Reply #8 on: June 02, 2008, 10:13:20 AM »

I started the GD program with my son when he is about 6.5 mths.  Since I am the only parent flashing cards with him, I have spent time figuring out how best to do it in both English and Putonghua.  So, initially, I made a mistake by doing 2 sets of cards, one in English and one in Chinese 3 times within the limited timeframe I had in the morning, (i.e. 1 to 1.5 hours) before I leave home for work.  Now, I did it alternate days, M, W, F in English; T, Th, Sat in Putonghua; and we have a break on Sundays.  Lately, I added French but only on Saturday afternoons at a playgroup (though I do GD's picture cards with him in between the English flash card sessions). 

I always wonder whether I have done the right thing or not....all these different languages.  BTW we do not speak a lot of Cantonese with him as we figure that he will learn it anyway as his grand parents will speak that to him.

Although I have had this worry....he may be confused and he may start speech a little later than other kids as he may need time to figure out the languages, somehow I feel that he is smarter than I think?  This is because the Putonghua teacher tells us that he understands what she is talking and we do feel that he can understand though he may not speak it.

Any parents out there got similar experiences?

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lawrence
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« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2008, 03:16:30 AM »

Hi Vivian,

It sounds great that you are trying 3 different languages with your son. I'm not sure about the implications, so we can wait on an answer from Maddy our Brillbaby editor or anyone else who has this experience.

Though I would like to point out, something to save you some time, since you are creating flashcard in multiple languages. The Little Reader software that you downloaded has the functions to allow you to create flashcards in different languages!
 big grin
I think this will save you a lot of time.

Hope that helps, cheers.

Lawrence



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teresa
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« Reply #10 on: June 10, 2008, 06:51:43 PM »

Just posted a reply on "when do I start" about my daughter, (take a look at that!)- she is 3.5 years old now and is already speaking 3 different languages fluently. Babies can learn up to 4 languages (most of the time) without confusion before they are 6.  LOL

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Maddy
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« Reply #11 on: June 11, 2008, 10:51:44 AM »

Hi Forsythia and Vivian

I would like to reply to both of your posts here...

Forsythia, congratulations on your trilingual home - what an awesome environment for your children to be growing up in! Thanks for sharing the anecdote about your son responding to you when you switched to a different language - very cute!

As for second brains, all I can say is that when I became fluent in Russian, I felt like a different person in that language. And it was because things are expressed in a totally different way. I, at other times, was freely conversant in French and Spanish and I didn't feel so different in those languages - probably because their syntaxes more closely match English's. Does that make sense? (I think Russian syntax is more similar to German - but I've never learned German.)

I would love to hear from bilinguals and trilinguals about whether they feel different in different languages. From the neuroscientific point of view, language processing is actually taking place in the same part of the brain (or to be precise, of the Broca's area) - whereas for people who become fluent later in life, a different part of the Broca's area gets used for the foreign language. This explains why my Russian accent could be excellent when I was on good form, but lousy when I was tired or ill. If I were bilingual rather than fluent in Russian, being sick or tired would never affect my accent. (A fellow language student - a German who spoke flawless English - once recounted to me that, despite her seeming bilingualism, she was still liable to blurt out something like "Vindscreen vipers" if she was drunk!)

Vivian, I wouldn't be so worried about your teaching strategy. How old is your son now? You only speak to him in English - is that right? If you are concerned about whether he is learning anything from the flash cards, you might like to consider the multi-sensory method of reading instruction. The advantage is it teaches the meanings of words, so you can easily see what your child has learned. We would recommend Robert Titzer's Your Baby Can Read DVDs or our very own Little Reader - or you can make your own cards with personalized photographs! You don't need to worry about him getting confused by the different languages, as children are geniuses in this regard!

Maddy

« Last Edit: June 11, 2008, 10:56:30 AM by Maddy » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: June 20, 2008, 04:34:51 AM »


It sounds great that you are trying 3 different languages with your son. I'm not sure about the implications, so we can wait on an answer from Maddy our Brillbaby editor or anyone else who has this experience.


Hi all,

I think it really does not matter how many languages a kid can learn. I grew up in a family which speaks a few languages and dialects. My parents speak both English and Mandarin, but my grand mother can only speak Hainanese (which is totally different from the 2 languages). So, I speak both English and Mandarin when I communicate with my parents and of course, when I turn to my grand mother, the Hainanese will automatically comes out from my mouth. My neighbours are Hokkien and Cantonese and I pick up the dialects from them. Though I am not expert in it but I do understand the dialects. While, let's just said that I don't have any problem with communication when I was travelling to Hong Kong.  smile

On how to teach a few languages at the same time, agreed with KL on repeating the same words with a few languages. This is what i have been doing with my son.

With best regards,
Angie

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« Reply #13 on: June 26, 2008, 09:47:17 AM »

We only speak one language in our home, but my daughter has been learning spanish since she was about 1 (and I've been learning along with her). She's 2 1/2 now and she actually does mix English and Spanish words, but we understand what she's talking about. Most other people who meet her find it cute and quite impressive that she's speaking two languages at her age when we only speak English in our home. So I don't think there's a problem with them mixing the languages at such a young age. As long as you know what they're saying and can translate to others who may not understand them... 2 year olds are hard to understand at the best of times anyway. And they can learn the difference as they get older.

I haven't even thought about teaching my daughter a third language. I would say that it would depend on what languages your child is going to be exposed to. For instance, if you live in an area (or family) where 3 different languages are spoken fluently, then it wouldn't be such a bad thing to teach them all three languages as soon as they start learning to talk. In my case, though, living in a country that is mainly English speaking, I think I'll stick with Spanish for a while and as she gets older and has an interest in other languages we can start looking into it then.

Naya

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« Reply #14 on: June 26, 2008, 03:51:51 PM »

VERY interesting topic!

I see no problem in teaching two (or even more) languages at a time.  Children are way smarter than we give them credit for... and they easily code-switch, especially when they learn the languages very early on.

I'm very thankful that my parents exposed me to different languages when I was quite young.  By the time I started kindergarten, I was fluent in two kinds of Cantonese dialects, English, Tagalog (living in the Philippines at the time), and Hokkien.  I learned Mandarin when I started school.  I took up Spanish and French during/post-university.  I am able to carry general conversations in Mandarin, but would not say that I am very fluent.  My French and Spanish are very basic. 

When we are exposed to languages very early on, we "acquire" it, as opposed to "learn" it.  That makes it easy for us to pick up nuances and naturally think in that language, without having to translate everything from a language that we are more comfortable in.

Our son is now in a bilingual kindy (Mandarin and English) and when he started, he spoke zero Mandarin.  Now, almost a year into school, he is able to speak in complex sentences, with a quite extensive vocabulary (let's just say that he knows terms that I don't even know!).  Although initially, hubby and I spoke to him primarily in English, as it is what we're most comfortable with, we are now making more of a conscious effort to speak Mandarin with him more (and he sometimes even demands that we do!).  Our helper speaks to him in Tagalog.  He understands and speaks all 3 languages.  He does occasionally mix some words, but we're okay with that.  I do that myself, too, when I am speaking with somebody whom I know also knows the same languages as I do.  It's fun (and convenient) and it does not mean that I can't speak a language "purely."

What I have found to be helpful when helping my children learn the languages is the use of sign language.  Sign language helps bridge the different languages;  same sign for the same concept expressed in different languages.  For example, this helps them make the connection that APPLE is ping guo in Mandarin, mansanas in Tagalog, pomme in French, peng kuo in Cantonese... It has become something of a game for us --trying to express a concept in different languages (including sign language).

Sorry for rambling on...  blush   I would love to hear others' experiences on the topic, as I find this sooo interesting! smile


« Last Edit: June 26, 2008, 05:48:25 PM by Buckeroo » Logged



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