Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Answers to your qestions about moving to, and living in, Peru,
james42
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Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby james42 » Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:43 pm

Does anyone have any experience raising a baby/young child in a house in which two languages are spoken? If so, what was the outcome? For example, did the child struggle to develop the language that was least spoken? Did the child mix words & grammer of the two languages? Did the child do fine in school or did they struggle because their language skills were behind the other kids in the language of instruction?

I currently live with my fiance & 6 month old baby. I communicate with the baby in English where as my Peruvian fiance communicates in Spanish. I am just trying to get a feel for what we should expect since the baby still has yet to begin speaking. From what Ive researched it sounds like the child understands that the two parents are using differant language structures and thus can seperate the two languages although they will still mix the two when starting out. Their vocabulary level will seem behind other kids of their age but this is because other kids are only learning one set of vocabulary. When you add up to the total number of words from both vocabulary sets that a child in a dual language household knows it will actually be more than other kids at their age level. Does this sound about right?


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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby Kelly » Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:20 pm

Yes, that sounds right from my experience. Everything I've ever read about the subject recommends doing it exactly like you are.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby Remigius » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:38 pm

james42 wrote:s? Did the child do fine in school or did they struggle because their language skills were behind the other kids in the language of instruction?


We have 2 children, my wife speaks Spanish to them, I speak Dutch to them and between the both of us we communicate in English. My 7-year-old daughter speaks Spanish (they tend to speak more the language of the mother and have more friends and relatives who speak Spanish), less Dutch and basic English, and knows exactly how to distinguish the languages. She got honours of the school in Spanish AND English. In the very beginning they tend to mix words and expressions ( "I see luna!" ), but at the age of 3 they know how to distinguish the languages and are perfectly aware that mum speaks English and father speaks Spanish (in your case). Bilingual households are a blessing. There is nothing to be worried about! Be patient and be amazed!
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby american_in_lima » Wed Jan 26, 2011 6:39 am

With a two month old, we are going through the same thing. Happily, our son has mastered "gu gu" and "ga ga" in both English and Spanish. :)..He sort of has two names as well, the Spanish version and the English version. (His name is Christian).

Should be an interesting ride!
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby oneMore » Wed Jan 26, 2011 9:27 am

My wife's native language is spanish. She would speak to the children in English but with a heavy accent. I feel this caused troubles for our daughter and she had difficulty with her pronunciations. We ended up putting her in speech therapy for a few months(age 4). She is speaking fine now and at the top of her class.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby Remigius » Wed Jan 26, 2011 10:06 am

oneMore wrote:My wife's native language is spanish. She would speak to the children in English but with a heavy accent. I feel this caused troubles for our daughter and she had difficulty with her pronunciations.


That's obviously a problem. I used to scold the director of the nido of my daughter because the teachers would speak English to the children with a horrendous accent and bad grammar. At the age of 2-3 years children are at the peak of their language intake and they remember everything. I was even challenged by my daughter once, because obviously, according to her sound logic, a teacher should know better. I also know a lot of mothers who suddenly, like in your case, start to talk a language they do not dominate to their own children, basically wasting their own native tongue. People from certain Peruvian classes still have this inferiority complex that tells them everything foreign is better, but at this moment if your child can master English and Spanish (2 of the most widely spoken languages in the world), they will have a huge benefit over other children in the future.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby tomsax » Wed Jan 26, 2011 12:57 pm

Great thread!

Me and my Peruvian wife have a nearly three year old son and we live in the UK. She speaks to him all the time in Spanish. I have tried to speak to him only in English as this is what many books say I should do, but I now speak to him in both but mainly in English because:
1) living in the UK he has already chosen to speak more English. I am more concerned that he learns Spanish and I feel that any support for the language is good.
2) I just find it really difficult to only speak English when my wife is speaking to him in Spanish and I tend to speak to her more in Spanish.
3) still other advice is "do what seems natural" and speaking to him in both at different times just seems natural.

I hope he doesn't get too confused. He obviously understands everything in Spanish and uses the occasional word and or sentence. My wife was over the moon yesterday as he said "ya no hice" after going to the toilet. He seems to learn a lot of English from playgroups, playing with friends, singing classes and the 1hr of TV he watches each day. Yesterday he started reciting a playground rhyme that neither I or my wife knew and it certainly wasn't the sort of thing they put on the TV, something about Father Christmas losing his trousers! I've no idea where he got it from.

I wish there was more in Spanish. I hope my wife can spend some months in Peru with him in the future to give his Spanish a boost.

As someone else said - get ready to be amazed!
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby james42 » Wed Jan 26, 2011 1:08 pm

Awesome thanks for the replies. I know my son will learn Spanish here fine but I really hope he can pick up English. He is exposed to a lot more Spanish here in Peru given that I am the only one who communicates in English with him and I worry that if I have to go back to the US for a short time he might lose what he knew.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby alexPeru » Wed Jan 26, 2011 3:00 pm

I was lucky to be raised by British parents in Lima, and grew up speaking English at home, and Spanish at school and with my friends. I am completely bilingual, and cannot thank my parents enough for it! I remember when I was a kid, I would sometimes speak to my parents in Spanish, but they would always reply in English - no matter what...
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby Xibalba » Wed Jan 26, 2011 5:25 pm

Recently heard a study on the radio that said that children under 14 learn languages at a faster rate than when they are over 14 year old. The brain changes, and learning languages becomes more difficult. Small children will absorb multiple languages like a sponge, so the earlier you start them, the better.

In the house I live in, two of the members of my host family speak English (somewhat). One has a five year old daughter and I have been speaking English to her and she is absorbing it very quickly in just a few months. She loves teaching me Spanish, too, which is fun.

Earlier the better!
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby flytime » Fri Feb 04, 2011 6:45 pm

I remember learning in 1st year psychology that young children learn 2 languages best when they consistently hear the languages in certain situations, such as the father speaks to the child in spanish and the mother in english or english is always spoken inside the house and spanish outside of the house.

I saw this for myself when an australian friend married a chinese woman who spoke little english. their son seemed backward in language until he was about 4 or 5, mixing words, strange pronunciation, but now at the age of 7 speaks english very well and chinese reasonably.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby Cruton » Sun Feb 06, 2011 10:32 pm

This is a link to an anthropology article about raising trilingual children:
http://www.reference-global.com/doi/abs ... 98.133.143
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby bmike1 » Mon Feb 07, 2011 2:41 am

my child is about 2 1/2 and has been living in peru since birth (that's her in the picture). now I am moving there.her mother Has been speaking Spanish yo her. Do you think she'll have much trouble learning English now that I'm entering the scene?
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby gerard » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:11 am

my child is about 2 1/2 and has been living in peru since birth (that's her in the picture). now I am moving there.her mother Has been speaking Spanish yo her. Do you think she'll have much trouble learning English now that I'm entering the scene?


My guess would be she'll find it harder than she would if the situation was reversed; ie; she already spoke English and needed to learn Spanish as she'll be predominantly hearing Spanish from everyone else, but if you make a point of always speaking English, and maybe watching TV in English, then she'll pick it up.

My own experience was that we moved here when my son was 3 and he had some familiarity with Spanish but only spoke English. We put him straight into nursery and also paid his teacher to come and give him extra lessons in the afternoons, and within 3 months he was speaking Spanish as well as his classmates.

He is now 6 and flips between the two languages according to who he is speaking to without effort.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby cleo » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:55 pm

Thank you for all that information.

I am South African and in 3 weeks , I'm going to have my baby. I am very concerned about the dual language problem. My husband is Peruvian, but speaks English as well. Not 100%. His family and friends all speak spanish. I 'm just concerned if our baby is going to understand me and not get overpowered by listening to his famiy.

I speak alittle Spanish to my husband, especially when he doesn't understand what I'm trying to say. My spanish is more like Spanglish, I'm concerned if our baby hears this will he not get even more confused. English, Spanish and Spanglish....... Help
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby anuta » Wed Feb 09, 2011 10:34 am

bmike1 wrote:my child is about 2 1/2 and has been living in peru since birth (that's her in the picture). now I am moving there.her mother Has been speaking Spanish yo her. Do you think she'll have much trouble learning English now that I'm entering the scene?


My son was 2 and half, when I separated from his Peruvian father and went back to Canada. Within 1 months of him going to a French daycare, he started understanding and everyday surprised me with more French vocabulary. And that despite that he was already bilingual Russian-Spanish. Now, a few months later, his level of Russian and French are pretty equal. Obviously, he's in the daycare the whole day and he watches TV in French. Spanish is in the back burner now, but when we went to Peru for a vacation after 6 months, he started understanding and using Spanish words again, and that, only within a few days !

Having said that, in my opinion, he speaks less well than other kids, I think he's a bit confused, but we'll see.

In your case, your daughter won't hear as much English, but try to make her watch TV in English. Read books in English and slowly, she'll learn it. The good thing is that she already acquired Spanish, so she won't be mixed up.
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby LauraMH » Wed Feb 09, 2011 11:48 am

I understand your concern. It is an experiment for sure.

I am american and my husband is Peruvian. We speak spanish to one another in the house as his English is limited.

My daughter, who is now 7 months, was born in Peru and we live in Arequipa.

I speak only English to her. She is with me all day. We also talk to my family via skype. We read books in English and listen to music in English as well. She definitely understands me. I am also teaching her sign language now and that is universal.

She gets spanish from my motherinlaw who is currently living with us and well the rest of the world. I am not worried about her English. I talk to her all the time, all day long. I am sure she will speak English first. I couldnt parent as easily in another lanugage for sure. Good luck and congrats on your baby!
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby anuta » Wed Feb 09, 2011 12:21 pm

LauraMH wrote:
She gets spanish from my motherinlaw who is currently living with us and well the rest of the world. I am not worried about her English. I talk to her all the time, all day long. I am sure she will speak English first. I couldnt parent as easily in another lanugage for sure. Good luck and congrats on your baby!


It's funny, but my son started speaking Spanish first when we lived in Peru. I stayed at home with him until he was 2 years old and spoke only Russian to him. He then went to the daycare, but part-time and half a day, so the rest of the time, he was mostly with me. There was still more Spanish around him or maybe Spanish is just easier or I just didn't talk to him enough...but I really made efforts. His Russian is better now that he also hears me talking to my mom and sister. Or maybe, he's just older. Who knows...
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby tupacperu » Wed Feb 09, 2011 2:14 pm

The issue will not be the spoken language, kids can master spoken languages better than adults.

My son is Peruvian (native tongue spanish) and he attended Kindergarten in the USA, then 1st grade in the Peru. We found that he had a good foundation in written english and could read and write english well. But when we returned to Peru he had writing and reading comprehension issues becasue his written language was english. He had to work very hard in writing and comprehension in Spanish. After a year we were to return to the USA and in 3rd and 4th grade his spelling and written language in English were excellent. He seem to take naturally to english for some reason (written). But his native tongue is spanish.

I would say that if your child is going to be bilingual then it is necessary to tutor them in reading and compreshension in the language that is non-dominant ( english in Peru).
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Re: Baby/Child in Dual Language Household

Postby MartitaAQP » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:37 pm

I've observed bilingual families a LOT in both Peru and the US for exactly this reason... it is very important to me that my future children be bilingual no matter where we live. I think the key I've picked up on is to use most in the home what is used least outside the home (Eng in Peru, Spn in US) because they will naturally learn the other language. However, in terms of pronunication it is VERY important they be exposed to native speaking of the language. I have a expat friend with three children who were born and raised in Peru but they speak only English in their home and schooled in English and the yuongest two have an AWFUL accent on their spanish--just like their American mother! I think they needed more exposure to Peru outside their home at a smaller age (which can come in many ways). The oldest who is a South American tennis champ has a much more native sounding Spanish since he has been more exposed. So yes, I think it is important to protect them from bad accent and make sure they have all-over exposure. BTW, recent studies have shown the key age for language learning is 3-7... NOT the previously asserted 0-4... which means you can relax a little about their first few words. As parents here have testified....when they get a little older it sorts itself out. But what a gift to give your children--two "first" languages!

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