One child, two (maybe more) mother tongue languages in the family home! A dilemma arises. Do both parents speak one language, and if so, which one? Do both parents speak their own mother tongue or the common language where the family resides? Do both parents speak the language of the country where the family resides even if it is not either of their mother tongues? Do you speak in dialect?
Which method would you choose?
I faced this same dilemma and, I think, I hope, it’s resolved. Only time will tell but, in my case, so far so good. I have a bilingual child (aged four) with another younger child (aged two) rapidly following in the elders footsteps.
My husband and I both believe that communication is the key to success, happiness, fulfilment, etc.; the list goes on. We have found our method and, what’s great, is that it is so natural for all concerned. The method is not unknown and has actually been around for some time. The confusing thing is that everyone has a method or opinion on this particular topic and most are not afraid to voice their opinion.
We received advice from all and sundry but soon found the answer right under our noses and from the best possible source…our children! It is so natural, yet effective. There are no special rules except speaking clearly, correctly and naturally at all times. There really is NO need to worry if your child isn’t saying the “set” number of words by a certain age.
We had been advised to speak one language in the family home before our child was even born. An eminent pediatrician advised us that our child would be confused hearing two languages and that we needed to provide her with one language. This would be her base language…she would think, dream and basically live with this language, until aged three whereupon we could introduce the second mother tongue. Good advice….we thought. This doctor has letters after his name so he should know best. Wrong! This proved the most unnatural experience for all concerned … we all lasted about one day. “Did I say that correctly?” “Do you think she hears an accent?” “You explain to her?” It was all becoming so unnatural and difficult not to mention that it must have been confusing for our child. We quickly decided to change the method to OUR method. I am sure you have already guessed the method we chose. Believe me it works. In a nutshell, you speak your language and I’ll speak mine.
ONE parent, ONE language!
We did start to wonder as other children, the same age as our daughter, were starting to string a few words together and even a short sentence or two whereas our daughter was still at the one or two word (babbling) stage and even a mixture of the two languages in one sentence at that! However, all of this was about to change.
She started nursery…still alert and taking everything in; however, no big conversation was forthcoming. Then, one day, bang! She just started speaking properly, in both languages and, non-stop too 🙂 Everything seemed to fit into place in her mind and she hasn’t looked back since. I really is true that children have a sponge for a brain when it comes to languages, and more besides. They soak everything in until THEY are ready to live with language. My children inspired me to write a bilingual children’s book in both English and Italian. My daughter says, “Mummy, I want to read the Pippo and Poppy book” and we read it together, almost daily. She knows mummy’s book off by heart now and still loves the illustrations too.
Now she says she would like to speak four languages. She plays with her little sister in both of her mother tongues…changing from one to the other when she feels the need or will. My youngest is at the babbling stage…..in two languages….but we are not in the least concerned this time around. She will speak, when she is ready, and not before!