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When do you teach a polish \ english child a second language?


espana 17 | 911
3 Aug 2011  #1
Just curious and want to know other people's thoughts and opinions. If you have a child and the mother and fathers native tongue is different when do you teach them the second language? Both at the same time (could this be confusing?) or one language then the other at a later date?

polish/english living in poland or polish/english living in england .

Any thoughts or experience?
Wroclaw 44 | 5,388
3 Aug 2011  #2
you don't teach them as such. each parent speaks in the normal fashion from day one. and that's it.
delphiandomine 83 | 17,653
3 Aug 2011  #3
Any thoughts or experience?

Almost all schools of thought on this say that the parents should use their native tongue. However - the children will always speak the "language of the playground" slightly better - unless you're in a 3rd country independent of either home country.
cms 9 | 1,272
5 Aug 2011  #4
It is not as easy as people think. In about 40% of cases the child picks up both languages well and is fluent in both by say 5. At this stage they may start to ditch the one they are not using in the playground or to consciously answer that parent in the playground tongue.

I would say anther 60% do often have struggles, delays which you will need to manage and in some cases better to stick to one language depending on circumstances. My own son just turned 5 but speaks both like a 4 year old which is a huge gulf at that age. English went better because it is so much easier. Some kinds will mix languages in a sentance "I'm going to the sklep" and others will rigidly not mix. I know plenty of expat parents with similar problems. What people with older kids have told me is that sometimes they are 8 or 9 before they are perfect in both, at which stage they are well set up for future life.

And there are some whose dads are workaholics who tend to never pick up English - I read you need about 30% exposure to a language in order to get childhood fluency so if you want your kids to be bilingual make yourself available to them, turn off the telly, put your iphone down and talk to them.
Ant63 11 | 403
7 Jan 2012  #5
I know this is an old post but my experience may be a useful addition.

I'm English my partner is Polish. Her two children arrived August 10 aged 4 and 6. Not a word of English between them and Mums English was survival only. My Polish was zero.. Recipe for disaster in some peoples eyes. The first 3 months were hilarious. Missunderstandings between mum and me. Children doing the opposite of what I said. We made a decision from day 1 that as the children were going to school in England we would help them as much as possible by having English TV for them. Introduce them to English neighbours immediately. But my partner would always speak to them in Polish. She did not want them to forget their native tongue.

I played games like throwing a ball to them and shouting out an English word initially which they would repeat. We made it fun for them. They made friends with two similar aged children in the first week and although they were speaking different languages there were very few conflicts and rarely were we asked to explain something. The youngest child suprised me after two weeks saying "Wheres Mummy". She was repeating something I said to her 3 or 4 times a day. Interestingly it was said in the correct context which meant she understood the question.

After a month the youngest child could understand a lot of what I was saying to her. For example. Can you take this to the living room. Simple stuff. The older child had started school and was totaly immersed in English. It was a tough time for him but everyday we spoke with his teacher and showed the school we were interested and they in return helped a little more than would be expected. They were great.

After 3 months it was possible to have a conversation with both children in English. Very broken but perfectly understandable. After 4 months it was clear the youngest child was way ahead and both children would translate for mum on occassions. Mums English also improved considerably and bizarre concoctions no longer emerged from the kitchen. Most importantly, no one got stressed if they didn't understand we always laughed about things.

Unfortunately the youngest child was illegaly retained in Poland for the next six months but thats another story.

The eldest childs English improved daily from xmas onwards and it became possible for him to talk to Mum in English and Polish simultaneosly without any visible stalling. By March 2011 is was becoming clear his language of choice was English. He would always start a conversation in English while Mum always replied in Polish. Damned confusing for me although my undestanding of the Polish language by now was such that I could understand what was being talked about. My Polish was limited to a few words.

By june the eldest child would only speak Polish when asked too. His English was still not fluent but his understanding was pretty good. We collected the youngest child back in June and were a little concerned that what she had learned would be forgotten. Literally within a week she was talking again and expanding what she knew daily. After a month she was speaking English while asleep.

By September this year it was becoming apparent to Mum that they were losing their native language. The youngest was talking in her sleep in English. Sometimes the children would do the opposite of what was asked and their pronunciation was taking on an English twang. Sometimes they did not understand words. This we both consider a problem but we both believe that as there education is in English, we should prioritise this but we ensure they spend time with other Polish children when possible. Unfortunately they tend to speak in English with them though.

16 months after they arrived, the youngest child is near fluent and can explain the difference between witch and which in a logical manner. She is an incredibly fast learner and is spelling out words and reading them back to a higher level than some of her English peers. The oldest child is finding it more difficult but he is getting there slowly. We still take an active interest at school almost daily and because we show we care they reciprocate by giving him extra help. I have found my making the extra effort at the school, we are both respected, and are efforts are rewarded with the teacher taking an active interest in the child. It's very obvious that some people believe this is the schools problem not theres. Yes I am pointing my finger at some of the Polish community in England here.

My conclusion to this is if you are prepared to put the time and effort in yourself, you can make it a lot easier on your children. This after all is a traumatic time for them. The younger the child is, the easier it is for them to learn. Girls are easier to inspire than boys and are more interested in learning. They will lose some of there native language but put in a situation where they are re-immersed within that language again, they will quickly recover. Pressurising them in any way is negative. It all comes naturally and you should embrace their new skills and give them as much encouragement as you possibly can. You never know, they may be teaching you soon.


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