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Subject: Two Languages Simultaneously by One Parent
Question: Hello, I would be very grateful for your views. My situation / background is as follows: Our boy is now 2-years old. My Swiss wife speaks to him in German (local language). I have been speaking to him in Arabic since birth. Since 2-weeks ago, however, I habe been speaking to him simultaneosly in Arabic (my native language) and English (my strongest language). By 'simultaneously', I mean I essentially repeat the same sentence twice, once in Arabic and immediately following in English. It doesn't come too unnaturally to me and I suspect I've been sucessful (repeating each sentence twice) two-thirds of the time. Would you have any opinions on this approach? Might you recommend an alternative? Thanks very much, Yours sincerely, Bashar Switzerland
Reply: I don’t see how repeating things in different languages can help language learners sort their languages out, children included. Translation has nothing to do with language learning. People become multilingual (like you have) because they use different languages for different purposes, not different languages for the same purpose. You want your little boy to be able to make sense of the *different* purposes for which he needs each of his languages. If all languages of a multilingual could be translatable among themselves, multilinguals would all become monolinguals: a single language would be enough for them. As you say, you do not succeed in translating your languages all of the time. Nobody does. So why not just speak English when you are in an English mood, or when you are dealing with English-bound things (whatever they are, in your family: songs? games? films? books? outings?) and Arabic when you are in an Arabic mood (ditto)? These two blog posts of mine may have a few suggestions for you. ‘Learning to be multilingual’: ‘The trick is in the input’: Madalena
Reply From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira      click here to access email
Date: 19-Nov-2012
Other Replies:
  1. Re: Two Languages Simultaneously by One Parent    Anthea Fraser Gupta     (21-Nov-2012)

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