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Teaching grandchildren a second language

(3 Posts)
MamaCaz Fri 05-Apr-13 17:33:14

Because I can speak French and Spanish, it seems stupid not to try to teach my toddler grandson to speak at least one of them. I've been looking after him at least one day a week since he was about 14mths old, and in that time I've tried to speak Sp to him for at least a part of the day. (To start with, I was randomly switching between Fr and Sp, but decided that would be confusing for both of us, so opted to concentrate on Spanish!)

So far, I am really pleased with the results - DGS doesn't even say a lot in English yet, but it is increasingly obvious that he understands a lot of Spanish words/sentences that I use regularly. For instance, when I ask him to go find his shoes/coat, off he goes to find them.

I know that a lot of grandparents start out doing what I'm trying to do, but what I really want to know is if any of you have achieved your objective. Is it realistic to think that a child can learn a language to a decent level in this way, when they are only exposed - and not on a daily basis - to one person who speaks it, and who isn't even a native speaker?

MargaretX Fri 05-Apr-13 18:30:41

You can try but remember the vocabulary of a child is very small and just you talking to him means it will remain small. He needs to hear conversation in Spanish to enlarge his vocabulary. He will soon realise that you understand English like the people round him.

I would continue talking to him in Spanish if you like doing it and you are sure your accent is good. When another child comes on the scene they will talk to each other in English. Children speak the language of the street.

In any case he will grow up knowing that other languages are spoken. He won't have to break down the barrier to uttering a word out loud that is not his mother tongue. This is what holds most Brits back when it comes to foreign languages.

MamaCaz Fri 05-Apr-13 19:35:16

Hi Margaret, and thanks for answering.

The lack of 'conversation' that you mention is something that bothers me, too. To be honest, I think that teaching a child 'vocab' is the easy bit, but without exposure to natural conversation, I am not sure that he will learn how to manipulate that vocab and form it into natural sentences in the way that a child does subconsciously with its first language. In other words, can he pick up on the linguistic 'blueprint'?

I am determined to continue this as long as possible, so we will see how it develops. As well as speaking Spanish to him, I am making as much use as possible of Internet resources, with age-appropriate cartoons, songs and rhymes. It's amazing how much is available on-line now!

As far as I can see, there is nothing to lose. At worst, my grandson will decide in a year or two's time that he doesn't want to humour me, but what have we lost? On the other hand, with Spanish and French lessons on offer in many nurseries, it may be possible to continue the language quite naturally.

However, as I said initially, I would love to know how others have got on in similar circumstances.