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Thread: Raising a Child Bilingual?

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    Raising a Child Bilingual?

    What are your thoughts on raising your / a child bilingual?

    - Do you think there could occur problems,
    for example when a swedish child grows up speaking both swedish and english, an identification with the non-native language associated people, in this case the english?

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    I don't think it's in the design of bilingual child-raising but instead in the design of the circumstances under which a child might be raised bilingually: Usually one raises a child bilingually when the parents speak different languages --- non-native speaker bilingual raising is negligable rare.

    As such, it's going to be obvious that someone half-Swedish half-English would identify with both parts of their heritage. However I believe that is irrespective of whether they were raised bilingually: A Turkish/German half-caste who was raised monolingually German is bound to still identify to a great degree with his Turkish ancestry, for instance; so it can't be linked to bilingual child-raising.

    Claiming that bilingual child-raising was at fault would be confusing cause and effect. From a socio-linguistic/psycho-linguistic perspective, bilingual child-raising is actually instrumental in enabling children to find it easier to learn other languages, and should be practiced where applicable: The common theory is that the ability for language is inherited but that childhood language-learning itself is a Behavioristic phenomenon. If you're German and your wife Swedish, it is thus positive to offer your child both languages; also useful for intra-Germanic communication BTW.

    Note here that this can be done in various "non-harmful ways" in respect to mixing: Beyond intra-Germanic mixture (such as Swedish/English, Dutch/German, Icelandic/Scottish, etc.), bilingual child-raising can also include teaching your child both dialect and the high language to similar degrees: perhaps the most common way of "bilingual child-raising", especially here down south.

    I can't fall back on a scientific study here, but I do believe that growing up with both to similar degrees (my maternal grandmother speaks the high language, has something to do with her non-Bavarian background ) was at least in part responsible for my finding ease in learning new languages.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    We have no problem with it in South Africa. Nearly every white kid can at least understand both English and Afrikaans and they still identify with there culture. I am very in touch with both the Afrikaner and British side of my Herataige.

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    I was raised bilingually so I'll give my personal perspective.

    To me the bilingualism hasn't affected my identity. However I don't come from an ethnically mixed marriage. The bilingualism was necessary because being an ethnic minority. When the status is similar to mine, there isn't so much confusion. However in an ethnically mixed couple, there might be a problem. because you see, if you're an ethnic minority, you're aware the second language is a necessity to get by with the dominant population. But when you learn a language which is a part of your heritage, you don't view it as foreign, I'm supposing.

    In an ethnically mixed couple, before the child is born, there must be a decision made, how to raise it: according to one background, or according to both. If the child is raised according to both, then bilingual raising will come naturally and the child will easily identify with both languages. So the problem isn't that much the bilingual raising itself, but the ethnic mixing. No matter how you put it, if you ethnically mix, you'll have to make difficult decisions on identity problems.

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    I think it's a bad idea. No need to create such conditions for your child to have an identity crisis.

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    I think if you have the chance to learn a foreign language naturally you should go for it because in my opinion it's a great opportunity!

    It took me over 20 years to learn to speak French fluently out of books and listening to the radio. Maybe I'm a slow learner, but I'm sure I could have learnt it 10x faster had I lived over there or had bilingual parents. I taught my lad German in about 9 months by speaking it at home for one hour per evening and he thrashed all those in the school exams who'd been doing it for over 4 years!! Mind you, schools are not very good for language learning - you might as well not bother via this route Languages are also a great asset on your CV here in the UK (where few people speak a foreign language) but I suppose in other countries they have less weighting.

    As a side issue, I also find them useful in fending off charges of "racism" because - as I once told a former boss - I speak 3 languages so how could I possibly not be interested in different cultures and diversity? ... How silly! I think he still knew I didn't like 'certain' groups but he couldn't refute this argument

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    Quote Originally Posted by Siebenbürgerin View Post
    I was raised bilingually so I'll give my personal perspective. [...]The bilingualism was necessary because being an ethnic minority.
    I didn't consider that possibility, so I'm curious: Were you actually taught both languages at home, or was it kindergarten/school in which you learnt the other language? I.e. were you confronted with it from a time at which your speech had not fully formed (i.e. under approx. 24 mths) or only when you had already acquired astute knowledge of your own language?

    Because if it's only when the need to communicate with non-German people to get by arose that you learnt it then IMO it wouldn't strictly be bilingual raising; because you're bound to already judge by the general grammar, syntax, lexicon (incl. phraseology) etc. pp. of your native language and as such it'd always be a second language rather than another "native language".

    So the problem isn't that much the bilingual raising itself, but the ethnic mixing. No matter how you put it, if you ethnically mix, you'll have to make difficult decisions on identity problems.
    Exactly, that was my point as well: It's not the bilingual child-raising which creates a possible identity crisis but the ethnic mixing. In fact, an identity crisis could arise with a monolingually raised child from two backgrounds where the languages are essentially the same and virtually dialects of each other but the respective populations aren't exactly on speaking terms (Serbian/Croatian or Macedonian/Bulgarian etc.).

    A counter-example of how bi-lingual raising might not create an identity crisis could also be my step-father: Growing up bilingually German and English and then learning a third language essentially in primary school (Afrikaans) hasn't distracted from him staunchly identifying Austrian, at least much more so than he identifies with his English background, let alone the Irish great-grandparent.
    -In kalte Schatten versunken... /Germaniens Volk erstarrt / Gefroren von Lügen / In denen die Welt verharrt-
    -Die alte Seele trauernd und verlassen / Verblassend in einer erklärbaren Welt / Schwebend in einem Dunst der Wehmut / Ein Schrei der nur unmerklich gellt-
    -Auch ich verspüre Demut / Vor dem alten Geiste der Ahnen / Wird es mir vergönnt sein / Gen Walhalla aufzufahren?-

    (Heimdalls Wacht, In kalte Schatten versunken, stanzas 4-6)

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    Thank you all for the answers so far, i'm looking forward to read more opinions.

    However i want to clarify:
    I am definitely not talking about ethnic mixed cases, even if bilingualism occurs more often in these families and is worth noting, please focus on the aspect of bilingualism in non-ethnic mixed cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sigurd View Post
    I didn't consider that possibility, so I'm curious: Were you actually taught both languages at home, or was it kindergarten/school in which you learnt the other language? I.e. were you confronted with it from a time at which your speech had not fully formed (i.e. under approx. 24 mths) or only when you had already acquired astute knowledge of your own language?

    Because if it's only when the need to communicate with non-German people to get by arose that you learnt it then IMO it wouldn't strictly be bilingual raising; because you're bound to already judge by the general grammar, syntax, lexicon (incl. phraseology) etc. pp. of your native language and as such it'd always be a second language rather than another "native language".
    Hmm, I learnt Romanian a little bit later than German but I view myself bilingual since I was very young. The language I spoke the first words in was German. By the time I entered kindergarten, I was between 2 and 3, my parents taught me basic words and phrases in Romanian language too. I was born within the communist regime and in that era foreign speech wasn't encouraged in institutions so it wasn't a viable option to not learn Romanian language. But Sigurd, I don't know any bilingual peoples here who learnt their native languages at the same time one with the other. At kindergarten the vocabulary of children is limited anyway. I'm speaking Romanian as a native speaker would, except I've a little bit foreign accent, but that's the only "flaw". But my grammar and vocabulary are correct. In French and English which I learnt as foreign languages I make more mistakes, and it feels like foreign languages to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thyriusz View Post
    However i want to clarify:
    I am definitely not talking about ethnic mixed cases, even if bilingualism occurs more often in these families and is worth noting, please focus on the aspect of bilingualism in non-ethnic mixed cases.
    So what situation are you talking about then? A Swede who is born in England, immigrates to England, or what?

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