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Is there a language learning program for parents and newborns?
November 15, 2004 4:27 PM   Subscribe

Let's say a mono-lingual (English) family has a newborn and a strong desire to educate their child to be bi-lingual (French and English). This family would like to take the opportuinty of teaching language to their child and expand it to themselves as well by learning and teaching a language new to themselves as well as the native tounge. It there a program/procedure/recommended reading for such an endeavor?
posted by BrodieShadeTree to Education (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
French immersion school should do the trick. Although you'll need to take classes on French yourself if you want to learn it also.

That's what most of the bi-lingual Canadians I know of went through. No, I am not one of them (and I'm happier because of it, too... but this isn't the place for politics).
posted by shepd at 4:39 PM on November 15, 2004


Obvious and inconvenient, but the best thing to do would be to move to a place where French is the dominant language. Even if you only speak English at home, Junior will pick up French in the street. And you'd learn French a lot quicker being immersed in it.

I've heard horror stories of Japanese parents who don't really know English trying to raise their kids as bilingual Japanese/English. It doesn't work.
posted by adamrice at 7:17 PM on November 15, 2004


You might ask the people on Ask-a-Linguist. They field many questions about raising bilingual children. (Do check out the links and previous questions before mailing them, if you do, to get the most helpful response)
posted by whatzit at 7:42 PM on November 15, 2004


My suggestion would be a twofold approach: for the parents enroll in a standard French course together, and naturally practice at home, and for the baby, hire a bilingual nanny with the understanding that you'd like her to speak only French to the child.

The kid'll probably outstrip you in a year or two, but by then, you should have a fairly workable vocabulary and you can augment your education and your child's language re-inforcement by watching children's movies and reading children's books in French (and with the movies, you have a built in cheat sheet if you switch on the subtitles.)
posted by headspace at 8:05 PM on November 15, 2004


We have French and English books for our three year old. We buy DVDs that have both language tracks. One parent only speaks English at home and the other speaks only French. Outside our home everyone speaks English.

That's how we're raising a bilingual Canadian/American and we're happier because of it...but this isn't the place for politics. :)
posted by ?! at 8:12 PM on November 15, 2004


With DVDs be careful of subtitles in the language you're unfamiliar with. Sometimes they are a horrible match.
posted by ?! at 8:14 PM on November 15, 2004


French took me four months to learn when I was forced to live there with my family when I was fourteen. It took my little brother, who was ten, about a month.

Immersion cannot be beat. How you can do this without moving the whole family, I dunno.

One little warning, though: learning a language when young does not at all guarantee permanence; my little brother, who hung out exclusively with kids who didn't know English, now remembers French a lot less than I do.

All my friends at school in France "obnoxiously" insisted on practicing English on me, but I was old enough to see the value of retaining the language, so I continue to read in French.

Continuing interest is probably the key for someone who's old enough to understand what's going on. For anyone much younger, it probably has to be "forced" on them, by being inescapable.
posted by interrobang at 8:17 PM on November 15, 2004


My family moved to France when I was four and lived there for four years. My parents studied the language and were obviously immersed in day to day life but they struggled whereas my younger brother and I picked it up immediately and spoke to each other exclusively in French - "our language." Thirty plus years and many bilingual schools later, I retained a great accent and some vocab, but my bro, who left when he was five, doesn't remember anything.
If you really want to do this, it takes mucho work.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:33 PM on November 15, 2004


The best way to learn French at home (for adults who might want to help their kids' French) is the French in Action course on tape or DVD or broadcast on PBS, reviewed in a bit more detail here.
posted by kk at 10:19 PM on November 15, 2004


One little warning, though: learning a language when young does not at all guarantee permanence; my little brother, who hung out exclusively with kids who didn't know English, now remembers French a lot less than I do.

A question I think is highly interesting would be: what happens when your little brother tries to learn french again? Would things go more smoothly for him than for an adult learner without that background?

Apparently, at least as of 10 years ago, no one had done research on that question. I burned up the library search engine at my university looking for answers, then went to faculty members to see if there were any leads, then finally put a plea out on usenet... nothing, except for a few profs responding that they didn't think anyone had done it.
posted by weston at 10:44 PM on November 15, 2004


Another vote for total immersion.
Also, consider boarding school some 13 years down the line if you still want a bilingual kid.
posted by ruelle at 5:58 AM on November 16, 2004


How old is the child?
My friends hire a Mandarin speaking nanny so that there child would learn that language. Though the child rarely speaks that language freely she appears to understand it an will respond in Mandarin to a Mandarin speaker.
posted by evilelf at 9:54 AM on November 16, 2004


Damn I'm a lousy typist:

How old is the child?
My friends hire a Mandarin speaking nanny so that their child would learn that language. Though the child rarely speaks that language freely she appears to understand it and will respond in Mandarin to a Mandarin speaker.
posted by evilelf at 10:09 AM on November 16, 2004


The child is a newborn. I like these suggestions, thanks folks.
posted by BrodieShadeTree at 4:39 PM on November 16, 2004


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