Raising a baby in a bilingual home
By cking9365 on October 28, 2010
Jon and I have a bilingual family. I was born and raised in Moscow, Russia. Jon grew up in the U.S.
When Jon and I got married, we knew that we would always have to do things just a little bit differently because of our backgrounds, but we were ready for this challenge. So far we've done amazing! Jon is super patient at my parents' house as we sit and talk in Russian, our first language. He's also incredibly understanding when my parents take a few minutes to find the right word for what they are trying to communicate to him. He's even tried to learn a little bit of Russian when we went to Moscow a couple of years ago. Now that my grandparents moved here from Moscow, things are even more different since they don't speak any English. Our families have also been supportive (as they are in every single thing) by making the extra effort to spend time together and communicate, regardless of the language barrier. Few things make me happier than watching my parents chatting joyously with Jon's family.
With a baby on the way, we've had to sit down and make a couple more decisions. The biggest question at hand right now is what language to teach the baby.
On one hand I've always wanted to teach our kids how to speak Russian and to introduce them to my culture. My family is important to me and Addi will need to know how to communicate with them. I struggle with making this work since she will be surrounded by English and today it's easier for me to speak English as well. One of the methods that I've heard and read about is to teach the baby just one language, the one they will have a harder time learning, until they go to pre-school. Some say that surrounding them with Russian when they are very young will make it easier for them to learn it while they will pick up English in school easily. However, I can't see myself doing that since Jon's family doesn't speak Russian. How could I deny their grandchild from communicating with them? I wouldn't.
On the other hand if we decided to introduce both languages to the baby from the day she is born, she will have a harder time catching up. Babies who learn two languages from birth tend to start speaking later in life. I feel guilty slowing Addi's progress so early in her life. I don't want to see her struggle to understand what words mean and which language she should speak.
For now Jon and I plan to take the latter route and speak both languages to Peanut when she is born. I'll try to talk Russian while Jon will speak English. Peanut's grandparents will also do their part in creating two environments, allowing Addi to hear both languages.
I even talked to my grandparents and had them bring some Russian baby books to read to Peanut after she's born (I need to brush up on my reading skills!).
These are stories that I was brought up on. I'm so excited to share them with Addi!
I've been reading them to remind myself about my childhood and it's been amazing.
This was my favorite book when I was a kid. It's a collection of exaggerated stories about a little boy whose name is Dennis. Every story is only a couple of pages long and every one of them is hilarious. I've been reading them and giggling to myself since translating them to Jon often loses the meaning (although I did try...he didn't laugh).
We have about a dozen books in Russian now and I plan to get a few more.
No worries- I've been buying some English books too, mostly because I can't resist them.
So, blog friends of mine, any advice on raising a bilingual baby?
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