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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 5:23 pm 
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Matthew and his wife Y want to raise their children to be bilingual in English and in Y's native language, Vietnamese. Matthew's Vietnamese is pretty rusty, so he thinks Y should teach him and their children at the same time. Y thinks that Matthew needs to study on his own until he can keep up. Who is right?

Judge John Hodgman Episode 78: The Mother Tongue


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 11:24 pm 
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Kirk in Klingon Kourt is a pretty great summary-judgment test.

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PostPosted: Thu Oct 04, 2012 2:56 am 
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THANK you bailiff Jesse for the comments on the correct male/female spelling of the name Jesse/Jessie! It doesn't bother me as much as it confuses me as to why my name is so commonly misspelled.


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:14 pm 
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This was a great judgement. I wish more parents would raise their children to speak more than one language. As a Second Language Acquisition professor, I would like to add that context can make all the difference in grasping the language. Y should think about basing her initial sessions around heavily contexted situations such as making dinner or discussing a movie they just watched. Y should always speak Vietnamese to her child and let her pick it up rather than waiting for the Daddy sessions. She'll learn it all soon enough. My four-year-old niece living in Russia learned Russian in about a month (her aunt took much longer).

Matthew should make and study flashcards of the new words he learns to flip through during his "off" days, One reason immersion works is repetition so the flashcards is one way to mimic that. He should also speak Vietnamese to his child throughout the week especially when they are having fun or playing. Just some words here and there to wipe away the child's reluctance to learning the language.

It is difficult to learn a language as an adult, because you seemingly lose every ounce of dignity and revert to being a child again, but it is so worth it. Even a basic knowledge of another language opens your world and expands your mind.

(stepping off of soapbox)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:56 pm 
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There are two issues here:

how best to raise a chld bilingually
and
how best to acquire a second language as an adult

these may not work together well.

There is little doubt that the best way for the child to become bilingual when parents speak different native languages, is for each to speak their native tongue to the child. Exclusively. Despite the protests and grimaces from in laws, friends, and whomever. As for the kids talking to you, I don't think it matters as strongly.

I speak from experience. Out two sons, both in college now, are bilingual in Japanese and English. My wife was -- and is -- exceptionally disciplined about this. Our kids are fluent -- although only verbally -- reading and writing is another matter and would require more serious endeavor.When they were younger she would usually ask "Nani?" (What?) if the kid spoke to her in English, and wait for a "proper" answer -- but not necessarily as strictly.

As to a parent acquiring the skill, I'm afraid the dad here has to get off his butt and to a language class. There is no way he will acquire this as a child does. (I am guilty here -- I did this only until we were married. Even after living in Japan for several years, I coped but did not go further.) But that did not stop my kids from achieving their bilingualism. If that truly is the goal, this seems to be the way to go. (As a matter of fact, my wife became a Japanese language teacher as a side effect!)


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 2:08 pm 
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lieberson wrote:
There is little doubt that the best way for the child to become bilingual when parents speak different native languages, is for each to speak their native tongue to the child. Exclusively.


My sister and I listened to this episode together (she's an utter language nerd, graduated with a double degree in Spanish and French, and actually took Vietnamese in college) and she said much the same thing. She mentioned that a child doesn't have the mental separation that we do to understand "these words are English" and "these words are Vietnamese", so if the bilingual parent is speaking in both languages, it's confusing. The child can, however, understand Mommy-language and Daddy-language, if each parent is speaking their own native language.

Great episode. My sister and I both laughed out loud at the Canadian House of Pizza and Garbage callback, and "you are burned".


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PostPosted: Fri Oct 19, 2012 11:33 pm 
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itsdanilove wrote:
lieberson wrote:
There is little doubt that the best way for the child to become bilingual when parents speak different native languages, is for each to speak their native tongue to the child. Exclusively.


My sister and I listened to this episode together (she's an utter language nerd, graduated with a double degree in Spanish and French, and actually took Vietnamese in college) and she said much the same thing. She mentioned that a child doesn't have the mental separation that we do to understand "these words are English" and "these words are Vietnamese", so if the bilingual parent is speaking in both languages, it's confusing. The child can, however, understand Mommy-language and Daddy-language, if each parent is speaking their own native language.

Great episode. My sister and I both laughed out loud at the Canadian House of Pizza and Garbage callback, and "you are burned".


Someone I went to college with is not a native French speaker but has an advanced degree in French. She speaks to the children in French, and her husband speaks to them in English, and she documents it in this blog: http://babybilingual.blogspot.com.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 20, 2012 2:14 pm 
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itsdanilove wrote:
lieberson wrote:
There is little doubt that the best way for the child to become bilingual when parents speak different native languages, is for each to speak their native tongue to the child. Exclusively.

...so if the bilingual parent is speaking in both languages, it's confusing. The child can, however, understand Mommy-language and Daddy-language, if each parent is speaking their own native language.


The child will be "confused" for a bit, but s/he will work it out. Children are awesome little linguists and can learn to code switch on their own. When I lived with my sister in Rome, it took my three-year-old nephew about a month to sort English from Italian. My sister spoke both Italian and English to him so he used a mixture with her and his friends (all bilingual). When I came along he did the same with me, but eventually realized he had a non-Italian speaking aunt and switched to English only with me. Come to think of it, my nephew by marriage did the same thing when he came to the US at age 4. I digress.... my point is the focus should largely be on the Dad, the child will sort it out.


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