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Teaching languages to a baby


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Wow I just had a few most annoying conversations ever in my life.

I'm a Malaysian, my husband is a Scottish, and we have one young daughter who just turned 6 months yesterday. With that said, my husband's native language is English, my native language is Dusun, but in my country, Malay is a national language.

Family members from my side keep on pushing me to speak to her in Dusun so she knows how to speak the language and family members from his side keep pushing me to speak to her in Malay so she knows how to speak the language too. But both my husband and I communicate to her in English.

I mean this is so tiring. As a mother of course I want the best for her, but planning is also important. There is no wrong to teach her the languages one by one instead of making her brain goes upside down.

I know they all care but sometimes I feel like being pushed to do what they want instead of what my husband and I want.

If you came from an inter-racial family then how do you decide which first language to teach to your baby? Or if there is another language you want your kid to master then will you teach them right away or will you wait until your kid has mastered your native?

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From what I have heard, the younger the individual is, the better it is for them to learn a new language. You'd be surprised to know that small children won't get confused from learning multiple languages. They are very much able to differentiate each language and have full grasp of each. I think you should go ahead and communicate with her in all the languages and I guess she'll thank you later.

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A while back I saw a post by a woman whom her husband wanted her to speak his language to their baby instead of hers. They both communicated in English but have different languages. While the woman didn't have any problem with the husband speaking his language to their baby, the man did with hera because of some silly reasons.

I once cited here how my younger brother was taught two languages  almost at a time as a baby growing up. According to a research, it is believed that it's easier to learn a language as a kid than as a grown up.

So, in your situation I propose you use most the language that is foreign to your household and immediate environment with your daughter. If it's English everyone speaks very often, you use Malay and the other for her. And as time goes on, she would pick up English.

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Thanks to both of you. This is my first baby so I really have no experience when it comes to teaching languages to baby. My husband can only speak one language and in My family I'm the only one who speak 3 languages so I really have no one from either sides to ask an opinion from or share an experience with.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have a nephew who speaks and understands English way better than our native language, but none of our relatives mind. The most important thing is that the child is able to communicate, and any language he or she will use is okay by us as long as we can all understand each other. Also, I hope you won't mind me saying this, but I think it should be you and your husband's decision alone that should matter as long as the decisions are what you are completely sure that it will be the most beneficial to your child's life.

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You should teach the kid the language which is used in the country that you live in, it's as simple as that.

The first language should always be that, if you want to teach the kid your other languages as he/she grows up, then do that aswell, but the priority should really be the nativel anguage of the country you live in... So that he/she can go to school and everything.

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  • 1 month later...

Wow I just had a few most annoying conversations ever in my life.

I'm a Malaysian, my husband is a Scottish, and we have one young daughter who just turned 6 months yesterday. With that said, my husband's native language is English, my native language is Dusun, but in my country, Malay is a national language.

Family members from my side keep on pushing me to speak to her in Dusun so she knows how to speak the language and family members from his side keep pushing me to speak to her in Malay so she knows how to speak the language too. But both my husband and I communicate to her in English.

I mean this is so tiring. As a mother of course I want the best for her, but planning is also important. There is no wrong to teach her the languages one by one instead of making her brain goes upside down.

I know they all care but sometimes I feel like being pushed to do what they want instead of what my husband and I want.

If you came from an inter-racial family then how do you decide which first language to teach to your baby? Or if there is another language you want your kid to master then will you teach them right away or will you wait until your kid has mastered your native?

I understand why that can be irritating. I mean, you're the mother after all, so you should be allowed to do what you think is best for the baby. That being said, I don't think there's anything wrong with teaching multiple languages either. My 1 1/2 year old kid know Filipino, Visayan and English words and he doesn't seem to get confused by them. It seems he's used to the idea that there's more than one word for each object.  :smile:

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If you came from an inter-racial family then how do you decide which first language to teach to your baby? Or if there is another language you want your kid to master then will you teach them right away or will you wait until your kid has mastered your native?

I'd communicate with my kids in the language that is spoken in the country we are currently living.  Then we'd try to teach her the language of the other parent too, just so he or she can communicate with her grandparents when they see them. 

If you don't want to teach her malay you shouldn't, after all it's your life and your baby.

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You should teach the kid the language which is used in the country that you live in, it's as simple as that.

The first language should always be that, if you want to teach the kid your other languages as he/she grows up, then do that aswell, but the priority should really be the nativel anguage of the country you live in... So that he/she can go to school and everything.

My point exactly!  I have heard a lot people say silly things like ''Oh I will teach my kid speak Spanish first'' instead of focusing on, let's say ''English'', even tho they live in the US. No point in that.  It has always been of my understanding that teaching your kid the language that is spoken in the country where one is currently living in is a must.

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At a young age it's better to teach them only one language. As she grows, you can teach her the other languages as kids learn better than grown up people, though, bare in mind that she should first know one language fully, so she won't start mixing it up. Speaking with her in three different languages is not correct and it's surely not the way to go.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Its actually amazing to see how kids can grasp many languages. My nephew knows the meaning of some words in at least three languages. They learn it well, if they learn it for fun. They just hear us say the words and repeat them and associate it with its meaning, and they are genuinely curious to its meaning. Instead of teaching them, they just need to see us talk in the desired language for a couple of months and they probably will grasp the foundation for that language. After that it will be easy for them to learn in depth.

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Since you are teaching to your child from such a young age, he should have no trouble picking up all the languages. The more languages your child will learn, the better. Why would anyone want to exclude any? Teach them all! It will be very rewarding later on.

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You cn teach a kid really easily if he is less than 5 years old. He will become really proficient in any language you teach him or her. But after 5 years, he won't be able to speak it like the native ones speak.

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Although learning a language under the age of 5 is still considered easy, the brain actually learns to distinguish the various sounds of a language within the first 6 month of its life and then it becomes much harder. For example there are no 'English' L and R sounds in Japanese, so many native Japanese speakers find it difficult to distinguish L and R sounds. Read more at my other post here: http://linguaholic.com/english-language-general-discussion-thread/improve-your-understanding-of-english-pronounciation/

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  • 1 month later...

Kids learn so quickly, you can teach them more than one language over time. That said it is up to you and your husband to decide what you want for your daughter. People will always give suggestions on what they think is the best. At the end of the day it is you and your husband who has the final say. When your daughter is older, she can learn other languages if she is interested.

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Sorry to hear this. It must really suck.

To answer your question: if you are living in America, it's more important for your child to learn English first. You want him/her to be able to communicate with other speakers. And since the common spoken language is english, english would be the best 1st language to teach.

Also, sometimes, teaching babies many languages at once delays there's speaking abilities since it's harder for them to know how to communicate, what language to use. Their brain don't work in the same way as adult brains. But eventually they do figure it out.

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Best solution in my book: Speak to him/her in all 3 languages, but speak to him/her mostly in your native language, while your husband can speak to him/her in his. He is gonna learn Malay anyway since it's gonna be the language with which his peers communicate. Take advantage of teaching him at a young age since he is gonna basically learn it unconsciously. When he/she grows up, it's not gonna be that easy.

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I think that there is nothing better than knowing how to speak in many languages and with little children it is easy to teach as they learn wuicker than adults do.

It would be fantastic if your child could learn both your languages so that both heritages are kept together. Perhaps teach one now and wait a year or two then teach the other one.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'd recommend teaching Malay and English first. Then, when she reaches 2 or 3 (or when she can speak), teach her Dunsun. It's a bit difficult but it works. All should be equally thought when she reaches the speaking age to make sure she speaks it all properly.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have a co-worker who had that same dilemma. He wants his daughter to learn English because in our country, someone who speaks good English is highly-esteemed. However, his wife also wants her daughter to learn Tagalog since their side of the family all live in the capital where Tagalog is the main language. The entire family lives in Cebu, thus, the need to learn the vernacular (Bisaya). He once came up to me because at age 2 or 3, her daughter had difficulty speaking. I asked further about the language situation and learned that they are trying to teach all 3 languages at the same time.

I remembered in one of my psychology of languages classes in college, we were taught that while it is true that children under the age of 5 can easily learn any language, it is important first for the child to have mastery in one language before other languages are introduced. So, I advised him to pick one language first, before introducing the other two languages. They made a rule in the house to speak only in English. If the daughter visits in the office, we also had to speak in English with her. In no time, her daughter began responding and started talking. This strategy worked for her daughter because she is no longer confused on what language to use, and eventually mastered it. When she developed enough confidence speaking, the other two languages were slowly introduced to her. She easily picked up Bisaya as it is the main language in the city. She also didn't have trouble learning Tagalog because most shows in the country are also Tagalog-based.

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..... Also, sometimes, teaching babies many languages at once delays there's speaking abilities since it's harder for them to know how to communicate, what language to use. Their brain don't work in the same way as adult brains. But eventually they do figure it out.

This is exactly what my Psychology of Language professor said in one of our classes. She mentioned that one of the many reasons for language delays in children is due to exposure to multiple languages during formative years (especially the early years of language development!) The baby usually ends up confused as to which language to use. The baby ends up having difficulty speaking because of this confusion. However, when mastery to 1 language is developed, learning a new language won't be as difficult then.

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They say that languages are best learnt when you are young as it is easier to pick it up. I believe that you should teach a child a language from little so that when they are older they are fluent. It is harder for adults to learn a language!

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