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Teaching my daughter English as a foreign language

By Jo Green - Tue 23rd Nov 2010

My three year old daughter has two close friends who she has grown up with and come through Nursery to Pre-school with. My other half and I, both being English, speak exclusively English at home (no great surprise there!) however, due to their parents nationalities, one of her friends speaks a combination of English and Castilian at home, and the other one speaks a combination of Valencian and Castilian.

When you consider that 3 year olds (of any nationality) speak in an excitable and almost undecipherable version of gobbledegook, it doesn’t help that my daughter and her friends are now enhancing this by speaking it in 3 different languages – often simultaneously.

It also doesn’t help when one of them will ask a question in one language, and the other will respond in a different one.

Whilst it is something that the English/Castilian parents seem to have been prepared for, and to a certain extent we have aswell, the Castilian/Valencian parents seem a little bewildered as to why and how their daughter has started to speak a number of phrases in almost perfect English.

It must require a massive amount of Gigabytes of memory on their hard-drive’s to be able to store all the words and phrases needed to speak these three languages (Four if you include the gobbledegook) – let alone to be able to switch backwards and forwards between them several times over the course of the same conversation.

It is such an unusual set of circumstances that I sometimes wonder how many other communities in Spain have three languages existing simultaneously, and where a language that would otherwise be ‘alien’ has been adopted subconsciously.

It must cause further confusion when the school – which teaches Valencian, but not Castilian – teaches English as a foreign language. It is assumed that Castilian will be taught at home by the parents. So whilst our daughter (and because of our daughter, her friends too) speak English well, she will be eventually be disadvantaged by not being taught Castilian.

A couple of weeks ago her teacher suggested we start to teach her Castilian at home. Not a problem, I will gladly do this as soon as I have learned the language to suitably high standard myself. Should only take me a further 16 years, in which time my daughter would probably have picked it up from her friends anywa and be teaching me the language! I am also at the stage now where I have to concentrate on developing her level of English, as Valenciano seems to be the common ground between all of the children in the loca area, regardless of their nationality.

It should be an interesting next few years!

Comment on this Blog

Quite So! - It's amusing to see small kids playing quite happily speaking a mix of different languages, and then switch to a different language again when they want something from their parents.
Jo Green - Thu, 25th Nov 2010
My husband is Catalan & at school here the lessons are taught in Catalan. Luckily, my husbands family speak Spanish together. I find the problem is, not speaking the 3 languages, which the little ones pick up very well, and accordingly, speak certain languages with different people, but the fact that I'm going to have to concentrate more on her reading and writing skills in English. The parents you mentioned should be very pleased that there children are coming home saying things in English, they are getting free English classes! Several of the parents I know have asked me to speak in English to their children as well. Why not let your daughter spend more time at her friend's house and she'll pick up Spanish more easily. It's pretty amazing how quickly they pick up several languages, I was worried at first that my daughter wasn't speaking as much as the others, but considering she speaks 3 langauges, her teacher has assured me that she's doing very well.
Caroline - Thu, 25th Nov 2010

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