June 24th, 2004



I'm raising bilingual kids, but I don't get too worked up about it. I love the English language, it's one of my passions, and while I hope that my children will learn to love it as well, I don't see much point in getting all lathered up about whether or not they love it like I do. I know that they will learn English, since we live in a country where English is taught from a very young age and besides, they get it in the home as well. They have had English and Swedish since their birth, and are surrounded with it at home. I always speak English with my children, and Anders and I speak English together. Anders says this has helped his English retention as well, as his skill would have deteriorated majorly by now if he weren't using it on a daily basis.

Television and movies are not dubbed here (except for some children's programs) and we have provided English materials that make up over half of the books, films, videos, tapes, CDs, and computer games that the children interact with. I was home immersing the kids in English, with Martin for 3 years and with Karin for 7 months and you can see what a distinct difference that has made in the 2 of them. Martin is comfortable in English, and uses English with me and other English-speaking friends and family. He can translate on the fly and only uses Swedish words when he doesn't know the English equivalent. He does tend to use Swedish grammar when speaking English sometimes, but I don't think that is unusual.

Karin was a slow starter when it came to talking, period, and since she didn't have as much English exposure as a baby, I don't find it odd that she started late with that as well. She's coming into it slowly now, and is encouraged to use English with me. She also can translate on the fly, and I've heard her explaining to her friends in Swedish what I just said to her in English. :) She's much less confident than Martin, though, and it shows.

2 years ago, when we went home for a month, and then had my Mom and Grandma in Sweden with us afterwards for 3 weeks, the kids had 7 solid weeks of nearly exclusive English. Anders spoke Swedish with them, but otherwise, they were really soaking it up. Even though they still tended to PLAY together in Swedish, they were slowly switching into English and it lasted much longer after we returned to Sweden before they switched back completely.

We've always used the OPOL method: one parent, one language. I always speak English with the kids, and Anders always speaks Swedish with them, no matter what. It's consistency that matters and it shows. I've asked Martin to go tell his father something in English and a few minutes later heard him telling Anders IN SWEDISH exactly what I had said. Martin can read simple-reader books in both languages.

It's a little more difficult now that the kids are at the age where they have friends over, and I feel the pressure to speak Swedish since the other kids don't understand me, but I find that even though it's a little weird, repeating myself in Swedish works just fine. The thing is, THOSE children are going to be learning English soon as well, and it doesn't hurt for them to hear me speaking English to Martin and Karin. English is "cool" here, and using it is "cool." Martin was always being asked by older kids when he was 2-3 years old, "how do you say ...? how do you say ...?"

I've been told by several people who have grown children raised in Sweden with English in the home that I can expect at some point that my children will consider it embarrassing that I speak English to them, because it marks me (and them) as different, and that they may refuse to answer me in English for awhile. Since I'm fluent in Swedish, it makes no difference to me, really, what language they speak to me, as I don't even really hear the LANGUAGE, I just respond to what they SAID.

We're going to the States for a month this summer again, and it will be interesting to see how it affects their English skills. Considering how Swenglish/Svengelska has taken over my brain, I feel like they're gaining even as I'm losing. :)

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