Bilingual Toddlers

Updated on February 10, 2012
S.B. asks from Los Angeles, CA
11 answers

I Moved to the country of cyprus several years back from Los Angeles. My baby is now 2 and I am so confused as to what type of school to enroll her. Her father and I both speak English at home even though he is Greek. He wants her to go to an English speaking nursery school and then switch her to a Greek speaking school at kindergarten into primary school. Does anyone know if this will be a problem for the baby?? Or is it better to stick her in a Greek school all the way?? I want her to be bilingual. Ur I do want her to have a good basis in English first. My hubby says she will learn Greek by default living in cyprus.

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for such helpful answers. This is what I miss in the states, always someone willing to give advice. LO will probably be here through most of her years in school, but I do hope she decides to study in the states when she is older. Not too many bilingual schools in cyprus in the sense that either English or Greek there will be a 1 hour a day lesson in the non primary language. And I guess either way she will learn both in the correct way. Thanks again all.

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answers from Los Angeles on

My children live in Italy and go to local Italian schools. They are fluent in English as well. We speak in English to them and they seem to have a good balance on both. I would put theme in non English schools but maintain their English at home. Hope that helps.

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answers from Peoria on

I think it depends on a few things:
1 - Are you planning to stay?
2 - How important is it to you that she learns proper English?
3 - Is a bi-llngual school an option?
We lived overseas for 3 1/2 years. We sent our children to a local school. They were completely immersed and learned the other language fairly well. We only spoke English at home. However, it was difficult when we returned to the States because of the curriculum differences. There was a lot of catching up to do and it was very challenging. If I had to do it again, I would do a bilingual school. It is really important to learn that new language when they are very young. They will learn quicker and with a more native tongue. Where we lived, a lot of the Montessori schools offered that option. They had two teachers, and each one was assigned a language. That is best for the child because then they assign a language mentally to that person. If you look for bilingual, keep that in mind. It is when the teachers start switching that the child can get confused. If you choose to do all Greek, be prepared to teach your child English --grammar, spelling, etc. That is no picnic either. It can be done but it is a challenge. The other option is to do Greek school and hire an English tutor. I also encourage you to seek out organizations or other friends that are English speakers if you plan to be there permanently. Preserving your native language can be challenging when everyone around you is speaking Greek.

What a wonderful opportunity for you and your family. Enjoy it.

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answers from Dothan on

My oldest DD began speaking Spanish @ age 3 because her preschool was bilingual.

I believe you should be able to locate a school which teaches both languages.

I agree with your DH she WILL learn the Greek language as long as she lives in a country where that is the primary language. I learned Spanish by having friends who were bilingual even tho' their parents spoke only Spanish, when I traveled to Mexico I was right @ home, tho' my skills weren't the best. ;p

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answers from Los Angeles on

Lots of studies have shown that the best time to introduce a second language is in toddlerhood, and that kids this age have no confusion over which language to speak to whom. A friend's daughter who is working on a PhD in neurological development told me that the newest work suggests that different language centers are used for learning language before the age of 5 than after, and that language use in two or more languages is more "natural" to those who learn as babies than even in those who learn as young children.

One thing to consider is how academic kindergarten is in Cypress (I have no clue). If kids are expected to start learning to read and do simple math in kindergarten like they are here, your daughter will be at a distinct disadvantage when she starts school. I worked with a child like this when I was helping out in my daughter's kindergarten class many, many years ago. He spoke no English when he started and passable English by the end of the year, but was way behind the class in every academic subject and had trouble socializing for a while. My sister teaches special ed and works with English as a second language students and has said that as she follows these kids through school, some never quite catch up until middle or high school, and some never catch up at all.

Considering all of the above, if it were my child, I'd emerse her in Greek now. Put her in a Greek pre-school and have your husband speak and read to her in Greek at home. By the time she starts school, she'll be bilingual and on par with her classmates.

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answers from St. Louis on

It really depends on how well you want her to speak the languages and the schools you are speaking of.

An example would be my mom, she was second generation American. At home all the spoke was Sicilian except when they were teaching her to talk. Not sure if that makes sense. Like oh the baby, we speak English when talking directly to her but all the background noise was Sicilian. Once she learned to talk she spoke English exclusively outside the home sans family gatherings. Around family, mostly Sicilian. By the time she was sixteen she spoke perfect English, perfect Sicilian and damn good French that she learned in high school.

So what I am saying is pick the school based on academics not language. A child immersed in both cultures will learn both languages perfectly regardless of where they go to school. :)

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answers from Boston on

I think your husband is correct. The little one won't be confused at all and, in fact, you'll be doing your child a great service!

My youngest attended a Spanish-immersion program at school from K through 5th grade, though we speak English at home. Her entire education was 100% Spanish until at least 3rd (& maybe 4th) grade, when they learned to read in English (after reading in Spanish for a few years). She's now a high school senior and is still conversationally fluent in Spanish. She can flip back and forth between the two languages with great ease. Additionally, it made studying other languages much easier for her than for her single-language speaking peers.

When she was in the immersion program in elementary school, a classmate came from a home where they spoke Italian, lived in our English-speaking community and attended the Spanish immersion program at school. Now, even years later, she's still very, very comfortable and conversant in all three.

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answers from Williamsport on

Children are not at all confused by this, and I envy your situation! I'm breaking my neck trying to teach my toddlers a foreign language with no immersion possibilities where we live. If you both speak English, the nursery school does not NEED to be English, and she may have a bit more trouble starting Greek in kindergarten than sooner, but since she'll be living there, she'll totally get it. The cut-off for starting immersion learning is usually kindergarten. After that, the child is "translating" rather than learning organically, and it's harder. If you have a Greek nursery option it would be easier for her. But either way, she'll learn two languages easily. Congrats!

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answers from Kansas City on

Does your husband speak the Greek language? I assume he does. Speak both at home and she'll learn both very well no matter what happens in school. I would LOVE to speak several languages so hope she can keep them up when she's older.

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answers from Reno on

I think either way is ok-but if you speak english at home she will be strongest in english. Can you both start speaking greek at home? It won't be quite so unfamiliar to her when she enters kindergarten then. My husband is bilingual and is slowly starting to speak spanish more at home. Even our 2 year old picks it up!
Btw...I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Cyprus! Can I come visit you:) lol

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answers from Los Angeles on

Your hubby is right. Under the age of 14 kids learn languages extremely easily. My parents moved me from Italy to South Africa when I was 8 years old. We spoke Italian at home and I learnt English and Afrikaans in Primary School. All 3 languages I can speak, read and write fluently. In High School I learnt French as well and (even though I can still "sort of" understand it) I don't really "know" it like the other languages. Basically I went from only speaking, reading and writing in Italian to an English Primary School and passed both English & Afrikaans by the end of my first year. :)

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answers from Seattle on

If this can help, I am a Canadian married to a French and living in France . We have two kids ages 2 and 1. From their birth I speak exclusively to them in English and their dad in French. We used this sytem after discussing with bi-national families like ours and a meeting with a speech therapist who said "One language per parent".
I found English speaking baby-sitters where I live and my son has an hour of nursery school every week with British teachers. Apart from that, their daycare is run by French people. So they have activities in both languages

My point is, my son knows exactly what language to use with whom.
He knows many more words in English but this might change this fall as he will be entering French preschool ( no bilingual schools where we live).

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