This the third post in my mini-series on raising bilingual kid as non-native speaker. Here is the previous post.
It's going to be much shorter than the previous ones, but I feel that I want to write these down for myself.
First, I would like to summarize what we do/did:
- talk to our daughter in English whenever possible, which sounds more than we actually do speak to her in English... It also varies a lot - some days we speak almost exclusively English, some days we speak only in Czech. A "streak" can last for several days (i.e. speaking 5 days in English, then 5 days in Czech). Basically, it varies a lot. We also default to Czech whenever there are other Czech friends or family (which is a lot). Our grandmas who look after Julie quite often (1-2 days/week) speak to her exclusively in Czech as well. Our estimate of exposure for the last ~6 months is something like 20-40%
- Majority of electronic entertainment is in English. This also varies a lot as Julie sometimes prefers Czech, sometimes English content, but whenever we can, we prefer English and I think she has more than 95% of the stuff in English.
- What are these? An excellent Khan Academy Kids android app. She could play with that for hours and the content is in my opinion high quality. It's even mixed with Super Simple Songs, which she likes and is another source of good English content (and the songs are good).
- We practised a lot with (flash)cards of this type. We didn't have the ones with star alphabet but I would recommend those. She was able to spell the default English phonics for all letters (lowercased) when she was 3 years and 2 months, I think we practised the flashcards for a few months as she really liked to play with the flashcards, makeup stories about each card, search for corresponding wooden letter, or had this basic phonic application.
- Reading. This book. It makes it much easier. Mommy is pretty good at trying to play with her every day. Therefore yes, she is reading
The results? She can say simple sentences and ask simple questions, she seems to understand conditionals well too. We are sometimes even surprised she actually understands quite complicated sentences.
She can also read very simple words (she has been in "reading training" about a month), so she can read sentences like:
- the cat is sad
- mop the mud
- Peck is in the box
- Peck is not sad
- The sock is near
Generally, I would recommend:
- teach phonics spelling
- start with lowercase letters
- teach a star alphabet (damn English! We don't have this issue in Czech...)
Lastly, she also regularly sings a lot of English songs, which we like, but she did that already when she was about 2 years old.
Ups and downs
Yes, it is sometimes hard. I like one of the reviews for the book mentioned above, where one mom writes:
[..] I won't lie; at first it was like pulling teeth, and mommy needed a big glass of mommy juice after a lesson [...]
There are days when she definitely doesn't want to speak English, or it's hard to keep her reading and sometimes we slightly push her into that. Not in a way "Now you are going to read or you are not going to play", that would be a great way how to create a trauma from that so she can hate reading till the rest of her life. But we e.g. ignore that she repeats "I don't like to read". Usually, when you ignore it and show her first drawing and letters, she starts to be engaged and in a few seconds, she has so much fun. Kids... This is a repeating pattern. If you are reading this Julie when you are 20, keep in mind that you can probably read it thanks to this fact :-) ...