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Question of the Week - Learning Languages

I spent all day today at the DC BlogHer conference, which was totally awesome! I will blog all about it after I've had some time to let it sink in.

I have had the pleasure of viewing, and reviewing on my review blog, Baby Signing Time Volume 3 and Volume 4! I couldn't be more excited about these DVDs, and if you are at all interested, please check out my review and the DVDs.

Teaching babies and toddlers to sign is really teaching them another language, as well as providing them another form of communication to ease up on their (and the parents') frustrations. I think it's so important to teach kids how to communicate, especially in more than one language. If you start teaching another language at a young age, they are more likely to pick up language even as they get older. And in today's globalized world, that is an increasingly important skill.

Which is why this week's question is:

If you could teach your child to be fluent (or you yourself be fluent) in any language, what would it be?

Is it obvious from my blog that I would love for the Pumpkin to learn italian and that I wish I was still fluent in it? I have bought board books in italian, which I read to the Pumpkin so she can hear the words and I can brush up on the language I love so much. I hope to do more with her as the years go on. I think it would be especially neat to be able to talk to my child and future children in a language that not everyone around us understands... even if spanish might be more useful in this country.

A close second for me is sign language. I would love for the Pumpkin and myself to be fluent in sign language. I have such respect for the language and form of communication. We are well on our way, thanks to Baby Signing Time and other resources, such as the ASL browser.

How about you? I know a few of you already so speak other languages with your children, either because you live in other countries or are fluent in other languages. Which are they and why are you glad you are teaching your children those languages? And what about those of you who speak only english? Do you wish you and/or your children could speak other languages?


I'm Not Skippy said…
Java. . . it's a good language that could teach him the basics of all other languages. . . that or PHP.
Bill Chapman said…
I recommend learning and using Esperanto, the planned international language.

Take a look at
paola said…
My kids are growing up bilingual (I'm an Aussie living in Italy- I know you know that already CM).I am so proud of my 3.5 year old's progress that I could burst. His first language is English and he has a cute little Australian accent and he has improved in leaps and bounds in the last 2-3 months. He speaks Italian with everyone else(and I am happy to say, with his 21 month old sister it's mainly English)and that is improving now that he has started kindergarten, but he is no way as good in Italian.

Apart from building vocabulary and enriching and enhancing mental development, having English as their other language will open so many doors for my kids. To tell you the truth, having these two language here in Italy will be more beneficial for them than having those two particular languages in Australia.

I, on the other hand, have studied 5 languages other than English over the years but am sad to say couldn't even string a sentence together in 3 of them if you asked me to. If I could speak another language well, I'd love to speak one of the local dialects here, then I'd really fit in. Sign language would be really cool too.
WeeHands said…
I love languages! Both of my children are now in French Immersion school programs because I want them to be fluent in French. We also taught them basic sign language when they were babies and was extremely helpful.

I want to expose them to as many different languages as possible. My goal is to become fluent in ASL in the next few years and then move back to learning French and Italian again.
Karen said…
Obviously sign language is our second choice, but I think Spanish would be a third.
Spanish. I want o be fluent.... DH is roughly and we have family that speak it. I need to do more to make this happen, but sometimes just parenting to all I can handle.

Also I am sure my DH would suggest PHP :) babySaid is already a computer wiz so it is only time...
Becoming Mommy said…
I don't care who you are, anywhere you go in the U.S. a good basic knowledge of Spanish is more than helpful. It makes you more marketable in business. And it makes just conducting day-to-day life easier. We live in an area with an extremely large Hispanic population. It's sometimes impossible to conduct business unless you can make yourself understood in Spanish.

And seriously? Esperanto? Besides The Incubus, was anythign ever done with that?
ImpostorMom said…
We did sign language although Boog isn't so interested in learning new signs now that he's speaking so well and so much. He still signs a lot but he hasn't requested a Signing Time DVD in quite some time. I really do love the sign language. I found it much easier for myself to learn than any other foreign language that I've ever tried to learn. They do not come easily for me. I took French and Italian in school but I barely remember any of it.
z said…
we are bilingual and hope to raise the kids the same way. (english and urdu) but if i could add languages to our family it would be arabic, spanish, french, mandarin, japanese and sign language.
I love languages and hope that my kids are at least trilingual.
Trannyhead said…
Chinese. Chinese would be way harder than Spanish (another good pick), but I think it will be increasingly useful.
Cloud said…
I live in Southern California, so the practical choice has got to be Spanish. Actually, our closest elementary school is a bilingual magnet school, and we've already talked a bit about whether we'd get any preference on getting her in since it is so close to our house.

Chinese would be good, too. A lot of my colleagues are Chinese, and it would be fun to be able to talk to them in their language as well as mine. But I have a really hard time with tonal languages. We tried to learn a few phrases while we were in China, but succeeded mostly in making the locals laugh.
Anonymous said…
I speak Swedish fluently and some Spanish. I am teaching Mimi Spanish though because we live in southern California. There are only ~10 million Swedish-speaking people in the world, and they pretty much all speak English, so it's just not as useful (unfortunately).
HeatherY said…
I started learning French really early and would love for Courtney to learn the language as well. Although, I have lost a lot of my French. I miss it. Spanish is also a great option as well for obvious reasons.
My mother's family is Portuguese and think it would be cool to learn that as well.
Anonymous said…
I, too have lost a lot of my French. Like most of it which sometimes makes me feel like a fraud for naming my blog cirque du bebe -- but that has more to do with my love of cirque du soleil than French but I digress ...

So I'd like to reteach myself French and perhaps pick up Spanish as well given our population and the inevitable need for it. I think Monkey would benefit from learning it as well.
Shellie said…
I wish I had time to learn Italian, and more French. We taught Spanish to my oldest and started out teaching the boys, but they all had enough speech and language issues we had to drop it and work on English. Now we're trying to pick up the pieces. Spanish is my priority so they can talk to family for crying out loud and know their heritage better. It's also an advantage in the workplace here. I taught a little sign to the boys and I wish I knew more because I think it would be a great study to see if you signed along with English and then signed the same things while saying it in Spanish if they would make the connection and if it would improve the ability to recognize but separate the two languages earlier, or if it would just confuse them.
hedra said…
I can't pick.

Sign/ASL is good. I had basic 'kids getting along' fluency as a kid, since I went to a school that was the mainstreaming intermediary school for kids with hearing impairments going from a School for the Deaf to 'regular' school. About a third of the students were hearing impaired. They were in with the rest of us for most classes. If you wanted friends, your odds improved if you paid attention in your ASL class... I still talk to myself in sign language (mostly finger spelling, which was my main backup plan with the other kids), and it took me until High School to stop watching people's mouths when they talked, a habit I developed with friends who were lip-readers.

So, ASL. High on the list.

But so is Spanish - relatives speak it, plus there's a large Mexican ex-pat/seasonal labor population in our area. And Chinese (my other language). And French (my other, other language). But then there's Swedish, or Norwegian, both of which could be handy with family and heritage and travel that comes with. Or a language from somewhere I've never been, where they could take the lead and read or interpret or converse easily, and I could enjoy watching them. If I'm there, anyway.

Ah, whatever language they think is cool is good, I suppose. I don't think I can pick.
Jan said…
I can't pick either. And we're not really doing anything in that regard. The kids have 20 minutes once or twice a week of Spanish at daycare.

For practical purposes, I'd say Spanish or Mandarin. For the beauty of it, I'd say Italian.

(Have you read "Eat, Pray, Love"? There's an awesome history of Italian in there -- basically it was specifically chosen from a bunch of dialects to be the official language of Italy because it's pretty-sounding. I thought that was so cool.)

Oh, or if I'm being selfish, maybe French. I took it in jr high/high school/college. Maybe a little bit of it would come back to me?
OneTiredEma said…
Hebrew, since we're planning to move to Israel soonish (1-3 yrs). The kids will, of course, pick it up there in school, from friends, from their bi-lingual cousins. They will be fine. I have a feeling I will struggle with it for years to come. Oh well.

I'd love to know ASL for real, rather than just words here and there--plus the syntax is what makes it very different from English.
I am American but my husband is French and we live in Paris. Our 15-month-old son, le Petit, is learning English and French and that's all we plan on teaching him for now. I want him to have a solid working knowledge of both languages, deep enough that he can write well and appreciate good writing.

It will be interesting to see what he chooses as a third or even a fourth language. If the countries we love and love to vacation in have any influence at all, he'll be interested in Spanish and German.

I'm wondering if anyone who is raising their children bilingually has noticed a language delay. Le Petit is only 15 months old and I know he can understand what I say to him in many situations, but he doesn't seem terribly close to speaking himself. I'm not exactly worried... at least not yet... but still.

We didn't do signing because I didn't want to add a third language to the mix, and now I'm wondering if that was a mistake.
hedra said…
@ParMaiPresque (because now that I figured it out, I can't call you PMP), language delay in bilingual children is so typical that it is almost assumed. It evens out a bit later, I think around 2 1/2 the language ability surges - it's just that now, two sets of data are being gathered, and it takes up a large amount of working room, so to speak, in their brains. ALL the same work is being done, plus extra, so there are real benefits. Don't worry about the apparent delay at this point, is the usual comment - CAVEAT! If you're worried anyway, see a qualified professional (speech language pathologist) for an assessment. The worst case is you have a baseline and more information on what to expect and how to proceed. Best case is you catch something early. 18 months is the usual first age of assessment, though. (It can be done earlier by people with the right training, but the range of normal earlier than that is HUGE HUGE HUGE.)

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