To reach our goals I am not enough as the only English speaker in E.’s life.
First, I tried to find native playmates for E., but she was too little for them. But I’ll try it again when she starts being interested in playing with others, as now, at the age of 11 months, she just plays NEXT TO another child, but not WITH them.

B. is reading with E. (who is 7 months old here)

I arranged  with my best friend, B., who is an English teacher as well, to talk to E. in English only. So every Friday when she has no lessons or other programmes she comes over and plays, chats, reads out to E. It’s real fun as I can be with my friend and E. is also entertained IN ENGLISH. There are other family occasions where B. is also present (name days, birthdays, Easter etc), and even at these times when Hungarian is the major language used, B. speaks English to E. Sometimes it’s a bit chaotic and quite challenging for B. to share her attention between two languages, but we have succeeded so far. (By the way, B. speaks four languages at a near-native level: Hungarian, Romanian, English and German). Nice example for E.

Another helper of ours is A., our British nanny. A. comes once a week (on Thursdays) for 2 hours to play with E. She loves A., smiles at her as soon as she arrives, screams and babbles a lot while A. is at our place. I may claim that E. “talks” to A. the most compared to how rarely they meet. A.’s main task is to talk, talk and talk to E. Another reason why it is so useful for her to be present in our life is that I can brush up my English. If I don’t know the exact, or natural expression for some object, activites, baby language, A. is here to help me out. In the future I would like A. to come more frequently or come out with us to the playground or to the zoo. If I go back to work (which will be soon even if it’ll be only part-time) I would be happier if an English speaker took care of E. while I’m away. If she has time for us as she is quite popular with moms. A. could be a kind of replacement for me.  I know this idea won’t be very welcomed by the Grandmas.

A. is talking to E. (10,5 moths old) about animal flashcards

At the Helen Doron Early English class, our teacher, Zs., is also a kind of helper. She provides us with another occasion to practise and learn English out of our home. E. can see that other people also use this form of communication. And it is also important that she is with other kids, too.

The same applies to MEC (Mums’ English Club), except for the fact that it takes place in our home, in E.’s comfort zone.

My plan for the near future (as soon as E. can walk) is to find a playhouse where native or non-Hungarian mommies go with their little one.


Plans, aims and strategies

I might have started with this post at the beginning.

  1. Why do we want E. to be bilingual?

    First of all, nowadays one language is not enough in our globalised world. If you want to study or work abroad, it is a must to have the English language. Second, our native language is Hungarian, which is far from a world language. A language, which can be used nowhere else in the world but in Hungary. Life in Hungary is not what everybody dreams of. One or two more languages give the opportunity for E. to choose where to live. Third, having another language in our life opens the mind to the other culture; one becomes more empathic, understanding and approachable. When making friends or new connections, language obstacles are non-existent. Last but not least, as far as I have experienced it, language learning is fun, a kind of intellectual entertainment.

    I could go on listing more and more reasons why we want our little one to speak both Hungarian and English on the same (near) native level. And this leads us to the next point:

  2. Main aim

    Perhaps it’s a little far-fetched but a sophisticated, near-native level is the main target concerning E.’s level of English by the time she’s 18-20 years old. In the short-term, until she’s at home with me up to the age of 3 – 3,5, I’ll be the main English input with the assistance of some helpers. Whenever we are the two of us we’ll speak English (which means now I speak and she babbles). In the long-term, I’m not so sure: English nursery, English speaking school according to the Hungarian national curriculum, moving abroad… these are all question marks. But now I’m trying to concentrate on the short-term aims (loads of English input of different kinds: spoken interactions, songs, rhymes, books, videos, native playmates, Helen Doron Early English… whatever).

  3. Strategy

    Our strategy is simple. I speak English to E. whenever we are alone and there is no Hungarian relatives or companion around. D. speaks Hungarian to her daughter, but there are some activities which they do together in English (such as using the computer or later watching TV etc.). Later on, when I’ll spend less time with E. we will introduce ‘Language by Time’ strategy. It means there are given time periods when only English will be used (e.g.: Saturday mornings, every day after nursery/school from 4-6, craft activities etc.) Another possibility is ‘Language by Situation’ i.e. every breakfast, homework doing, or bathing is in English. We can also introduce the ‘Language by Location’ strategy. In this case we would use English at the kitchen or bathroom, at a special playhouse, or at a playmate. At the Helen Doron Early English school. I haven’t decided which suits us more (maybe a combination), but we’ll try it when the time comes and I’ll let you know about the advantages and disadvantages.

And now only one more point is missing: HOW we are doing it. So the rest of the posts will be about our daily life using English (and Hungarian).