L. has arrived

Our baby daughter came to this world on 29 December 2015. 1.30 am in Róbert Károly Hospital.

She was 2800 gramms and 49 cms. Teeny-weeny, cute and beautiful.  She’s sleeping a lot.

We are both healthy and all our family are over the moon.
E. is very proud and happy, got a Lego Junior from her baby sister.

We’ve already come home and try to adjust to the new situation. It’s quite hard for all of us.

No time for English as for the time being. Except for my friend B, coming over and playing with E. in the evening. Let’s hope I can find time and energy to do some things in English in the next couple of weeks.

New year – new family member

The time has come to break the good news. Our family is growing. At the very moment I’m 9-month pregnant, which means an extra hard year behind us. Still, we are so happy and grateful to welcome the new baby in our family. I’m due on January 8th, 2016.

About the baby (and the pregnancy):

It’s a girl and her name’s initial is L. She’s very active in the tummy; her high time is between 5-6 am, 10-11 am, 5-6 pm and some time after 9 – whenever I lie down in bed she starts partying. How wonderful she’s got a routine. I pray to God she’ll stick to this when she’s born.

L.’s got a lot of hiccups, just like E. in my tummy. But her reaction to them is totally different. While E. bore it without any resistance, L. is really annoyed by her hiccups and starts kicking and moving around until it goes away.

The most important of all is that she is healthy and everything has been going well with my pregnancy. Perhaps as I’m older or just because every pregnancy is different from the other, I don’t feel so good in my skin as with E. (I know, I know I shouldn’t compare them).
– I had the morning sickness with L. but not with E. I’ve been more tired with L., though I had lots of time on my hand to relax with E. With an almost 4 year old it’s unimaginable.
– Around the 7th month of pregnancy with L. insomnia kicked in for a few weeks. I slept like a log until the last moments with E.
– Braxton hicks started about a month ago, which are rather frightening and I’ve been living in continuous uncertainty not knowing when the real birth-giving starts.
– I’ve been ill every other week since I got pregnant. Either E. brings something home from the nursery or I seem to catch illnesses more easily. (I’ve had 2 stomach bugs, 3 colds, 2 coughs, and 3 or 4 viral infections. I’m ill at the very moment too and I can only hope it’ll go away by the time we get to the hospital)
– I’ve got gestational diabetes. Not so serious (I do not need to count CH), still I have to keep a diet. It’s been 3 months now I’ve got used to it, however at the beginning I though it was the end of the world. I try not to eat anything with white flour or sugar in it.

About E.:

We told E. the big news quite early at the beginning (I think the baby was about 12-14 weeks old). As she is a very clever girl and interested in the human body to a great extent there was no point talking about flowers and bees, or the stork bringing the baby.

We showed her picture books and videos about the pregnancy, how the sperm meets the egg and become one, how they are joining/growing and so on. She seemed to understand the whole process (whenever we asked her about the baby later on, or how it was created she could exactly tell us every detail we’d explained to her.), which surprised us a lot. There were a few weeks when she always wanted to talk about the baby, to watch videos about the growing baby in the womb, to know how big the baby is and how she was developing.  She was quite excited. Then after a while she lost interest in the topic, which was kindled again when my bump was getting bigger.

We selected her old baby clothes together and she was more than happy to give them to her baby sister. The same happened with her toys. She helped me separate the baby toys she’s not playing with any more and she called the box L.’s box. Once I told her that we need to put away a few pairs of sock as she’d grown out of them, she highlighted that L. can use them soon. So sweet! What’s more, she wanted her sister to sleep in her room. (E. got a new ‘big girl’ bed and she offered her old one to L.)

Of course, we’ve been reading some books about new babies born in a family. We tried to focus her attention on how much babies might cry, and not being able to play with a newborn at the beginning. But she enjoyed the idea that she’ll never be alone in the future as she’ll have a baby sister. She also cherished the fact that she knows everything a baby doesn’t and she’ll be the one who’ll teach her. She doesn’t really want to talk to L., she prefers if Daddy reports to L. what “her big sister is doing or saying” ( – Daddy, tell L. what her big sister is playing with.” etc.)

About us:

Once I’m scared to death how I will survive with two small kids, with a 4-year-old energy bomb and a newborn who needs all Mommy’s attention. At other moments, of course, I feel confident and strong and I feel experienced enough to cope with the situation. But honestly I have no idea what we are facing…

One thing is sure: our language journey must go on. Though it is also rather uncertain how I’ll be able to write the blog, prepare activities for E., start everything from the beginning with L., find a native nanny and so on and so forth.

And there’s Daddy, who doesn’t like talking about his feelings, but I know he’s burdened with responsibility, financial issues, paternal fears or how he could be present more in our lives to help and support in as many ways as he can.

For sure, challenging times are coming for all of us; magical, blessed, still difficult and troublesome. But the challenge has been accepted.

28 Dec. 2015, 5.54 am
It might happen that our sweet daughter is born this year. 8 minute contractions have been on for more than 2 hours now.

07. Jan. 2016. – see an update on L’s arrival in our family

FAQ

In the last couple of weeks I have bumped into a lot of mums who asked me similar questions about raising our daughter bilingual in a totally monolingual environment. So I collected a bunch of questions and my answers to them with some links from earlier blog posts:

  1. Do you speak to her English only?

No, I don’t. I can’t do that. My mother tongue is my mother tongue, no matter how high my level of English is. (High level of language command is relative. I always feel my English is deteriorating.)

I assigned certain times to speak English. When E. was a baby we had a timetable which meant that we used a little bit more English than Hungarian as she spent loads of time with me. Then we needed to change our schedule, still we had 50-50 % balanced language usage. (When she was around 2). Nowadays, (she’s almost 3) we are in trouble with the balance between the two languages as we do not spend so much time together therefore there is less English in her life. BUT! Her English basis is so strong that she asks for changing languages when she feels she misses one of them (it’s usually English)

Even today, whenever there are just the two of us she says: – Uh-uh, Mommy. We need to change into English. We are just two.
or
– I’ve already changed into English, because there is only Mommy and I.

 

  • When do you speak English to her and when Hungarian?

    There are many methods you can follow. What I use is a special one: I call it the timetable method. By now we don’t have a timetable any more. Whenever we can, we speak English, as the Hungarian input of the environment is too influencing.

  • When did you start talking to her in English?

    When we took her home from the hospital. At first, I was just singing songs and chanting rhymes to her in English. I wasn’t sure about what I was doing and it felt strange. Then I got some inspirations after having read some books and contacted some other moms in the same shoes. From the age of 6 months I’ve been talking to her in English just like in Hungarian.

  • Wasn’t she late with speech development?

    Not at all, although it would have been perfectly normal. She was about 1 year old when she could say 6-8 English words (and Hungarian ones too). Actually, her first word (bib) was in English. Of course, these words were fuzzy and not distinct for the untrained ears. But by the time she turned 18 months these words had become clear and a LOT more had been added to them. Not to mention, she started to build up 2-3 word sentences at that time too.

    I have to admit that the period between the age of 12 and 18 months was filled with more English sessions than Hungarian.

  • Doesn’t she mix the languages?

    She does! At first she didn’t, however, nowadays more and more. I’m not worried about it… okay… I am a little bit concerned, but I know if we keep up the balance between the languages she’ll have all the language tools in both languages to express herself. Most of the time she mixes Hungarian into her English because she doesn’t know a word or she can’t express something due to lacking a structure.

    Though it happens the other way round, too. She makes her grandparents puzzled when she asks for some stories with the telescope in it (mind you, pronounced it with a perfect British accent) or when she says she wants to play on the see-saw at the playground. Sometimes she names some bugs (bumblebees, wasps, ants) or plants (pansies, daffodils, shepherd’s-purse etc) she sees in the park in English. They can sort out this teeny-weeny language problem… for the time being.

  • What do you do when she mixes the languages?

    I keep on talking in the given language. I don’t change. And I do NOT advise you to let your child take the lead (although it is also an option.) I go on talking, let’s say, in English when she says some Hungarian words or sentences here and there. If I know she could say it in English I ask back: – What did you say? or – What’s that in English?

    If I am aware of the fact that she can’t express herself, I simply repeat in English what she said in Hungarian. Some sources suggest not to make your child repeat a word or sentence, yet sometimes I ask her to repeat just to reinforce we use English and help her fix a structure she cannot use (at all, or properly). Nonetheless, I’m not forcing it. Normally, she repeats expressions after me by herself. If she doesn’t want to, we move on.

    Also, you can pretend you do not understand what your child says, but in our case (we do not follow the One Parent One Language -OPOL-strategy; she can hear me talk both Hungarian and English) it wouldn’t work as my daughter knows that I understand and speak both. The other problem with this could be that your child can get frustrated if he or she can’t put an idea or a wish across.

  • What English activities/programmes can you take part in?

    We used to have a native British nanny for almost 2 years. I’m really grateful for her as she meant that I could have some free time (cooking, washing, ironing, shopping, cleaning etc.) while I knew English was still in focus in my daughter’s life. Now we are looking for a new nanny. If you happen to know someone in Budapest who would be interested I would appreciate it.

    I’ve organised a Mums’ English Club (MEC) in the library nearby, where mums gather with their little ones and chat in English while the kids play away. At the end of our sessions we sing some English songs for the kids. An afternoon session of MEC is badly needed but I haven’t had time to find a place where we could go free of charge.

    We’ve been taking part in the well-known Helen Doron School’s programme since E. was 10 months old. We are planning to leave it, but I’ll write about that in a later post.

    For almost a year we took part in a swimming course which was instructed both in English and Hungarian. We met there some non-Hungarian families who communicated mainly in English, so E. could hear during the swimming sessions that English is not just Mommy’s crazy language.

    We also visited Rhyme Time sessions (singing and playing in English) for a few times, but we do not go regularly.

  • Does Daddy speak English to her?

    He does. Daddy speaks a lot of languages, it’s no problem for him at all. What’s more, practising English regularly helps him improve his spoken skills as well. I suppose he also enjoys our English session;

    Again, at the beginning we did it differently. When Daddy arrived home from work we changed into Hungarian, but the whole day was in English. Nowadays, as I’m starting to work, E. is spending more time with the grandparents or she is in the nursery (not to mention that our native nanny, A. has left) we have been trying to fit in as many English sessions as we can.

    We have plenty of dinners, weekend programmes, playground visits, craft activities and bath times in English with Daddy. I’m very lucky, because my husband is very supportive concerning our bilingual project.

  • Can she say sentences?

    Haha. This has been the funniest question so far I’ve received. Sure she can. 🙂 Sometimes very complicated ones. I was really amazed when she said a passive sentence in the playground (– Look, Mommy, the other swing is taken) or when she talks to her soft toy using present perfect (– What have I told you?). One day she was replaying a Berry and Dolly episode (Gingerbread) that we watch in English.

    The following left her mouth: – I’m making gingerbread with the cookie cutter and then I’ll put it out in the winter (sic) to cold (sic). Magpie, (that is me) come and take it away.
    Later in the story: – Don’t take away that belongs to somebody else.

    Here is the episode.

    Not only her sentences but her vocabulary is also outstanding. I’m often surprised at how eloquent words she knows. The other day she called a pan saucepan. I don’t think I have ever used this word with herOr she can name different kinds of onions: leek, garlic, spring onion as well as varied expressions for the eating process: munch, chew, stuff your face, digest, feed, bite

     

  • How do you “teach” her (sic)?

    This is exactly how this question is asked most of the time.

    And the answer is : I do not teach her.

    What I do is to play with her in English just like in Hungarian. We do the daily routines in both languages. I try to prepare everyday and special activities for her which give us a chance to meet a lot of new situations:

    – experimenting,
    – prepping for holidays of the English-speaking world,
    – doing fun craft activities,
    cooking and baking
    doing housework together
    exploring nature
    reading books and singing a lot as well as watching videos

    These are just a few examples. In short, we LIVE our lives in 2 languages.

    +1. How shall WE start?

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started” – Mark Twain

So just start it.

If you want to get some ideas read through the blog… HAHA. Believe me, it’ll be much easier to find your own ways. But you can get some ideas here. (Feel free to search for keywords if you’re looking for something exact)

Start with some songs that you sing to your child while changing nappies or waking him/her up.

Search some videos online around a topic (cars, shapes, animals, numbers, planets etc.) that your child is interested in and watch them together. You can also explain what you see in the videos.

Learn some rhymes/songs with sign language and play with your munchkin.

Flashcards are almost always fascinating for children, but rather time-consuming to prepare your own home-made ones. On the other hand, our own flashcards are much more attractive to my daughter. You can find really good flashcards online, which you only need to print (and perhaps laminate).
If you don’t mind spending some money, you can buy some beautiful ones.

And I haven’t mentioned the endless opportunities that books offer to speak and practise a foreign language.

Again, these are some very basic ideas to start with your little one from an early age.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me either in the comments or via email. You can come and visit  my facebook page as well.

Enjoy!

Test – meeting a native cousin

This weekend is all about relatives and languages. This is E’s first real life test of her English (apart from our native Nanny). My husband’s brother (M) and Spanish speaker wife (V) came to visit (they live in Germany) and I also had a little chance to practise my Spanish (which is surprisingly good, taken into account the little I’ve had to study in the last couple of months). This was my test.

E’s test was to meet her 7 year old native English speaker cousin (K) as my husband’s uncle and his family also came home for a visit (they live in the UK).

To cut the long story short, it was fantastic.
K and E played as if they’d known each other for a long time and language problems were nonexistent. There were some issues because of the age gap between them but not because they did not understand each other.
First, K came up with an idea to make a princess dress for E. So she took some paper, I found some crayons and markers and the work started. Drawing, colouring, sticking, trying on. 
preparing the dresses
They interacted with each other in the most natural way: asking for a marker, saying thank yous, offering paper and Cellotape to each other and ask what the other is drawing/doing.
Let’s try it on. I’ll help you.
A beautiful princess
The magic wand was a great hit when they showed the outcome to everybody around the house.
Magic wands
Then they continued playing: I’ll turn you into a … magic wand game. E understood it very quickly and started to say: Mommy, I’ll turn you into a bed.
So I lay down and they both climbed and lay on me. But we were frogs, babies, chickens, bum-bums 😀 , horses, cats, princesses and so on.
After this the “Five little monkeys jumping on the bed” game came with a lot of jumping and falling, then they went on to play hide and seek. And this wasn’t the end. K improvised a hopscotch, then we watched some Mother Goose Club videos on YouTube. 3 hours flew by really fast, we hardly noticed it. I should have taken more photos but to be honest I just wanted to enjoy the time with them.
We had a lovely time together and loads of fun. E passed her first “test” with flying As. She wanted to play with K no matter what (once K wanted to lift her up and dropped her. E cried for 2 minutes then running after K asked her to play more).
I was so proud of her managing in English and enjoying herself with an English speaking child to a great extent. The best feedback ever!!!

About our family

The most important of all is that the close family are all Hungarians. There might be an exception in the near future. My sister-in-law-to-be is a Spanish speaker, which is great news for us if we take the possible other languages for E. to learn apart from English into account.

D. is daddy, my husband who I met in 2009 December.
2010 (July): we moved to our newly bought home
2011 (May): we got married
2012 (May): E., our daughter was born

D. speaks several languages: English and German in the first place on high levels. He also speaks Spanish and French. I don’t know much about his other languages, like Italian Serbian, Croatian, Chinese as I haven’t heard him talk in these languages but he spent several years learning them. No comment I guess.

My brother-in-law lives in Germany with his Spanish speaker girlfriend. So he has English, German, Spanish, too. (July 2013. – they got married so official we are a multilingual family 🙂 )

E.’s grandparents on D.’s side speak German as well. One of D.’s uncles lives in the UK with his Spanish speaker wife. Their daughter is probably the first bilingual in the family as she speaks Spanish and English as well. What a pity they don’t pay attention to her Hungarian so much. She would be multilingual then.

My Mom learnt Russian as everybody else here in Hungary at her school time, but, alas, she has forgotten all of it, though she used to be really good at it.

I, myself, speak (and teach) English, but also learnt German and French. Unfortunately, they are so deep down I cannot see them anywhere in me. However, in the future I’ll brush them up, when E.’s going to learn some other languages.

As for languages, we are well-off. We can’t complain.

If you are more interested in our family in more detail you can find it on a separate page.