I am the mother of two beautiful children 3 years and 18 months. I am absolutely determined to raise them bilingually in English and Italian.
Both of us parents are Italian and we live in Rome. I would say that both of our kids are already bilingual (with the help of my poor English, DVDs and babysitter). By this I mean that my older child understands English, says a few words, numbers and various songs and my younger child certainly understands and has begun to say a few words like ball, mummy, etc.
My question is this: since the international kindergartens here in Rome are very expensive and 70% of the students are Italian, do you believe that I could spare my family this big expense and continue with dvds, babysitter and then take my children for two months a year to England to attend summer camps or even enroll them in the months of May and June in British schools? Or do you think it would be better for them to be exposed to English throughout the year, at least for the first 2 or 3 years?
Thank you for your attention!
The policy that you chose to adopt in order to raise your children bilingually is already showing good results, as you report, so I see no reason to change it. Children will develop the languages that they perceive as important around them, and your children have understood that both Italian and English matter to them.
All the suggestions that you propose to continue developing their English sound good to me. I particularly appreciated your attention to giving your children exposure to English through meaningful interaction with human beings, which is the natural way to acquire languages. As you may know, there’s controversy about exposing children to a language exclusively through electronic means, such as TV, DVDs or the internet.
I would add one further suggestion, in case it is feasible: try to arrange playing sessions, for example starting at your home, with English-speaking children the same age as yours. Invite one little friend at a time for a couple of hours, and leave the two children entirely on their own. Do resist the temptation to “help out” or organise their play — or to peep in to check on how things are going. Children know best what to do with one another, and using a language to play and organise play with peers is an infallible way of boosting a child’s interest in it.
Do feel free to contact me privately, if you wish to discuss these matters in greater detail.