#MicroblogMonday – When in Rome…?

Only 3 more sleeps until we start making our way towards the US to visit my family. I’m still stressed over this trip more than I am looking forward to it. I know that will change, I hope, once we board our first plane. Until then, I’ve got too much to do. Or at least it feels that way.

Mr Siili speaks only Finnish to Paxlet and I speak only English. I have no clue how it is going to work while we are in the US. My family, obviously, doesn’t speak a word of Finnish. And even if they do remember a word, I do NOT want them saying it to Paxlet as they will mangle it beyond recognition.
Should Mr Siili continue to speak to Paxlet only in Finnish? And then to everyone else in English? This is how I do it here in Finland, although most everyone understands English. However, if there are kids involved in a situation, I generally use Finnish, so that everyone understands what I am saying. Or should Mr Siili use Finnish only when directly talking to Paxlet (for example to impart some instructions or warnings), but English when other people need to know what is going on or being said? Or, or…? Or am I thinking about this too much?

What would you do?

MicroblogMonday For more microposts, go visit Mel’s blog.


16 thoughts on “#MicroblogMonday – When in Rome…?

  1. I think you said it in the post title – when in Finland speak Finnish, when in the US speak English, when talking to Paxlet.. you don’t have a choice :-). Good luck with your trip.

    • I agree with this advice πŸ™‚

      I am a mess in the days leading up to trips of any size, but generally relax once I get to the destination. I hope everything goes well for you πŸ™‚

  2. I don’t think you can set any rules for it, just go with the flow. It will probably be a bit more of a mix than when you’re at home. We speak Dutch to our kids at home and they speak French at school and with their friends, but sometimes I speak French to them too, especially when there are other French-speakers around. But I do notice that I need to switch back to Dutch when I’m trying to explain something to them or reprimand them because I sometimes get stuck when I try to do that in French, which then defeats the purpose of course. When there are other kids around they try to repeat the sounds they hear me say (the Dutch, not my possible stumbling in French), which is very funny.
    I think that it’s great that you are consistent with the OPOL method when at home, but for a short family visit a bit of a deviation shouldn’t have too much of an impact. And if you notice that Paxlet is reacting differently because your husband speaks to him in English instead of Finnish, then change back and be more consistent like at home again.
    Good luck with the preparations!

    • I have studied language acquisition once (in my former life :-)), and now, when I see it in action, in so many variants and combination, I am persuaded OPOL (one parent one language) is the best and easiest method of helping children learn any language. “Parent” can be replaced with “adult present in the child’s life regularly”.
      It is courteous to not exclude other people from the conversation, but it is more important to be consistent with the child. Daddy will wake up speaking Finnish to Paxlet despite best efforts to speak English, because this is the language he is most comfortable with, and it involves no effort in using it.
      Light reading on the matter : http://www.multilingualliving.com/2013/04/15/why-should-parents-talk-to-their-children-in-their-native-language/
      I can’t help but stress before a trip, but then the decompression is so much better, and it usually happens during the said trip, and it is quite nice. I hope it is the same for you. Have a wonderful holiday, in case I don’t get another chance to tell you so. πŸ™‚

  3. I think preparing for a big trip is always more stressful than the trip itself. Hopefully when you are away the language question will resolve itself by just doing what feels right at the time. Happy travelling!

  4. Safe travels to you! I hope that the language stuff doesn’t interfere with a wonderful time with your family. πŸ˜€

    (And travel anticipation freaks me the heck out, too. Plus the actual travel. I’m fine being in other places, but packing? Planning? *Getting There?!?!?!* For the birds.)

  5. I think travel throws routine into chaos, and that includes language norms from home. I think he should speak in whichever language feels right at the time. If they speak Finnish with each other, he could stick with Finnish. Or because they’re in an English speaking country, switch to English.

    In any case, SAFE TRAVELS!

  6. I definitely think preparing for trips is so stressful, especially with a baby and one on the way! It’s always nice to get there, but I’m a nervous wreck until we land! Good luck with everything πŸ™‚ I find it so interesting and wonderful that your child gets to be bilingual! That’s one reason I wish we had the experience of living overseas, but that would just leave us speaking English in a foreign country, which I guess does not serve the purpose of creating a bilingual child lol.

  7. If it’s only a few weeks, I don’t think it matters too much, as long as Paxlet doesn’t get confused or upset by the change. I do think it is wonderful that he’s being raised bilingual. I have a friend who was scared his children wouldn’t speak English, so he never spoke to them in his native language. That’s so sad.

  8. Awesome that you all are consistent with using the OPOL method at home. However, this is a trip to another country and lots of things and routines will be different from home. That is okay and it is good for Paxlet to experience it, especially in a trip with his extended family where hopefully they will be supportive and loving. πŸ™‚ I would tend to go with the flow and make adjustments as you go along while observing Paxlet’s comfort level. I agree with other commenters that overall hearing his dad speak English will not greatly impact his Finnish language development for a few weeks. Has Paxlet heard his father speak in English before, maybe in public away from home? Does he know his father is bilingual? I would imagine the context of the trip will offer many opportunities to let your child know he is in a different place and not everything is the same, including how his father may make changes in his behavior (i.e. language) when in the US. If your son does not know his dad can speak English, then I would tell him he can a day or two before the trip. It may help lessen the surprise.

    From what I read from your blog, Paxlet is two. So, he may not understand a lot, but he will understand it in his own way. You can talk to him more about in preparation for the trip the day before and/or two before. Share the information like a narration, like you are telling him a story. It doesn’t have to be in great detail, just the basic beginning, middle and end points. First we pack, then take a plane and buses (or fill in the blank) to visit our family. We will see your aunts and uncles and cousins and have fun … (fill in the blank). Then we will come home. From there, you can prep him the day/night before for what to expect for the next day. Two year olds don’t have great memories in the way of grasping time, but gentle, simple narration of the highlights can be comforting. It lets them know something will be different, but mom and dad will be there to support him. Focus on the fun and what you all look forward to doing.

    Another thing to consider is observing Paxlet to see how much of the change is impacting him and if it may be overwhelming him or stimulating him. It can be a lot to handle being in a different country than your own (as you may remember from when you first moved to Finland). There may be times when he may get super excited and wear himself out, almost like experiencing too much of a good thing. Or he may get cranky or scared and it be too much to handle. Or it may vary day to day or everything all at once. Try not to let this upset you, but rather make a plan for when Paxlet may need or benefit from some down time or quiet time. Even a quick break or short walk with just you or his dad could be what he needs to recharge or feel secure. You may want to create some time or some space that is like your home away from home for Paxlet. I’m not sure what your set up is for where you are staying while in the US. But, if you, your husband and Paxlet are staying in your own place, then that can be your Finland in the US and use the same or close to same routines and language practices. If you are staying with family, then maybe the room you share and/or Paxlet’s room becomes your Finland in the US. The idea is to create a safe space for him to feel some sense of normalcy, safety and comfort if and when he needs it.

    Hope this helps! Have fun and safe travels! I’m part Finnish, so I enjoy reading your blog from time to time. πŸ™‚

  9. So glad to have stumbled on your blog πŸ™‚ I generally stick with the OPOL method: only Spanish at all times regardless of place and people around, and sometimes it is a little disconcerting when I’m in a room full of German people… but if it’s absolutely necessary I will translate for the others around me what I said to my son, if not then no. My husband is more fluid with the three languages (German, English, Spanish) and will speak whatever he feels at the moment, he doesn’t mis but he goes back and forth with what language he talks to our son. K doesn’t seem fazed by this lol
    It seems that your worries are more related to others not understanding than about Paxlet getting confused. I’d say continue with what you already do at home and don’t stress about it. Just start conversations in the US if you deem necessary with, “…we each speak our language with Paxlet and will be happy to translate to keep you in the loop!”

  10. I am from India and we used to talk to my kid in our language when we were in US. Then it became difficult because when go out and I talk to him in our language I didn’t feel right. So I started using English with my kid outside. Slowly we started speaking in English in the house too. I think it’s good to use the language of the country where you live in. Easy for kids to communicate and for us too many times. All the Best for your journey. πŸ™‚

  11. I always stress before a trip and try to figure out how to handle every situation that may crop up before or if it actually does. I think you have received some great advice from people who know far better than I do about language acquisition.

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