FAQ Friday #2: Our Bilingual Home Situation

Hello and privet!! I’ve decided to do another FAQ Friday post. The first one I did, if you missed it, was all about our names. Click here if you’re interested. That is one of the most popular questions we get and it’s practically unavoidable when introducing yourself to someone. I’ve answered it all there for you.

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on my study abroad with some of my favorite people. good times.

Today’s FAQ:

“What language do you speak at home/with kids/with each other?” 

Russian. English. Both. We’re kind of fixing this situation.

You would think that it wouldn’t be to hard to speak your own native language, but when you live abroad things get tricky. So let’s first talk about living in Ukraine. In 2010, I went on a study abroad to Russian and then moved to Ukraine in August to date my husband. We ended up staying there until the end of the year until we moved to the U.S. Being surrounded by Russian for over half a year made it so I naturally wanted to speak Russian and even think Russian. Going back and forth can get confusing so it’s easier to just have the little switch in your brain turned on “Russian mode”. At that point, I can say that my husband and I mostly spoke Russian with each other. However, there were moments when we spoke English too, just not as many.

After moving to the U.S., we continued to speak Russian as much as possible. I was going to school and as a Russian major, it was easy to keep the “Russian mode” switch turned on in my brain. Sasha was born and we spoke A LOT of Russian to him. He knew all of his facial features first in Russian, animals, and other simple words. But then something happened and we gradually stopped speaking in Russian as much. I have come to four conclusions for this decline.

1) I graduated and was no longer using my brain for Russian as much.

2) The obvious, we live in a country/state/city where Russian speaking people are very rare to be heard.

3) My husband got a job finally. One where he speaks English ALL day. His brain was doing more work in English and then it was just stay in that mode when he would come home.

4) Sasha was a little bit slower to start talking. Once he finally started to talk, he preferred English over Russian and when we would need to get him to listen to us (terrible twos and threes) we automatically spoke English assuming that he would understand better.

The past year, I have mainly spoke English and Den tends to as well until I lecture him to “PLEASE speak Russian only with the kids”. I thought it’d work out nice to just have him speak Russian and me speak English but there are a lot of mistakes that I’m now seeing in this plan. Denys isn’t home all day speaking with him which limits the kid’s time hearing the minority language. Sasha still understands Russian for the most part, but he doesn’t understand the more complex sentences. So, if Sasha doesn’t understand what Denys is saying, he’ll just speak English instead to help him….which really isn’t helping in the long run.

We kind of got into this weird language routine that has no structure at all and eventually I just got sick of it. It just isn’t working and I worry that our kids will never know Russian as long as we are living here. After a long debate, Den told me that in order for him to speak Russian with the kids, then he needs my help as well, meaning we both need to speak Russian. He doesn’t want all of the pressure on himself to make sure our kids end up speaking Russian, and I respect that wish. I never thought of that being a heavy responsibility for him, after all it is his native language, but I understand it now.

About 2 weeks ago I made a goal to speak 100% Russian with our kids and each other for at least 1 month. I can’t say we are 100% because wow, it is tough to break a habit. My head wanted to explode the first day. However, I can say that we are making HUGE progress. Our focus now is breaking the English habit. After that, we will implement more structure to this whole bilingual home situation. I have some ideas of how to help us at that point but would love any input!

Anyone here come from a bilingual home? What was your experience? Anyone currently in a bilingual home? What types of things do you do? What concerns do you have?

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7 thoughts on “FAQ Friday #2: Our Bilingual Home Situation

  1. Hey! I just started reading your blog and I really want to do the whole bilingual home thing too. I always said that I’d I ever learned a foreign language I would only speak that to my kids…well so far my oldest child only knows 5 or 6 words…it is just so hard! And my husband is no help because he doesn’t speak Portuguese. I know that it can be done, but I am really stuggling. I’m glad that I am not the only one…hopefully reading your blog can give me ideas and keep me motivated. I have bought a few Disney DVDs in Portuguese but they are impossible to find in the US. I had to get a Brazilian being them back for me. But now at least my daughter watches Frozen in Portuguese every week. Anyway, thanks for sharing. Funny how we both started our study of our second language the same day.

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    1. Hey, thanks for your comment! It is a struggle and takes a lot of effort, but like anything else, I notice that it gets easier the more you do it. I wish there were more resources here for books/movies/games in other languages. Like you, we have had to have Ukrainians send us stuff like that. The Salt Lake City Library has such an awesome selection, but we sadly can’t use it anymore. Good luck to you!

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  2. Love this. and so interesting. You don’t really realize the complications that come from being bilingual. My parents only spoke Spanish and because us kids spoke English in an all English environment, well it made the dynamics interesting.
    But yea, so so so hard to teach your kids to speak a “foreign” language. I wish my daughter would learn Spanish also, but like your husband said, all the pressure is on me, and I’m never home. It’s tough, but I’m sure you guys can do it if you really work on it 🙂

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      1. Yea that definitely helps that you’re willing to teach it also.! Just Spanish with my parents

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