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Old 09-10-2018, 08:35   #1
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Second language for kids

Hello everyone, I had a question about what would be a good second language for children to learn / be exposed to before going out cruising. We are a Canadian family that is essentially monolingual English. I am able to get by in French. Our children are starting kindergarten next year, and the wife and I are debating whether or not to put them in an immersion language program, or just to keep them in the English stream.

We initially thought that Spanish immersion might be good, because we plan on cruising for 1-2 years in the Caribbean to get started, before considering cruising in the South Pacific afterwards. However some people suggested perhaps French might be a good second language to pick up, so that that way the children can meet more friends, for example another kid boats.

Thank you for your advice and experience in this regard!
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Old 09-10-2018, 10:04   #2
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Re: Second language for kids

From a utility POV Mandarin better than Spanish, but the practical considerations may not allow.

But absolutely yes, bilingual at as young an age as possible is tremendous for mental development and expanded world view, regardless of the language choice being "useful" or not.

Ideally each parent will communicate with the child at home in each language exclusively, so "code-switching" is transparent and effortless.

That would mean French. Also if you can socialize with Francophone families, a big plus.
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Old 09-10-2018, 10:17   #3
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Re: Second language for kids

+1 for French. It'll be useful in the South Pacific and on the French islands in the Caribbean (and also when you return to Canada!). Second place, I would suggest Spanish.

I'm not so sure Mandarin is very useful, even in China. English is the language of business in China. Cantonese might be more useful in China, given the number of speakers.
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Old 09-10-2018, 10:22   #4
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Re: Second language for kids

We left for cruising from Alberta (Edmonton) 3 years ago.. First, "The Caribbean" is a big place. Do you mean the Eastern or Western Caribbean?

For us in the Eastern Caribbean, we really wished we had better French. French is spoken on pretty much all the islands (many are actually Creol, but they speak both French and Creol). Its almost exclusive on Guadaloupe and very useful in Martinique.

Of course Spanish is usefull in the Western Caribbean, but quickly becomes less useful in the South Pacific. We have been told by many of our cruising friends that went that way, that French is much more useful.

If it was me, I would opt for French.
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:03   #5
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Re: Second language for kids

For the most part, it doesn't matter so long as their brains get wired to understand a different language. The rest falls in place.


Learning most languages is not difficult. Six months of immersion will make even the dumbest person almost fluent.



My poor family, while not fluent, understands some German, Pidjin, and Pig Latin as a result of my ramblings. They pick it up because they hear it.


The question is: what is the long-term goal?


Spanish for those going into social work and law enforcement.


French for those who will travel or work with overseas organizations.


There are a billion Mandarin-English bilingual people. I don't think it is financially an investment.


Right now in USA the hot jobs are for those speaking Farsi, Pashtun, etc. No surprise. The demand by US .MIL outstrips supply. But then again, when I was a kid Japanese was all the rage, so times change.


If the plan is to cruise through SoPac, the kids will learn the Polynesian and Pidjin dialects on their own. The local languages, like Lokuru, not so much.


My suggestion is to learn ASL (sign language) with them. As a non-verbal language it is extremely useful, particularly on a boat.
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:09   #6
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Re: Second language for kids

Maybe nothing to do with the OP, but just correcting misinformation.
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Originally Posted by Copacabana View Post
I'm not so sure Mandarin is very useful, even in China.

Cantonese might be more useful in China, given the number of speakers.
Wut?

Cantonese is only spoken in Hong Kong, Macau Guangdong province, and by a lot of émigrés.

The official mainland language, spoken by nearly 20% of the world's population, is Mandarin.
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Old 09-10-2018, 11:12   #7
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Re: Second language for kids

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For the most part, it doesn't matter so long as their brains get wired to understand a different language. The rest falls in place.
It does vary by person, but having at least two to start with, does make new ones much easier.
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Old 09-10-2018, 12:11   #8
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Re: Second language for kids

Well, in Canada I would think it would almost be a no-brainer that French would be a good second language. On the other hand, elsewhere in the Americas and the Caribbean, Spanish will be the more useful. There are a number of islands in the Caribbean where French is spoken, but in general Spanish is more prevalent than French. And, of course, if you get to the South Pacific, then French becomes more useful.


The good news is that French and Spanish are both Latin languages. That means that if you learn one, you will find a lot of similarity in the other. In fact, since English is sort of an agglomeration of French and German, with some ancient Gaelic tossed in for good measure, there is actually a lot of similarities between English and any Latin language.


For example, in English there are about 1200 nouns that end in "tion." Things like information, reservation, confirmation, and so on. Almost all those (3-4 exceptions) are the same in French and in Spanish as they are in English. They are pronounced a bit differently, and in Spanish the ending is "cion," but otherwise they're the same. So there you go... Now you know more than a thousand words in French and in Spanish.
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Old 09-10-2018, 12:31   #9
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Re: Second language for kids

To the OP, you might experience some value in watching this video about the Coconuts, a family with 4 young children sailing together in some remote parts of the world. They tend to stay here and there for 2-3 months and the kids attend a local school. As a result they quickly pick up and learn whatever language that is happening.They start talking about this from the start of the 12th minute.
As you may notice, if the video sparks an interest there are actually 5 videos in the series. I picked this one because the Mum and one the children discuss language, schooling etc.
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Old 09-10-2018, 13:06   #10
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Re: Second language for kids

Does the immersion program come at the cost of losing something else? English skills, or time taken out of alternative subjects?

While there's a lot to be said for French being the #2 language at least up in Quebec, and for being spoken in a number of places around the world, "not quite Spanish" is indeed the global number two. (As an Argentine friend of mine said one day "Spanish is Andalusian or Catalan, and that's not Spanish." Referring to Puerto Rican.) Still, all of south and central america speak some variation of it, except of course Brazil.

There's a chinese community almost everywhere and growing business with china, so Mandarin grows in value, even if it may not be best for your cruising purposes.

I'm surprised they would have to be "immersed" at this age, rather than be able to get a taste of several different languages to see what appeals to them.
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Old 09-10-2018, 13:28   #11
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Re: Second language for kids

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Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
From a utility POV Mandarin better than Spanish, but the practical considerations may not allow.

....
It depends on how soon the OP plans to be in the South Pacific. Right now French, English, Kiwi and any Australian dialect is best. At the rate the Chinese are moving in Mandarin might be good in 10 years.
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Old 09-10-2018, 15:21   #12
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Re: Second language for kids

Thanks for all the replies here, they are all very helpful. Just some further information about ourselves. We live in a city which is unfortunately pretty much unilingual English as well. "Immersion" schooling basically means instruction is all in one language such as French or Spanish, which is offered in our city. Otherwise, every day life outside of this school setting would be in English, as were not as fortunate to be in a multilingual city such as Montréal, or perhaps another European city.

We were planning on cruising when our oldest child is in grade 2, so he would have maybe 2-3 years of formal schooling before we set off. The youngest would be just finished kindergarten. Our thoughts initially were to have them in Spanish because that is our weakest language, and we were hoping that as they were learning it, we would be able to pick up some of the language as well, obviously with some self-study. However, the utility of Spanish where we are living probably is not all that great. I'm not concerned about French, as I am conversant in it.

I was wondering more in terms of the social aspect for children. I would imagine that most kids both would be English-speaking in general? We are planning on cruising Eastern Caribbean mainly for the first year. We don't have definitive plans afterwards; it will depend on whether or not we like cruising enough to carry on. I would imagine that we would continue on South and West through Panama Canal to the Pacific Islands. So maybe in this regard, Spanish would not be as useful as we would have thought as we're skipping out on most of the Spanish speaking countries, and it doesn't sound like many cruisers are Spanish.

I agree with you that Mandarin, or Chinese (actually I speak Cantonese fluently) will certainly become more and more important. Having said that, I imagine there to be almost no Chinese cruising families out there, with perhaps the odd exception? (Have any of you met any Chinese cruising families in your travels?)
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Old 09-10-2018, 16:48   #13
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Re: Second language for kids

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Originally Posted by elee View Post
I was wondering more in terms of the social aspect for children. I would imagine that most kids both would be English-speaking in general? We are planning on cruising Eastern Caribbean mainly for the first year. We don't have definitive plans afterwards; it will depend on whether or not we like cruising enough to carry on.
In the Eastern Caribbean, there are quite a few French boats. As in, they only speak French. Unfortunately for us, since our kids do not speak French they are unable to play with those kids as easily. Of course kids are kids and still play, but inevitably the kids try and seek out other kids they can converse with.

Again.. We have spent 3 years here in the Eastern Caribbean and French is WAY WAY more useful. Even the non-french islands the locals speak fluent French.

Not saying Spanish won't be useful for some of the trip (DR and Puerto Rico), but after those 2 islands, there is zero spanish.
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Old 09-10-2018, 17:06   #14
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Re: Second language for kids

IMO your only option is french. When you start cruising the kids education does not end, you will have to switch to a form of home schooling, and maybe enrolling them in a local school when you stop for longer in one place. Doing the home schooling in english looses any benefits from the second language school you are enroling them now. One of you must be fluent in the kids schooling language in order to continue their education.
Spanish and chinese you can teach as foreign languages if you like (with schooling in french the kids will not consider it a foreign language, they will naturally think in it).
A big help to you would be to switch now to french language television programs for you and your kids. That will get you up to speed with french for your home schooling days and give the kids a better chance in kindergarten and school. Since you live in a basicly monolingual city the kids class will probably consist of a some (few) native french speaking kids and kids like yours with basicly no knowledge of french. They need to exercise the language outside school and TV and games in french are best for that, because that will be what interests them.
For spanish, one of the parents should take some formal (evening) clases in the language to get a grasp on vocabulary and formal grammar. On the boat you can then have big fun learning spanish all together, this will make home schooling more palatable to the kids. Begining to study a foreign language in first or second grade is normal for kids going to a second language school. What language is offered in your french school? I would not be surprised to hear it's spanish.

If none of you is a primary education teacher I suggest you use the time to get up to speed with what home schooling means. If you end up cruising for longer than a year you will have to teach the kids at least grammar, math and sciences to a level comparable to formal schooling. Some form of arts instruction will also be needed, so one of you needs to cover that.

The kids on shore will speak whatever the local language is, so you decide where you go. Kids on boats will speak their parents language, and often only that. The primary cruising nations are USA, France and Germany, but statisticly the french are most likely to have young kids with them.
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Old 09-10-2018, 17:09   #15
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Re: Second language for kids

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... and it doesn't sound like many cruisers are Spanish.
...
In my experience in this part of the world, non-Anglophone cruisers are primarily French speakers, second would be German (and again, in my experience, more Germans speak French than vice versa ).


I'd go with French.
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