Trying to help one child become bilingual is a lot of work. Trying to teach two kids, I thought, was going to be twice as much work.
I’m starting to believe that I might be wrong. Here are the reasons why:
1) When I was trying to teach my first-born Japanese, I often felt like I was talking to myself (when my daughter was a baby/toddler). I would talk to her, sing to her, etc, but since my husband doesn’t speak Japanese, I felt like my daughter never got to hear Japanese conversations in real situations.
My second-born has the advantage of hearing my daughter and I converse together in Japanese. Since my daughter never stops talking, he gets to listen to a lot of Japanese words every day!
2) Being a mother of 2 kids who don’t attend school yet is busy. I wish I could have more one-on-one time with my kids. When I read to my daughter, my son isn’t interested. When I read books to my son, my daughter isn’t interested, because their levels of knowledge and interests are very different.
BUT we have now reached the magical age when my daughter knows all of her hiragana and thinks reading out-loud is a lot of fun! So when I am busy with housework, I can say, “Please go read this book about trains to your brother.”, and she does! My daughter enjoys reading, my son enjoys listening, and I get to feel less guilty about doing housework instead of spending time with my kids. This situation is working perfectly for us right now because my daughter is only able to read easier books… which is what my son enjoys.
3) My son is currently a “terrible two” :). I love him to pieces, but he loves to say “no!” and run in the opposite direction of where I tell him to go. Thankfully, he thinks his big sister is the coolest and will copy whatever she does, even in the language department. So when my daughter says a word in Japanese, my son will repeat it. When my daughter and I play Shiritori in the car, my son wants to play too.
What about you? Are you raising more than one bilingual child? How do siblings affect the ability to learn and maintain a language?