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Jozef received his early education at home by his mother who speaks Bosnian, German, and English. His mother taught Jozef and his sister English from infancy and much of their schooling was conducted in English. Jozef was too young for academics but his mother taught him his early childhood skills in both English and Bosnian. Jozef’s parents considered his English language instruction very important. They purchased children’s books and magazines written in English hoping that he and his sister would enjoy learning the language. Jozef’s relatives in the United States also sent them books and videos in English. The children would often quote their favorite stories and act out their favorite scenes in English. Jozef and Maria eventually spoke the English language easily with their parents and each other. Their parents were proud that their children were growing up bilingual.
Since Jozef and Maria were home-schooled, their contact with other children was mostly confined to the neighborhood and conversations outside the home were spoken in Bosnian.
Jozef’s mother soon came to realize he was having some trouble forming the letters of the alphabet when he was five. She attributed this to his young age and their efforts at teaching him in mostly English. Nicolai and Ana were concerned that their efforts may be hindering his progress academically. They had always assumed that Jozef had a good command of both languages because he could speak and understand them well. He and his sister often played together speaking English. He enjoyed teaching English words to his friends in the neighborhood. He made obvious syntactical and morphological errors as anyone at a young age learning a second language would. Sometimes he would omit the plural /s/ and substitute incorrect pronouns. He was improving his use of regular and irregular plurals such as “children” and regular and irregular verbs such as “ran” and “took” with prompting from his parents. His questions were produced in the incorrect word order such as “Why you can’t take me with you?” and “Where you did go after school?” He was adding a question word to a declarative sentence to make it a question. Most of the generalizations eventually were corrected with instruction from his parents. Ana persisted in teaching Jozef his letters of the alphabet and reading simple vocabulary words appropriate for his age.
Eventually it came time for the family to move to the United States. Ana and her husband hoped that going to school in the U.S. would stimulate Jozef’s reading and writing skills. Since Joseph did not attend school immediately after arriving in the U.S. his mother continued helping him with reading and writing. This time she borrowed English language workbooks from Jozef’s cousin. Jozef and his cousin were the same age but Jozef had not acquired the pre-writing and pre-reading skills his native English speaking cousin had. Jozef could not produce the sound that each letter made. His mother would go over each letter and its corresponding sound with him repeatedly. At the age of six Jozef could name and produce the sound for seven consonants and three vowels.
Jozef enrolled in first grade in 1998 and worked very hard in school.
His parents were relieved that Jozef would finally get an English
education. His teachers and friends liked him and he was well behaved
in class. However, Jozef did not like to ask a lot of questions when
he misunderstood which led his teachers to believe he was comprehending.
His parents worked very hard with him every night to make sure his
homework was completed. Maria, on the other hand, could finish her
homework by herself.