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DH Won't Speak to Kids in Native Tongue


umsami
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I'm hoping there are others who've been there who can offer some tips.

 

DH is Egyptian--and speaks Arabic and English fluently. We have four kids, and he has not spoken to any of them in Arabic--yet is somehow upset that they don't have a native accent nor know Arabic. :001_rolleyes:

 

We just had a new baby (well he's six months old) and I'm trying to get him to at least speak to this little guy just in Arabic. Our other kids are 3, 5, and 7--so I still think that a lot of good could happen from him speaking to them in Arabic as well.

 

He says that he feels weird speaking to the kids in Arabic, because they don't understand him (and I won't understand at all). I say, "I don't mind--and I'd rather they actually learn Arabic."

 

We have the Little Pim Arabic DVDs, Arabian Sinbad, etc.--but none of those will do what a native speaking father can do.

 

Help! (Please :) )

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I would point out that a newborn does not understand English either and LEARNS it when you speak it to him.

Why did he not want to speak Arabic from birth with his other kids?

 

If it is important to him that they speak the language, this is the way to ensure fluency - it beats any language program, tutor, books, DVDs. A native speaker as a parent is the easiest way for a kid to learn a language - but it needs to be spoken consistently.

I think your DH needs to decide whether this is important to him. If it is, he must speak. But wanting the fluency and not doing the necessary work is just not working.

 

Do you think your DH is the type to be persuaded by scientific evidence? There must be numerous studies that find OPOL the best way to raise bilingual children.

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So sorry about this. My dh also didn't want to talk to our kids in Tamil, his native tongue. He rationalized it by saying that it was a minority language and that we didn't have a community to support such a language with a very difficult script (over 250 characters I believe), etc. I basically think he was aware of the work and consistency entailed to raise a bilingual child and he wasn't prepared to invest in it for what he believed were small returns; his family are all proficient English speakers and the nature of Tamil being a minority language. At least he has never complained or expected them to have any fluency or particular accent!

 

I think guys are notorious for not passing their language skills on; maybe that's why someone's native language is called their mother tongue and not their father tongue! Regentrude is right. Do you have in laws available that could help with the job and push your dh a bit to do his part? Your dh can do it but he has to commit to doing what it takes or else he should quit whining, lol! Good luck!

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I have some friends who spoke only Arabic to their kids until they were old enough to attend preK. They had no trouble picking up English in school, very quickly, and are fluent in both languages (the kids being teenagers, now).

 

My parents spoke Finnish, but didn't teach us kids. Finnish isn't a common a language that it would have any real "value" for me to know, but I do regret not learning it while I had the chance.

 

:) Not sure what to tell you, if he doesn't want to, he doesn't want to...but I agree it's a shame to not take advantage of it.

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UmSami,

 

I can absolutely speak from experience. Having your dh speak to your kids in his native language is by far the best way for them to learn the language, and the only hope of them having a native accent.

 

I am actually amazed how many fathers don't bother to just *speak* their native language to their kids, and then start panicking and scrambling when the kids reach school age and have to start studying the language from scratch as a non-native speaker. It is soooo much easier to simply speak to your kids than to invest in multiple language programs that have varying success, but don't usually lead to fluency.

 

My husband spoke Arabic with all of our children from birth. It was not at all weird, since in the beginning it's just baby talk anyway, and very repetitious. I picked up a few words that way, and our kids began speaking using a mixture of Arabic and English, whichever word was easier for them to say at their age. As they began to truly speak, they had no problem separating Arabic and English in their minds, since one is Mom's language, and the other is Dad's. I also picked up a lot of the language along the way myself, to the point where I can understand the majority of conversations and participate, although I'm sure I make plenty of grammar mistakes.

 

This method was the most successful with our 1st child, who seems to have a knack for languages anyway. He was completely fluent by age 10. Our 2nd child had an environment where she was speaking English with me *and* her older brother at home all day, so Arabic made up a smaller proportion of her language listening. Still, she understands everything, and speaks quite well, just not as fluently as her brother.

 

I have to add, that another vital part of this puzzle are trips back to dh's home country and/or frequent encounters with friends and family who speak the language. If they only use the language with dad, they lose their motivation to speak it. If the only Arabic-speakers they know are ones who also speak English, they have no reason to bother responding in Arabic. Discovering that they must use "Dad's" language to communicate with grandparents and cousins with whom they have built a relationship goes a long way toward fluency. One or two month-long trips can do the trick, and then the conversations can continue via Skype.

 

I'm sure it might feel strange for your dh to begin speaking in Arabic now that the kids are older, and they would likely be resistant to it, since they won't understand. Don't worry about that. Just speak to the baby, and the baby will learn. Without even realizing it, the other kids will hear it and pick up some words as well. If I, as an adult, learned Arabic by osmosis when my dh was speaking to my babies, your kids certainly can.

 

I know plenty of families with older children who do not speak their father's language, and all involved, parents and children, are disappointed and regretful. When asked why they didn't just speak to their kids in their language when they were small, the fathers simply shrug. There is no reason. It's easy, doesn't cost a thing, and can reap life-long benefits (not to mention avoiding years of conflict and struggle trying to study the language from books or classes).

 

Tell your dh, no more excuses, just do it ;)

 

HTH,

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I feel for you, 'cause my husband who is fluent in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish did not teach our son (11) any of these languages. Now, he realized he did make a mistake and would LOVE to teach our son at least Russian - but ds has NO desire to learn Russian at this time.

 

No help here - but I can understand how you are feeling.

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When my mom brought me home to live in the states for good, my grandparents put a lot of pressure on her to speak to me only in English. She regrets not speaking to me in Portuguese to this day. It not only maintains heritage, but it keeps kids tongues loose, their ears easy and the more languages one knows is a leg up in this new world economy.

 

:grouphug:

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Push for it. B/c you will have kids like mine who are 15 and 17 and dont speak Arabic, but want to.

 

Dh refuses to teach them, I wish I learned, b/c mil lives downstairs and I cant understand what she is saying about me. Paranoid, huh.

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Both of my parents are (were) advanced speakers of a 2nd language.

My father in Arabic and my mother in Spanish, I begged and begged to learn the languages growing up and they refused to teach me. We took Arabic lessons from books with a tutor throughout childhood but it was never spoken or used on day to day basis...

 

Its the one thing that I still begrudge my parents not teaching me. I have told them this and my father was very sorry, he didn't realize that I seriously, deep in my soul, wanted to KNOW Arabic like he did.

Edited by mom2bee
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Oh, I have sympathy with that. Dh wants the kids to sign, but he won't sign with them. They would have progressed far more if he had because attention from Dad is a valuable thing, whereas boring old Mamma here will take care of us whether we look at her or not. It's very hard to teach kids to sign if they won't look at you...

 

Perhaps your hubby can start speaking Arabic to the baby first. He might feel more comfortable with that, since no one expects 6 month olds to understand them anyway. Maybe he can tease the older kids a little to entice them. "Oh, I speak Arabic to the baby because he's my favourite so I tell him all my secrets!" Whether that would work depends how contrary or sensitive your children are, I suppose. :tongue_smilie: "Self talk" is another way of putting more language there, without pressure. "Where are my car keys?" is only so valuable I guess, but it is a start. Shame my only other language is a signed language. I think it is easier to transmit spoken languages.

 

Rosie

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We have the same issue. It is so incredibly frustrating (esp. when I, the non-native speaker, was working my tush off to teach eldest dd). No solution here--I hope you somehow have better luck convincing your dh than I have!

Ditto! My DH is Jordanian and so rarely speaks Arabic to DS. To be fair, he really isn't home a lot b/c of work, but even when he is, he doesn't really speak Arabic to him. I've tried and tried to get him to just use it in normal conversation with DS when he's talking to him and he will just GET it...he's 5 years old and the window of opportunity is flying by :(

Subbing for ideas and sharing :grouphug:'s cause I totally understand!!

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Well, depending on your husbands sense of humor...

 

You could take 80$ a week and set it in a jar and when your husband asks where the money is going, tell him its going into the Arabic tutor-tuition Fund for you and/or jr. Since clearly, one of you is going to need to take lessons soon...Either you so you can teach jr. Or jr. so he can learn it himself...lol.

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Well, depending on your husbands sense of humor...

 

You could take 80$ a week and set it in a jar and when your husband asks where the money is going, tell him its going into the Arabic tutor-tuition Fund for you and/or jr. Since clearly, one of you is going to need to take lessons soon...Either you so you can teach jr. Or jr. so he can learn it himself...lol.

 

Hmm...

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Guest harry

It almost happened to me, too.

I'm a native German dad, and I didn't speak German to our girl either.

Until we went to Germany for 2 weeks (she was 7 months at the time).

 

Everybody spoke German, so I figured I might as well speak German to our little one. I did, and I kept it up when we got back home.

I went to work, but whenever I was at home I gave a running commentary about everything we were doing: "Now I'm going to pick you up. We are going to the bathroom. Now we change your diaper ...."

You get the picture.

I kept saying basically the same things over and over. And even though I had less time with her than her mum, it was amazing how quickly she started showing signs of understanding.

 

Before she turned two she could speak English and German equally well, and she knew what to use with who.

 

So, my advice is, go for it. It is amazingly easy once you get going. Perhaps a trip/visit to the right environment (like in my case) will help. :)

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I am right there with you. DH is Palestinian. His mother only speaks Arabic, so when we go over there I know that the kids at least understand some Arabic. But he always speaks in English. We have the Little Pim Arabic, but you're right. It won't be nearly as effective as having DH just speak Arabic.

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My husband is French. He only speaks French to the kids, but they respond in English. I figure at least they're getting tons of vocab.

 

Something that might make it easier for your husband to start speaking Arabic to the kids is getting some children's books in that language, pref. with lots of pictures. He can read those to the kids. They'll pick up some of the story from the pictures alone and will eventually start recognizing some words. Plus, they'll enjoy the time with their father. It might be easier for your husband to simply read something to them than to try to carry on a conversation with them.

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My husband is French. He only speaks French to the kids, but they respond in English. I figure at least they're getting tons of vocab.

 

Something that might make it easier for your husband to start speaking Arabic to the kids is getting some children's books in that language, pref. with lots of pictures. He can read those to the kids. They'll pick up some of the story from the pictures alone and will eventually start recognizing some words. Plus, they'll enjoy the time with their father. It might be easier for your husband to simply read something to them than to try to carry on a conversation with them.

 

They're getting more than that, I bet. Ds5 went to France last year with dd15 and ds8, and after about 4 days, he started speaking. He almost never spoke French before that. Dh is only around 1 or maybe 2 days a week, and is not a big talker, so there wasn't even lots of input every day. Dh does read to the boys, and usually fun things like Tintin, Asterix, or cute little Petit Ours Brun to the baby, or some French storybooks, but not more than an hour or so a week. Even with just that little bit, the kids, during immersion experiences, have had no trouble communicating.

 

I think we underestimate sometimes how helpful just speaking our native language to our kids can be, not only for developing vocab, but for acquiring an understanding of grammar and of course an ear for how it all should sound. I really think parents are doing their kids a disservice if they are not speaking their native languages to them.

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Hey jld! Good to "see" you again! Haven't been on the boards much the past few months. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your words of encouragement. I am hoping to get all of us over to France for two months within the year. I know it would be the single best way to get the kids speaking French, esp. if I could stay home for 3 of those weeks and meet them later. Without me to speak to in English, they'd be truly immersed in French. (Not to mention how much I could finally get done around the house!) It would work all around!

 

yvonne

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Hey jld! Good to "see" you again! Haven't been on the boards much the past few months. Thanks so much for taking the time to post your words of encouragement. I am hoping to get all of us over to France for two months within the year. I know it would be the single best way to get the kids speaking French, esp. if I could stay home for 3 of those weeks and meet them later. Without me to speak to in English, they'd be truly immersed in French. (Not to mention how much I could finally get done around the house!) It would work all around!

 

yvonne

 

Excellent! I'm sure you'll be very pleased with how well they do. And it's good to "see" you again, too!:)

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It's not unsual for an educated native Arabic speaker to be more comfortable in English or French if they have been educated in either of those two European languages and/or have been away from their native land for quite some time.

 

I am a native English speaker who lives in Germany and am sometimes in situations where people don't like it when I speak English to my daughter or do not understand what I am saying to her and in these cases I speak to her in English and then repeat it in German for the benefit of the others. I wouldn't be surprised if there were situations where the OP's husband didn't feel comfortable speaking Arabic and thus didn't get in the habit of doing it.

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I I wouldn't be surprised if there were situations where the OP's husband didn't feel comfortable speaking Arabic and thus didn't get in the habit of doing it.

 

I don't think this phenomenon surprises anyone. It's just annoying when husbands want children to learn their language, but don't want to teach/use it. The kids aren't going to learn by telepathy!

 

Rosie

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As you can see, it is very common. English is easier and just gets spoken more often. DH and I are both fluent in Arabic but English is our 'native language', Arabic a close second.

 

I noticed most of the advice here is to push for him to do it. This won't work. Countless people have pushed me, lectured me, and pointed their fingers at me to speak to my children in Arabic. To have my DH speak to them in Arabic. Yes, I know very well that I *should* but it is not natural for me. We've tried it so many times, but we default back to English.

 

All I can say is you can only control your own actions. Say a few words to them as much as you know in Arabic. You can hope that this will encourage DH, and if not, then it is his loss. Start them with some Arabic workbooks and easy readers as soon as you can so that they're used to seeing the alphabet and hearing it. Put little flashcards with labels of items in the home. Ask him to write the words on the index cards and then tape them to doors, chairs, tables, couch, etc..

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i am not exactly in the same situation. husband and i agreed to do OPOL before my son was born and i have a back ground from majoring in bilingual education(student teaching 1st graders spanish/english) so i saw how it effects kids in language learning. my husband speaks to my son in algerian dialect of arabic (his whole family lives in Algeria for the most part and we are alone here) and i speak english. he watches only arabic cartoons and he understands my husband when he talks to him ( hes almost 2 and isnt talking yet). i plan to purchase tons of videos/ books whatever i can get my hands on because i also plan to homeschool bilingually all of my subjects in arabic/english(i just downloaded arabic math books and hubby will translate others for me) the only issue i am having is DH working so late so i have to pick up the slack with the little words i know. i also am doing an arabic class online so i can read and write but just basic right now. so do whatever you can and hopefully you kids will have some level of fluency

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  • 1 month later...

I sooooo feel your pain.

 

Living in the Gulf with a husband who works long hours has wrecked havoc with our plans to make our child speak both Spanish and English. I spoke to my ds in Spanish for the first 3 years of his life. Ds is a late talker (as I was) dh was not happy and took ds to speech therapist who said that for the child to speak any language he/she had to be exposed to said language about 30% of the time. Ds still wanted dc to speak English but didn't have the time to teach him so I ended up sacrificing Spanish to English :001_huh:

Ds understands Spanish but doesn't speak it.

Of course I understand that, at the end of the day ds is British and has to speak English otherwise he can't get a place in a British school in the UAE (their rules). Now dc's English has improved tons but the Spanish failed to take off. My mother tells me off abut it. In the meantime Dh still too busy to teach dc his native language! How am I expected to produce a perfectly bilingual child????

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I sooooo feel your pain.

 

Living in the Gulf with a husband who works long hours has wrecked havoc with our plans to make our child speak both Spanish and English. I spoke to my ds in Spanish for the first 3 years of his life. Ds is a late talker (as I was) dh was not happy and took ds to speech therapist who said that for the child to speak any language he/she had to be exposed to said language about 30% of the time. Ds still wanted dc to speak English but didn't have the time to teach him so I ended up sacrificing Spanish to English :001_huh:

Ds understands Spanish but doesn't speak it.

Of course I understand that, at the end of the day ds is British and has to speak English otherwise he can't get a place in a British school in the UAE (their rules). Now dc's English has improved tons but the Spanish failed to take off. My mother tells me off abut it. In the meantime Dh still too busy to teach dc his native language! How am I expected to produce a perfectly bilingual child????

 

Desertmum, I understand your frustration. Have you thought that, since you are homeschooling and you are not tied to the UAE due to the school calendar, you could spend at least 3 months a year in your home country so that your child was immersed in Spanish on a regular basis? It could be whenever your dh's work schedule was expected to be busier, for example. Your mom seems to be interested in her grandchild to be bilingual, would she be able to give you practical support in South America? Another idea is to leave at least one day a week for complete Spanish immersion. I presume your dh is home at weekends and that English is your home language, correct? So your child will still have plenty of exposure to English that way. I am sure you can still do it, but you might have to think outside the box. All the best.

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Here's one idea. This won't work for all who said they had this syndrome of a husband who knows another language but doesn't speak it with their children, but it might work for some and so I toss it out.

 

Remind your husband that your children love both parents, but time with Dad is rarer and so on some level more precious. This often leaves children looking for a special bond with Dad and a shared language which Mom does not know or does not know very well at all, could be almost their secret code, their special club. It is THEIRS -- that's the important thing. Maybe it could begin by simply teaching a few special words -- for instance what words were said when their parents tucked them into bed at night. Perhaps if your husband felt he was only being asked to share a few special words, instead of his whole language, you could at least get the ball rolling.

 

I also like the idea of simply asking Dad to read a children's book -- again a special bonding time and less daunting than to teach a whole language by speaking it.

 

And to whoever commented that we call it our "mother tongue" for a reason. How true!!!

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Desertmum, I understand your frustration. Have you thought that, since you are homeschooling and you are not tied to the UAE due to the school calendar, you could spend at least 3 months a year in your home country so that your child was immersed in Spanish on a regular basis? It could be whenever your dh's work schedule was expected to be busier, for example. Your mom seems to be interested in her grandchild to be bilingual, would she be able to give you practical support in South America? Another idea is to leave at least one day a week for complete Spanish immersion. I presume your dh is home at weekends and that English is your home language, correct? So your child will still have plenty of exposure to English that way. I am sure you can still do it, but you might have to think outside the box. All the best.

 

Hi. Thank you for the ideas. I can't leave dh for 3 months -last time I left for 2 months dh got sick and depressed and it was a mess (incidentally ds got sick too and hated South America). Dh made me promise I wouldn't leave him alone for so long ever again :tongue_smilie: But we have agreed to vacation in Spain as much as possible. Also, we do 2 days in full Spanish. Even when we do "English" days I tend to say something in one language and repeat it in the other. Oh, well. As for DHs not teaching the language... Now every time ds makes a mistake in English I start yelling "Native speaker! Is there a native speaker in the house!!??" It makes dh smile... ;)

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Hi. Thank you for the ideas. I can't leave dh for 3 months -last time I left for 2 months dh got sick and depressed and it was a mess (incidentally ds got sick too and hated South America). Dh made me promise I wouldn't leave him alone for so long ever again :tongue_smilie: But we have agreed to vacation in Spain as much as possible. Also, we do 2 days in full Spanish. Even when we do "English" days I tend to say something in one language and repeat it in the other. Oh, well. As for DHs not teaching the language... Now every time ds makes a mistake in English I start yelling "Native speaker! Is there a native speaker in the house!!??" It makes dh smile... ;)

 

Haha, tell your dh that since he is a bit of a wimp ;) and can't be left alone, not only will you vacation in Spain more often but also will he have to agree to speaking Spanish while you are there (even if this means dh using a phrase book, haha, you do have to make it a language immersion experience, don't you?).... This is his child and giving him the edge of being bilingual is something surely your dh will agree is important, right?? Some sacrifices will have to come from him too, just let your dh drink some good wine and eat some good Spanish food and he shouldn't winge too much about it! Good luck and enjoy the holidays!

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My Dh is Lebanese, he does speak to the kids in Arabic (usually to ask them to do something) but refuses to actually sit with them and teach them the alphabet etc.. They definitely understand the language but will never be fluent unless they actually learn how it works (or speak it constantly day to day) Maybe we should form an arabic-english group to share ideas. I have a lot of questions about teaching it myself (since I'm only just learning too) Esp. when it comes to teaching the difference between standard and colloquial (spoken) Arabic.

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Haha, tell your dh that since he is a bit of a wimp ;) and can't be left alone, not only will you vacation in Spain more often but also will he have to agree to speaking Spanish while you are there (even if this means dh using a phrase book, haha, you do have to make it a language immersion experience, don't you?).... This is his child and giving him the edge of being bilingual is something surely your dh will agree is important, right?? Some sacrifices will have to come from him too, just let your dh drink some good wine and eat some good Spanish food and he shouldn't winge too much about it! Good luck and enjoy the holidays!

 

 

What an excellent idea. Couple of glasses of wine in sunny Spain should smooth things over... :lol:

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My Dh is Lebanese, he does speak to the kids in Arabic (usually to ask them to do something) but refuses to actually sit with them and teach them the alphabet etc.. They definitely understand the language but will never be fluent unless they actually learn how it works (or speak it constantly day to day) Maybe we should form an arabic-english group to share ideas. I have a lot of questions about teaching it myself (since I'm only just learning too) Esp. when it comes to teaching the difference between standard and colloquial (spoken) Arabic.

 

i would join this group if it got started. i got a almost 2 yr old and we have been doing OPOL(one parent one language) here me with english and dh with arabic. he is not talking yet and im thinking he might be a late talker but we keep on going. when he hits 2yr we will switch to dh speaking arabic to both me and my son when he is at home(since he is here else hours during the day than before)and i will continue with english. im learning arabic right now myself for an islamic studies program so i can use the practice in conversational. he is using fusha arabic since its the standard and dialect he will pick up later. we may add a 3rd language later i speak spanish and dh speaks french. there really isnt any kind of group anywhere for ppl trying to do bilingual arabic/english so keep me posted

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Can you set up a trip or spend time with relatives who don't speak English? This will help so much. If they are better able to understand him, then maybe speaking in Arabic would help.

 

I am the language police in my house.

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