My not yet fully trilingual daughter is 3 now. A big change is coming to our multilingual family life this fall. (This post was left in the draft state for some time. It should be dated as September 2014.) She will join her brother at a preschool. I closed the eyes on my worries on how it can affect siblings' minority language development and asked to assigned her to a class that is located in the same wing of my son's school building. The preschool, my children go to, has two wings with separate internal playgrounds and one big shared external playground. During bad weather months my children will meet each other everyday for a joined play with peers. I could separate them for the sake of preserving their Russian-only speech relationship, but I did not do it. The time they will spend together playing, developing their brother-sister relationship stands above my ambitious wishes for their trilingualism.
From now on I’m going to keep a closer look at how the community affects their minority language development.
I would like to sum up their progress so far. I look at their language development from a bilingual child perspective, as their third language - English - is still behind their Italian (community language) and Russian (minority language), both of which they speak equally fluently.
Bilingual siblings speak minority language only.
No matter who is around and how far I am from my children, they speak only minority language to each other. They even speak Russian among themselves, when staying with Italian grandparents. If you are raising a bilingual child and expecting a second one, check this 7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.
Bilingual siblings read in the minority language.
Yes! Both of them, 3 years old and 5 years old, are reading now! Literacy is the biggest milestone in child’s development that will help him at school and in life. No stress at all. I just started early and followed these 7 simple principles to teach a child to read before school.
Planning ahead and adjusting our family language strategy
You would say: “Your children speak your heritage language to each other. It is a success.” And I would agree, that it is, so far. It proofs the importance of good planning ahead and not missing on any opportunity to expose your child to your heritage language.
When your child is born ( and even before), it is a good idea to think what your child’s language environment would be for at least next 5 years. So you can concentrate on the “right” language in the right time.
There are many things that you can not predict. In my case I found it extremely hard to stick to my plan after the birth of our second child. There was a pretty long period when both kids remained babies, because the jealousy kept the older one from growing up and acting as a toddler he was. I had to deal with issues that mothers of monolingual, bilingual or trilingual siblings deal, when their kids are very close in age. Those of you who had to go through it, know what I am talking about.
Constant plan adjustments are necessary throughout the multilingual family journey.
Do you have multilingual siblings? How was it for you when they were little?
If you would like to share your family experience, whatever it is good or bad, feel free to contact me.
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