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Monday, April 20, 2015

Inspirational Quotes about Language for Bilinguals and Language Learners

Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." "But what if you do not speak his language??? - Sing!" adds Galina Nikitina from Raising a Trilingual Child

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"Language is quite literally the stuff of life. The more you can speak of other people's languages, the more you can be part of their lives and enrich your own" Paddy Ashdown

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"Learning to read is one of the important mile stones of our children. It gives them the freedom to read what they want and when they want. It also gives us, parents, a lot of joy to see them reading their first words and sentences." Galina Nikitina , Raising a Trilingual Child

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"Bilingual child Prents' joy: What are the sweetest words your child can say to you?  --  "I LOVE YOU!" said in your mother tongue! " Galina Nikitina , Raising a Trilingual Child

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Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language? Click here to find it now!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

trilingual child pros and cons


Raising a Trilingual Child Is Not Always a Bed of Roses.

by Nathalie Vieweger

I was raised trilingual from birth. My mother was Dutch, my father - German and the community language was (often) English. I am a TCK - Third Culture Kid.

I am now raising a trilingual child myself (English, Dutch and Spanish) as his father is English and we live in Spain.

I used to go to international schools, and I’m a teacher at a bilingual school, so I have seen my fair amount of bilingual children. Read my full story:  Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way?

As much as I am a supporter of raising a child multilingual, I also see many parents struggle with their decision to raise their child in more than one language. Generally information and articles one can find on trilingualism are predominantly pro raising a child with more than one language. They seem to just surpass the struggles involved in a trilingual upbringing.

I have decided to show both sides of a (in this case) trilingual upbringing.

Bearing in mind that what I am writing is based on my experiences and my opinion I invite you to have a look at my perspective on this matter.

Looking back as an adult

I can not express how grateful I am for having been brought up trilingually.

I have learned the languages effortlessly and have had many opportunities other (monolingual) peers did not have. My being “native” in three languages looks fantastic on my CV and it has opened doors that would otherwise have been shut.

My personal identity is based on my three languages. The languages of my thoughts and dreams vary in different situations. The languages I speak are linked to the culture they belong to, having broadened my view of the world. I have become more open-minded (I believe) than my peers.

My nicest memory of being trilingual must be going to a restaurant in the Netherlands with three of my (multilingual) friends. With four of us at the table mixing French, English, German and Dutch effortlessly, and the conversation making sense to all of us, we noticed being stared at by all the other visitors of the restaurant. I think all four of us realized at that moment, how special our conversation was to others, and we couldn’t help but be filled with pride. Being unique in this way certainly is a beautiful thing.

Also, thanks to my upbringing, I have been able to learn a fourth language with less effort than a monolingual person would have. 

Having said that, and again pointing out how grateful I am, must admit that there have been quite a lot of downsides to my trilingual upbringing.

Mainly, the fact that I do not speak any of the three languages completely accent-free or flawlessly. That is to say, I do not have a strong accent, and native speakers of either of the languages say I almost sound like a native… almost… in all three languages !!

Because of that, many times people have asked me where I was from (a difficult question anyway for TCKs, and moreover trilingual ones).
Apparently I am not a native in any language.
Maybe the point of not being completely native has had an effect on the way I see myself as well as the way others see me. At work sometimes I get complimented about the difficult sentence structure I use (any monolingual person would be downright insulted), with friends I often struggle to find the nuances in certain discussions, making me sound tactless or just not very smart.

I struggle to separate the languages fully, so I translate proverbs or sayings literally into the other language, or I use complicated long German sentence structures while writing Dutch. Making it look like I don not grasp the concept of a full stop.

I personally believe something gets lost along the way, the thing native people just grasp. Many of my friends at the European school struggle with the same issues now they are adults.

I would say being a trilingual person has filled me with a sense of pride riddled with a faint feeling of incompetence.

Observing my trilingual son

So now I am on road to raising my own trilingual child.

My son is 2.5 now, and I am proud to say he is in fact becoming pretty trilingual. He is starting to differentiate the languages, speaking to his dad in English, speaking to me in Dutch and to his teachers in Spanish.

Am I proud of it? Very much so!

But the poor kid does struggle at times.

I sometimes wish he would be able to say what he wants to everybody, without having to think what language they understand. He excitedly wants to tell his dad that he has seen something, and then gets a confused look as an answer. He tries to tell his teacher he came to school by bike, she looks at him blankly, asking me to translate. The moment has gone and he goes off to do something else. I feel he is at times missing out on basic social interactions, and with that important connections to the people around him, that monolingual children naturally have. He seems to have to make an extra effort.
Obviously in the future he will be much more capable of separating the languages, but for now it is a bit of a downside.

Something I just recently noticed that is definitely a down-side of raising a trilingual child is the following: Very often my partner and I spend time together with our little boy. Making jokes, playing or reading books. As Daniël was not speaking a lot, we would usually both speak our own language to him. Recently Daniël has started speaking more…and there the conflict within him started. We were talking about pictures in a book when Daniël excitedly wanted to say something. He looked at Rich, then back at me, then back to Rich until he finally decided to talk in Dutch … to me. He most obviously had a bit of an issue deciding what language to speak, in the end leaving his dad out of the conversation. These loyalty-issues will come up more often until he realizes that we both understand English. I felt bad for him for feeling he had to chose between his mama or his dad.

Struggles for us as parents

As my partner doesn’t speak Dutch, we speak English together. When I speak to Daniël I generally speak Dutch. But when we are all together it seems a bit strange to first say something in Dutch to my son, and then translate it into English. Obviously, as he is just 2, we don’t really have any interesting, translation-worthy conversations.
But it won’t be long before either my partner feels left out, I translate a lot of our conversations, or I speak English to both in family situations.

In my opinion following the “trilingual rule-book” is secondary to all members of the family feeling comfortable when we are together.

Something else is speaking to your child in public in a minority language, when it sounds like gobbledygook to everybody. The Dutch language sounds like somebody is having a stroke - and a serious one. We get many looks from people when they hear us speak. Obviously that does not stop me from speaking to Daniël in Dutch. But I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me feel awkward at times. I worry about Daniëls reaction to this in the future, at some point it will be humiliating for him.

What really gets me crabby however, are people correcting him. His Dutch and English being treated as if he is making a mistake. In a local bar he shows his car to the staff. He enthusiastically claims: “Car!!”. The staff shake their head and say “No Daniel, es un coche!!” as if he made a mistake.


Raising a trilingual child is not the easiest route to take. In the modern world full of mixed couples and expats it is, however, a necessary route for many.

If your main (or even only) goal is to make your child speak more than one language, it is not very complicated. Speak to your child in your language and expose him/her to it as much as possible.

Difficulties arise when

      the minority language is not spoken by both parents,

      the minority parent is uncomfortable speaking their language in public,

      the child finds it difficult to distinguish between the languages, or

      the child, as an adult feels incompetent in all languages.

My advice is ask yourself if you are willing to take the challenges of raising a child with more than one language.
Are you willing to be looked at in a strange manner by the community?
Are you willing to speak to your child in a language your spouse doesn’t understand?

I am, but up to a certain point.
The OPOL (one person one language) approach is something I strongly believe in. But I believe that the well being of all of my family members is far more important. I will, therefore, not always speak the minority language with my son.
I find it hard to accept the funny looks, when I speak gobbledygook with my child, but know it is the price I have to pay. I would have preferred to raise my little boy in one language, or two at the most, but our situation is what it is, and it being so, I am very proud of my little trilingual monkey/aap/mono. And I know he will be, as I am myself, very grateful for the gift of languages.


Are you interested to participate in the Life Story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent?  Would you like to take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series ? You can contact me here.

Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language or another family to chat with? Click here to find it now!

Bilingual Multilingual families Find a playdate in your language

You might also like reading

What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.

Life Story: Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way?

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Plus resources for teaching phonics and reading to children in English.

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.

Listen to  kids radio in your language ! 

Still undecided what language to speak to your child? Read about possible language strategies.
And read my answers in Question and Answer series.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Visiting Italy in Spring. Your picture guide.

Have ever you wonder where you should go for vacation this spring? My answer is ITALY!

With not so many tourists around (the country starts getting packed from May on wards) you get to experience the gorgeous Italian spring just like a native!!!

I know what springs are like in Russia, Germany and the States. Spring in Italy is actually a real season that lasts long! The Italian spring colors will leave an imprint in your memories .

What are you waiting for? Just take a break from cold to indulge with some sun and colors!

My picture tour will help you to get some inspiration :)

Do you see plants, flowers that you know? When do they bloom in your country? Leave a comment with the country name and the plant/ flower name in your language.


NOTE: Pictures are taking in the Northern part of Italy. Please contact me, if you'd like to use any of these pictures.

Acacia dealbata or Mimosa (March)

Almond tree blossoms (March)

Bumble bee and blooming tree (March)

Flowering Rosmary (March) 


Reb Robin (March)

Primula flowers  (March)

Dandelion (March)

Calla (March)

White wildflower (March)

Hairy Violet (March)

Cherry tree blossoms (April)

Pear tree blossoms (April)

Globularia punctata (May)


Wild Viola (May)


More photos to come ...

NOTE: Pictures are taking in the Northern part of Italy. Please contact me, if you'd like to use any of these pictures.

You might like reading:

Why You Should Visit Italy During Winter Holiday Season and Why You Should Not.

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

Listen to Kids Radio in your language! Great list of radio stations for kids.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Question from a trilingual parent, who already raises children bilingually and would like to add a third language.


This question came from a trilingual parent, who would like to pass on both of the languages he speaks fluently besides the country language. The children have been raised bilingually. When would be the right time to introduce the language? Languages in question are English, Spanish, and Portuguese.


I have a question about raising trilingual kids. I live in America so the common language is English. Grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles (One uncle speaks Spanish) all speak English. So my wife only speaks English. I am fluent in Spanish and Portuguese. My oldest daughter is 2 1/2 and I have only spoken Spanish to her since birth but English to everyone else. She understands everything I say, but still tends to respond in English unless I push her to respond in Spanish.

I now have a 1 year old boy. Same thing, I have only spoken to him in Spanish his whole life. He doesn't talk yet, so not sure how much he gets. I would really like to teach them Portuguese as well, but am not really sure how to do this. My wife is convinced that If I speak to them in Portuguese as well, it will confuse them. I considered speaking to my son only in Portuguese and my daughter in Spanish, but don't really know what to do, so I haven't done much. Suggestions? It's not too late I hope.



Dear Michael,

As a multilingual parent myself I share the same wish with you and would like to pass all the languages I know onto my children; however, this is hard to do alone in predominantly monolingual environment. The community language influence is so strong that some parents, who are the only source of language input, have a hard time bring up bilingual children and pass on their mother tongue, not to mention raising them multilingually.

If you would like your children to be trilingual with a good proficiency in minority languages, you definitely would need someone else support for at least one of the minority languages Spanish or Portuguese. Your plan would be either teach Portuguese yourself and find support for Spanish, or teach Spanish yourself and find support for Portuguese. I am not sure how feasible it is to find a Portuguese native speaker , teacher or caregiver near where you live. More possibilities are open up for older kids, such as language learning via Skype or language summer camps. If you decide to concentrate, for example, on Spanish, I would still support Portuguese through occasional activities, conversations, book readings …

That said, I think you have a greater priority now. Considering children's age and what you write about the language situation I would shift the priorities from adding a third language (Portuguese) into supporting and developing your children's Spanish. I’m not saying that you should not do anything in Portuguese. You could provide a limited input in that language, that would help to built a base for the future language learning.

Here are your short term goals, the way I see them:

Make sure your bilingual children reply to you in Spanish all the time.

Since you speak the community language, it is almost given that the kids will try to speak it to you too. 
Do not take it personally, even my fully bilingual child tried doing it in indirect way. He was addressing his community language speaking dad, when in fact he wanted to speak to me. He knew I listen and understand what he says. What I did : I just forced myself not to listen to him and always asked what did he say to his dad or to others. I still use this technique.

Be proactive in developing your child’s vocabulary.

(Read about it here.) Talk to your little child, explain what you see around and read books. Nothing builds child’s vocabulary better than books. Read How to read to a baby? Advice for parents. if you need some help to get started.

Speak Spanish to your children even in public.

You need to maximize the minority language exposure. Speaking Spanish everywhere is the only way I see you can keep children's language exposure high. Sure, you could also hire someone to speak Spanish to your children when you are not around: at work or busy running errands. Read “What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.”

Help your children to choose Spanish as sibling’s language.

I am not sure if you realize that you have a unique opportunity for language development. If your daughter chooses Spanish as the siblings’ language, the kids will have endless possibilities for language practice. The older children are, the less they want to stick around you and the more they want to be with their friends. My kids, who are 3 and 5 years old, come home and want to play with each other. Although they like reading books so much, the only thing they want to do is to be together and play. Here is another article that can help you: 7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.

Bring your bilingual children in direct contact with Spanish speaking people.

I would look for other Spanish-speaking parents near where you live. If you do not know anyone and have difficulties finding other families, try to enter your data in the Playdate finder. Also I would set a goal to travel with your children to a Spanish speaking country at least once before your older child’s 5th birthday. Remember that there are also areas and communities in the US, where Spanish is widely used. It should not be hard to find someone who speaks Spanish locally. 

Can you start speaking Portuguese now?

Yes you can; however, since you did not start speaking Portuguese to your older child from birth I would hold on to it until she/he starts speaking well in one of the languages - English or Spanish. I would slowly introduce Portuguese to both kids through activities, music, cartoons. You could also use time and place language strategy and switch between Spanish and Portuguese every other day or week. Read more about it on the Language strategies page. Just keep the expectations according to the level of your language input.

To finish, I would recommend you also read this article: Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help? 

I am sure, if you come up with a plan and stick to it, you will be able to pass on both of your languages and your kids will become trilingual.

Good luck! And let me know, if you have more questions.

Are you bringing up a bilingual or multilingual child or are you a parent to be and have a question? 

Read other parents questions and my answers in Multilingual Family Q&A Series.

Feel free to contact me.

For privacy protection I can change your name and omit some personal details, if you wish. 

Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language? Click here to find it now!

You might also like:

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Resources for Teaching Phonics and Reading to Children.

Life Story: Trilingual mama - trilingual kid.Why would it be any other way?

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read.

"No English!" Motivation is the key.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Question from full-time working parents of Indonesian heritage, who live in Japan and would like their child to speak both Indonesian and English with full literacy in the second.

Q&A full-time working parents passing on heritage language and English


Question from full-time working parents of Indonesian heritage, who live in Japan and would like their 2 years old child to speak both Indonesian and English with full literacy in the second. Languages in question: Japanese, Indonesian and English.

Hello Galina,

Me and my husband are Indonesians, we got married 2 years ago and now blessed with a 7-month old baby girl. We live in Tokyo and both full-time working parents. Having been stayed in Japan for more than 17 years, husband speaks, reads, and writes Japanese just like a native. While for me, Japanese is still truly a FOREIGN language, and I'm happy enough when I can get my errands done using my limited Japanese.

Our baby now starts to form words (although 1 syllable) and this is the time when me and hubby need to decide on what language we will use at home. She will be going to Japanese childcare in 2 months and until now we are talking in Indonesian to her. Although at times, we say things in English like "good morning" or simple instruction.

Our desire is to have our child be able to understand Indonesian (at least verbally) and have good literacy in English. Japanese is "banned" from home and request my husband to speak only Indonesian when baby is around. We believe 11 hours of Japanese exposure a day will be more than enough for her to easily pick up the language without even trying.
At home, we agreed to use Indonesian at home verbally but yet all the books, CDs, TVs, games will only be in English.

My concern given our limited time with her as she will spend most of her time being exposed to Japanese, how do we help her acquire Indonesian and English. Moreover, I am particularly would like her to be an English-literate child for future educational benefit. I have read many articles and it is mainly said that we need to create the "need" and "exposure" for the child to the foreign languages.

I would like to get your opinions and others' too. Given limited time we can spend on daily basis with her, what would be the best tip to help her acquire Indonesian and English.
Any tips to make this journey smoother? and what we need to watch for?
And if there is any other working parents who have successfully raising a trilingual/bilingual child, we would really much like to hear.

Best Regards


Hi Cikki,

It is wonderful that your daughter is trying to say her first words! I believe that even if you are a busy parent you can pass on your heritage language and teach her a third language - English.

I think your language strategy should work; however, I would make some adjustments. Especially if your and your spouse's parents (your child's grandparents) do not speak other languages (English or Japanese ) besides Indonesian.

I would concentrate on Indonesian until your daughter starts speaking it well at around age of 2-3 and then start increasing the English language input. At age of 3 she will be progressing in learning English very fast, if she has a strong language base built in another language. This base you have been building already by speaking Indonesian to your little girl from birth.

Start reading books in Indonesian to her (When to start reading to a baby? ) Later, after your child celebrates her 1st birthday, add one English book reading per week. Your goal is to increase the quantity of English books read after her 3d birthday.

As of media, I would play it in both languages. Just tell your child what language it will be in. ( Read Naming languages with their proper name.  )

I know you say that you do not want your child to be literate in Indonesian, but I think you could teach her Indonesian letters, if you start with this activity early enough, and later you could teach her English. Just to give you an example, my 3 and 5 years old children are able to read in the minority language, Russian. The older child learnt how to read in the community language ( Italian) on his own and now is asking me how to read English words.

Think about it. And read the following articles on the topic:

How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool

7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read

Also I would start already looking for other sources of English language input, in order to have an idea how much English language input you as parents would need to provide to meet your multilingual parenting goal. Is there bilingual kindergarten in the area? What about bilingual schools? When will English be taught at schools? Are there English classes for children?

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have more questions and good luck on your trilingual family journey!

Regards, Galina

Are you bringing up a bilingual or multilingual child or are you a parent to be and have a question? 

Feel free to contact me.

For privacy protection I can change your name and omit some personal details, if you wish. 

Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language? Click here to find it now!

You might also like:

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.  

How to read to a baby? Advice for parents of monolingual, bilingual or multilingual children. 

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Resources for Teaching Phonics and Reading to Children.

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Life Story of one family. Educational Apps – How they affect multilingual development of small children?

We, parents, who are raising bilingual or multilingual children and live far from our home land, often struggle to find resources in our heritage language. This story is from a parent whose quest for so needed resources in Greek lead her into something I find utterly wonderful. Read Maria Patsatzi story to find it out. She is raising her children trilingually in German, Greek and English.

Well, I'm not an expert. I can only speak from my experience and therefore the question mark stays!!

But let's start by introducing. My name is Maria and I was raised as a monolingual Greek. Since I came to Germany (2008), communication language with my German husband has been English, which was the only foreign language that I could speak and write fluently then. In the meantime, I really struggled with German and have gotten quite much of it on a good level!

Our sons, born 2011 and 2013 in Germany, are raised trilingual from the very first day of their life. We never thought of doing it differently, but also not even doing it like this! It all comes naturally for them and for us and I think this is a strong indication that we are mainly on a good way. Well, I can't deny that very often I have been reading and asking opinions of specialists on that, but it never occurred to me to measure somehow the result of their progress, first of all because I experience it every day and secondly because I think that it would only give extra stress to everybody of us and this we do certainly not need in our lives. The biggest concern that I must admit having in the past, was whether we as parents should maintain our communication language in English or switch to German, in order not to “confuse” the children. Well, there the opinion of a specialist really unblocked us, explaining how our communicating in a third language might be even better for them! He considered it better when the children receive equivalent exposure to each of the parents' language at home and therefore he implied that our speaking a third language between us was ideal! So, today both my boys speak Greek with me and German with their father, while they also get English “in the air”.

The amount of every used language varies according to their exposure to it. So, since my older son has started at the German daycare, Greek tends to become now really a minority language to him and even to my smaller one, as his older brother tends to speak now with him more in German. This is not only natural, but also good for integration reasons and therefore I do not try to influence this decision at all. However, I have been thinking ways to increase their exposure to Greek, since the older one doesn't get any more the same amount from me.

One day our older son asked to play with Papa's smartphone and another day with my tablet. As technology professionals, such gadgets could not be missing from our everyday life, though they are not such a major part of it. Soon, we realized that these gadgets would be soon a part of our children's life as well, which I must say was not such an easy thing to digest, as we are far aware of the dangers that are hidden behind them for such small children and even for adults sometimes! After the first negative thoughts, we soon were looking for ways to influence our children's first contact with technology on a positive way. So, we have started downloading educational Apps, mostly in German and English, as (to my disappointment) very little was available in Greek. So, my son started learning animals, plants, vehicles, colors, letters, numbers and many other things in these two languages! But not in Greek!

And then it hit us... if he can really learn something out of this, why not create our OWN Apps in Greek, in order to increase his exposure to the language! And so it started... Our first educational App in Greek is already published in the Google App Store after the name ΜΑΘΑΙΝΩ ΤΑ ΖΩΑ (learning the animals) and gets to receive quite some attention over the last time:  . This App was made with a lot of love for our boys and I think that this is also the key to success! We decided to include no advertising at all, as we considered that this would be catastrophic for such small children and thus we focused only on how to make the procedure of learning animals highly comprehensive and fun for children who start to talk. And it worked! Well, now we continue already with more Apps like this, which are inspired again from our little boys and soon they will be published, too.

What makes it work? I have been giving a lot of thought on whether this procedure of learning is good or how good it is and so on. I have been reading articles of appreciation and criticism and have even gotten such responses myself on this. And they are all right, all of them! Every tool that we have can be useful or catastrophic, depending on the use that we make out of it. There are many good educational Apps for our children in the net, especially for language learning purposes, but if by this what comes into your mind is children who are left playing alone for hours on a sofa with electronic devices, while the parents are occupied with other staff, then DO NOT download them! Despite I know that it also works like this sometimes, however this must be an exception!

In our every day life with the kids, we often enjoy a lot reading a book with them and letting them learn something out of this, as well as swiping on the tablet screen and hearing mummy's voice naming the animals and then repeating them. Both ways, we give all of our love. And they do learn, both ways. Thereafter, I can only conclude out of our own experiences, as non- expert caring parents that our children need mainly us. An educational App can't substitute parents or teachers, but it is a very effective tool to learn something very very fast. In our case, it has increased dramatically the exposure to Greek words that my kids do not hear from me every day. Well, this I call a success!


Please contact me, if you are interested to participate in the Life Story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent. Or take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series.

Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language or another family to chat with? Click here to find it now!

You might also like reading:

Greek Radio for children - Παιδικό Ραδιόφωνο

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings. 

Would like to teach your child English phonics? Check this interview for the resources:When your home languages are different from community language. 

Life Story: Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way? 

Raising Bilingual / Multilingual child. Where to start?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Q&A: Trilingual parent-to-be would like to raise a trilingual child and worries that her monolingual husband and his side of the family would be uncomfortable. What can be done to avoid a possible tension in the family? Could it affect the child's language learning?

Question from parents who want to raise trilingual child English Chinese and French

Question from a trilingual parent-to-be (English, Chinese, French), who would like to raise a trilingual child and  pass onto him both of her language Chinese and French. She is concerned about her  monolingual  husband (English) and relatives being surrounded by languages they don't understand and wonders, if this can have a negative effect on child's  language learning.

Note: This question was originally posted in a comment field on Multilingual Family Language Strategies page. My answer to it was too long (it happen again!) to fit as a single comment, so I decided to publish it as a separate post.

Hi Galina,

Your website is such a wealth of information. I am glad to find it.

I have a dilemma and I was wondering if you have any advice. I am trilingual (English, Chinese, French) and my husband is monolingual (English), and we live in an English speaking country. We do not have children yet but are planning for that now, and, being multilingual, of course it is important to me to do my best to raise multilingual children. My husband is supportive of the idea, but he has some concerns.

Since he is monolingual, he's afraid he will feel left out in our family dynamics. On the other hand, since we live in an English speaking country and our family language, at least between my husband and I, and my husband and our children, will also be English, I'm concerned about exposure to our minority languages.

Ideally I would do OPOL, starting with Chinese, and later introducing French on my own or through school. But I'm worried that my husband's discomfort will be palpable, and our children will not want to speak in the minority languages because they can sense their father's discomfort. I'm also worried a similar discomfort if I were to speak a minority language with my children around my husband's family, who are all monolingual.

I am proud of my languages and how trilingualism has given me so many benefits in my life, but I do not know how to address my husband and his family's natural discomfort at being around languages they don't understand.



Dear Betsy,

How wonderful that you are trilingual yourself and planning to raise your future child trilingual as well!

It is good that you started thinking about your family dynamics in relation to languages before your baby comes to this world.

Your concern is not without grounds and you would need to seat together with your husband again and thoroughly discuss everything.
How much is he willing to do for the children's trilingualism? Can he listen to you and your child speaking a language he does not understand and wait for a translation? Is he willing to learn one of your languages?

If your husband does not speak the language you will be speaking to your child, he most likely will feel left out. It will not happen right away, but slowly as your conversations become more complex and hence more difficult to translate for him all the time. The only solution to this problem I see is for your husband to start learning to speak one of your languages before your child will be born. I think French could be easer for him to learn, but that will require some changes in your plans.

Were you considering to speak both French and Chinese to your child ?
I would speak Chinese, when left with the baby alone, and French, when together with your husband and your child. You husband should be able to learn the language, if he is immersed in it. Start speaking French to him right away. Make labels around the house see also Multilingual Families: 8 Quick & Effective Ways to Learn Your Spouse’s Language, For the Busy Parent for great tips. Language learning will require some effort on your husbands side, but he will see the benefits of being bilingual very fast. Besides delaying the symptoms of Alzheimer disease (AD) , you both can go to Paris and your husband can order you a glass of wine then ;) Plus, knowing your and your child's language will give a bond and an extra connection to you both. If things go well you could even make French as a family language later on.

Also it's good to start evaluating your options of bilingual kindergartens and schools. Check, if there are any weekend schools or courses of French or Chinese for kids were you live / plan to live. Connect with other parents speaking French and Chinese. Depending on what language support you can find, you might want to consider focusing more on one or another language.

Your husband's relatives have to be prepared for the fact that you are planing to have a bilingual / trilingual baby. Small children adore their grandparents and take everything they say very close. It is best if you have their full support. You can not ask them to start studying your languages, but you could start educating them on the topic of bilingualism by sharing articles, suggesting books to read and simply talking about it. It is possible that the grandparents are not up to date on the recent research and look at bilingualism as a disadvantage, rather than an advantage. Please also read my suggestions regarding possible support partner's parents can provide in the answer I gave to a question from a parent, whose heritage language is different from community language.

Some thoughts regarding your possible discomfort while speaking to your trilingual child the language others do not understand. If order for a child to use a language, you need to provide opportunities and create a need to use that language. If he sees that you do not stick to speaking it, he won't do it either. For these reasons I believe it is crucial to keep speaking to your child the language no matter who is near by and how they feel about it. Explain to them why you do it and provide a translation. Read this article where I discuss the reasoning for it in details : What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.  

Let me know what you decide and if you heed more help. Good luck!

Are you bringing up a bilingual or multilingual child or are you a parent to be and have a question? 

Read other parents questions and my answers in Multilingual Family Q&A Series

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Exposing our kids to languages - Learn about our family language strategy and read great questions and answers in the article's comments. 

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.  

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Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Resources for Teaching Phonics and Reading to Children.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Trilingual Siblings Minority Language Progress Update. The Younger Sibling Is About to Enter Preschool.

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.

Are you successfully raising bilingual or multilingual children? or do you have regrets about something you have not done on time? Please do not keep it for yourself, share it with other parents, by writing a comment or by contacting me for an Interview or by joining great contributors in the Life Story series. You will help thousands of readers!

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