How can a person become bilingual, trilingual or multilingual?
This is an amazing story how a little American girl became first bilingual in English and French, then trilingual by adding German. Now she is mastering her fourth and fifth languages: Japanese and Hebrew.
This "language spree" started thanks to her parents.
My name is Amalia and I am an Economics doctoral student from the US. The area where I live is quite international, so I have had the opportunity to hear many languages here. I spent three years in Germany and two years in France when I was young, and I have remained attached to those cultures. Since I haven't been able to travel a lot recently, I've been trying to learn Japanese by reading books. I'm reading a very helpful book of short stories where the translations of most words are written underneath the text. I'm curious to find out about other people's experiences teaching their children multiple languages, and I'm looking forward to reading more about this on this blog.
When we returned to the US, I had a German accent in English and made mistakes in English grammar, though these quickly went away. Even though I always spoke English with my parents in Germany, I was so integrated into German life that I kept a diary and thought in German. In the US I kept up my German by writing letters to my friends and reading literature. Of course, my German accent became worse over time and the grammar didn't come as naturally to me -- now I have to stop and think if I should use the dative or the accusative, or if a word is masculine, feminine or neutral. I haven't kept up with colloquial expressions and would probably sound old-fashioned if I went back now.
In many situations I have found it helpful to be multilingual. Having an understanding of how expressions can vary across languages has helped me communicate better in English with foreigners here in the US. I can usually get their meaning, even when they use a colorful metaphor that exists only in their mother tongue. When traveling, I think it is important to make an effort to speak at least a few words in the local language, and learning languages at an early age has probably made it easier for me to do this. And it is fun when you have several languages in common with someone and can switch back and forth depending on which language you think best expresses what you want to say.
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.
You might also like reading:
Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?
Life Story: Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way?
What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.