Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: Language Strategies

Translate

Language Strategies


bilingual trilingual child

You have a list of languages you would like your child to speak, but you do not know how to go about it and how to introduce the languages.

The typical questions of parents who are "freshmen" in the field :

What languages should I speak to my child?

When should I start speaking to my child in the targeted language?

What languages should speak other members of the family to the child?

Do I need to do anything in particular to reinforce the child's language knowledge?


Strategies:
There are two very successful and popular strategies in raising bilingual children, that with some modifications also apply to trilingual and multilingual children.

1. One person - one language strategy.

It is also called One Parent One Language or OPOL strategy.
One parent always speaks one language to the child and the other always speaks another.
For instance, the father always speaks Italian to the child and the mother always speaks Russian. The country language can be either one of the two, or the third one - English. You can read about my family strategy.

2. Minority Language at Home strategy (ML@H).

When both partners and family members speak one language at home, and the child learns the community or dominant language outside the house walls.

As an example, all family members (the household) speak English at home, when country language is Italian.

These strategies can be used with some modifications in raising multilingual children.

3. Time and Place strategy (T&P) for separating two and more languages.

 In Time and Place (T&P) approach parents can assign a specific language to a day of the week (let's say every Sunday family speaks Spanish) or to an activity (speaking English while bathing or watching German news on TV). One parent can speak one language in the morning and another language in the evening or take longer time for each language and switch them every other day or week. You would need to experiment and see what works best for you and your child. I provide some more tips in "Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?" article.

If families relocate and parents support child's new or previous language acquisitions, the child can become from bilingual to trilingual, quadrilingual and multilingual even if the parents speak only one language.

What language should I speak to my child?

Here there is no right or wrong answer. It is always best to speak the language you are more proficient in, which is normally your mother tongue.
From the mother's point of view, I suggest to stop your choice on  your mother tongue, because all the lullabies and nursery songs you heard, when you were a baby yourself, were in that language.
When you have your child in the arms, the songs and the words you heard as a child naturally come out from you.
It might be hard to start speaking the language you have not used for a while. I had experienced it myself. You just need to start speaking to your child all the time, since he is born, using your mother tongue and eventually you will feel confident using that language.

You might speak a language in which you see no benefit for your child in learning. Please first ask yourself if your child needs that language knowledge to communicate with the grandparents or relatives?  Do not take away this possible bound and enjoyment from your child!

If, after giving it a good thought, you still decide not to teach your child your mother tongue, know that you still can help your child dramatically by joining your spouse and speaking his or her mother tongue to the child ( this is the case when it is different from the community language). You can even benefit as a family from sticking to Minority language at home strategy. Having a normal conversation as a family, without interruptions for translation is a plus.

When should I start speaking to my child the targeted language?

I would say from the birth onwards. The earlier you start the better edge you will have over the dominant language. Start reading to your child early, when he is still a baby. The time is crucial here, as you need to create a language base in the minority language, before the majority language becomes stronger and starts taking over.  The more time and energy you invest in your child, the better is the result.

What languages should speak other members of the family to the child? 

Ask the ants, uncles, grandparents to support you in your task of raising a bilingual or multilingual child by speaking only the minority language.
If your relatives are fluent in some other minority language, you can ask them to always speak it to your child. Consistency is key even here. Decide together with the relatives what language they would speak to your child.

Do I need to do anything particular to reinforce the child's language knowledge?

Yes!
You would need to read A LOT to your child. If possible, in the morning and in the afternoon.
Talk to your child in the targeted language all the time from the moment he was born or even during the pregnancy. According to the research published by  Psychological Science journal, infants that were spoken to two different languages during the pregnancy were showing interest to both languages  compare to monolinguals. It insures the attention and future  learning of the languages he has already heard spoken.

You need to insure that your child receives enough language exposure. How much is enough? There is no scientifically proofed number. You just need to make sure that your input is consistent day after day and that your child learns the vocabulary from different life situations. Thus, if you are a working parent, you might think of hiring a nanny speaking less dominant language first, then to send your child to an immersion school. You need to develop a long run plan from the birth onwards, which you will modify as your child grows and according to your family situation.

My best wishes to you in your journey to a happy multilingual family!

Never miss a new post! Subscribe to receive updates!

* indicates required


Read my answers to other parents in the comments below and in the Question and Answer series.

Also you might have similar questions as the parents, who commented after the post Exposing your kids to languages.

9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through. 

83 comments:

  1. So good to find other polyglots in cyber space! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Adriana! What languages do you speak?

    ReplyDelete
  3. I am an American mother with a Russian father. We speak English to her, while her grandparents (whom we live with) speak only Russian to her. Her grandparents speak only Russian to her. I am hoping that this will help her. In addition to her learning Russian as well as English, I find myself learning Russian. I've had a proficiency for languages but I have never become fluent. I am wondering if there is anything for me to help her and I learn at the same time. Are there any suggestions that you could give?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is great that you learn the language together with your daughter! She will need your support. It could be as little as taking an interest in what she reads with the grandparents and saying that you like the Russian books, that you think it is great she speaks Russian. Just being all positive about Russian language will help a lot. As for learning together activities you could use Russian alphabet blocks to build simple words with your daughter. You could also learn some songs. (Let me know if you need help finding some for you.) The research shows that singing really helps adults learning a foreign language. I know that my children, who are bilingual in Russian and Italian, really like when their father speaks Russian to them. Try to speak Russian when you can. It might be a good idea to organize a Russian language hour, then a day/days for the entire family to use and practice the language. Let me know if I can help you with anything else. Good luck!

      Delete
  4. What a great blog. I am five months pregnant with my first and I plan to speak in Portuguese (not my mother tongue, but a language I am extremely fluent and comfortable in) and my mother who will be our primary babysitter will speak in Russian - which is her native tongue. When we speak with each other it will likely be in English and my husband (an non polyglot) will speak with the child in English. Sounds like the main goal is consistency - a couple of questions came up for me if you/anyone has time:
    1. If I don't have baby books in Portuguese can I just do some quick simultaneous translation?
    2. Any concerns (doesn't sound like it from what you write) about speaking in English in the larger group? When you are speaking with the child in a group - do you use Russian (your language) or English (the common language you are using in your house)?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sounds like a great plan to raise a trilingual child! For the first two years of your child’s life, while s/he is learning how to speak, you should always address to your little one in a chosen language, even when you are outside or with a group of people speaking a different language. You can provide a brief translation of your conversation to others, explaining that you have to speak, say Portuguese in your case, in order for your child to learn the language. People usually understand. As of books, you are right, you could use books in any language and translate them. I do it even now with my older kid, who is already 4 years old . It is a good exercise for the parents brain and the kids patience ;) You could also write a translation in the book or on a piece of paper and attach it to the page of the book. When the kids grow they start asking to read the same book over and over again to hear the same story and it is better if the text is the same. Good luck with your pregnancy and let me know if you have any more questions!

      Delete
    2. Sorry to butt in, but I had a question on literacy. If I speak and read constantly in my mother tongue (Italian), will the child have any problems/delays in acquiring reading and writing skills in English?

      Delete
    3. Not necessarily - it depends on the child, and how much exposure they have to English, but you might find they are not delayed at all. Assuming they go to an English-speaking school or nursery, they should not be delayed at all, since they will be speaking fluent English before they reach the reading/writing stage. Even if they did get delayed, this will soon be forgotten and will anyway be massively outweighed by the rewards of being bilingual, which will benefit your child for the rest of its life.

      Delete
  5. Hi! Great read, I am trying to gather more information on this topic... I am 3 months pregnant with our first. My husband is raised bilingual (Italian - English) and I am trilingual (Dutch mothertongue - English - Italian). I would really like us to have 1 language as our "family language" and considering I speak Italian with my husband this would be the easiest transition for us both. Then we would like him to speak English with our child and I would speak Dutch, considering we might live in Belgium again in the future. Do you think this could work? I am not sure if it is a good idea for us both to switch from our chosen languages when alone with our child to our "common family language" when we are all together, like when having dinner etc. Could you please share your opinion :-)? Thank you so much.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! What is the community language? The ideal set up is to use the minority languages at home and allow child to learn the community language outside the house. Also it is a good choice to have one of the minority languages as the family language. For the first two- three years you might not be bothered by speaking all different languages when you are all together as vocabulary of possible conversations with a child is relatively simple and one can understand the conversation almost on an intuitive level; however, when a child gets older the conversations are taken to a different level, so one of the parents can get bothered if does not speak the language. If Italian is a community language, I would not use it while talking to your child, but only between you and your husband. Read also my article on passive language learning as it might help you make a decision. Congratulation on your pregnancy and good luck!

      Delete
  6. We just had a daughter less than a month ago.
    I am French but I also speaks English as I am an English teacher in Thailand. Her is Thai, so she can speak Thai and but use English to communicate with me. So we would like know how we should proceed to teach the 3 languages to my daughter. I don't know which one to start with or should I use the 3 of them together. I want to start with my mother tongue which is french but I'm mixing with English sometimes when I am talking to the baby. I'm looking for some advice. Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your daughter has a predisposition to be trilingual. I suggest to start speaking your mother tongues to the baby: you would speak French and your wife - Thai. You and your wife could speak English to each other. As Thai will be supported by community as well, it would be good if your wife could initiate some English language activities like song singing etc. When your daughter starts speaking ( when she is around 2-3 years old) you could work more on her English and transfer her passive language knowledge into active one. See my post about Passive language learning .
      Also you would need to think in advance about what foreign language your child will take at school. Based on your situation, I would have her study either English or French. And in the meantime I would concentrate on the language she will have less practice in in the future.
      It is not easy to control the language you speak to your child, if you are bilingual or multilingual yourself. I had the same problem, but I overcame it by starting reading books to my child in the targeted language, as I write in my post Bilingual child: when to start reading? and by repeating the words or phrases in the correct language. You might like also reading: How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child.
      Please let me know if I can help you with anything else. My best wishes to your family!

      Delete
    2. Bonjour Pascal,
      Hope it isn't too late to add to your inquiries. Like you, French is my first language, although I'm not from France :-) My wife is Japanese and we were able to raise two trilingual children by the time they reach year 3-4.
      First of all, the surrounding environment will be a determining factor. My children were born in the USA, so we were not worried about teaching them English at all.

      (1) I only speak to them (my kids) in French. It's the rule of the house. Nothing, absolutely nothing makes me budge from it (even when their American friends come home to visit)

      (2) My wife speaks ONLY Japanese to my kids. It's also the rule of the house. As my children grew, my wife did teach them the English alphabet at night time only (like songs) but every else is Japanese.

      (3) We make sure to read 3-5 books A DAY to my children in either language. My wife reads them Japanese books in the morning and afternoon, I read them French stories in the evening at bed time .

      (4) My wife and I speak English between ourselves, I am fluent in English and so is my wife (both educated in the USA), so we use proper English grammar around my children. Even when they're tempted to repeat a word we use in English, we swiftly redirect the conversation in either French or Japanese. Again no never use English to speak to our children.

      (5) At year 2-3 (for my daughter - the oldest), we noticed that she was reluctant to speak outside around strangers. People called her the quiet one to the point that we were even called by her teachers (she goes to a French school, where most kids were raised by American parents, and so they spoke in English to her)...But at home, our daughter was speaking decent French and Japanese, but never a word of English.
      The second semester at school, something crazy happened. My daughter found a couple of friends in the neighborhood, and in a matter of 2 weeks, every sound of English she heard since she was born poured out of her mouth. Then, she was 3.5 years old. At this point, my wife and I were no longer forbidding her to speak in English, we just looked at each other in awe. At school, her teacher couldn't believe the transformation. My daughter was now using all three language openly at the same level and making friends like crazy. In a matter of weeks!!!

      She is no longer shy to speak English outside and has a better English accent than my wife and I. Her younger brother had it easier. He is by nature more outspoken and communicative. And the fact that his sister speaks to him in either Japanese of French helped him quickly master it.

      So what the take out of all this? Just speak French to your child and your French only Thai to the child. Read a lot (buy native French and Thai books). Keep using great English around your child when talking to your wife and never switch to English when addressing your child. She's already learning passively by listening to you talk to your wife. The same goes for your wife.

      Your efforts will pay off sooner than you think. If you happen to have a couple whose kids speak English, go for it, and befriend them (more for the kids to speak English) - Only allow your daughter to use English when talking to their child, it's her practice time, but you stick to your French, and your wife to her Thai. Magic will happen. And don't worry if people of a different language (English or other) tell you that your child is quiet around them. As long as she is talking at home to you and your wife in your respecting languages, everything is fine. Of course, she will be more observant of a 3 language than most children used to using just one language. Her brain has to handle two main languages. The 3rd will take time (although she's already learning it). She will need to feel confident before using it and with the help of a play friend, she will do wonders in no time and start chatting like a bird in three languages.

      Bonne chance à vous!
      Herman

      Delete
    3. Hey There Herman,

      I know its been a year since you wrote the above but it installed some much confidence in myself and my wife, to hear first hand from someone that went through it and made it happen, as we had plan Thanks to Galina, but we still wasnt sure how it would work out as is everything in life I guess, but non the less thanks again for taking the time to write what you wrote.

      Many Thanks,

      Maz

      Delete
    4. Dear Herman,

      I know it has been a year since you wrote the above but I wanted to thank you , for installing so much confidence in my and wife's plan (based on Galina's amazing articles), due to the success you had with your children. its always nice to hear that what you have planned worked for some else that was in your own situation.

      Thanks again!,

      Maz

      Delete
    5. Hi Herman. Great input and well written. May I ask one question? It seems that neither you nor your wife ever read in English to your daughter, or wrote any English (little cards, games, letters, etc): were your daughter's reading adn writing skills in English affected by this? Wasn't she at a great disadvantage when she started proper school?

      Delete
  7. Hello,

    My wife is a native Russian speaker from Belarus, and I am a native Turkish speaker. We live in Tennessee with our two boys (soon to be 4 and 2 years old). My question to other parents raising trilingual children is if they've noticed any appreciable delay in certain linguistic milestones (like pronoun agreement or forming complex sentences).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Sinan! Thank you for stopping by and asking your question. Multilingual children might have uneven language development due to different exposure time to different languages. Normally the language with more input develops faster then other languages with less input do. If you notice that your child does not reach a language development milestones in neither of the languages, you might consider to consult with a specialist or bilingual language therapist. It is always better to be safe than sorry. You might also like reading a post " "Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?" Please send my greeting to your wife! I will be glad to connect with her! And check out the Russian children's books list my children enjoy reading so much.

      Delete
  8. I'm so happy I found this blog! It feels great to know we are not alone. We live in the states and are expecting our first baby. I'm Colombian and my husband is Korean but we speak English to each other. We are so excited to start teaching our baby our native languages, even though it is a little bit daunting. Glad I found this blog! Keep up the good work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ana! If you and your husband sticks to your respective mother tongues all the time while interacting with the baby, you will have a trilingual child. You might want to start looking for the language support near where you live - play groups, other parents, that share your language and are up to a similar multilingual adventure. Stock up on picture books and games in both languages, find children cartoons, bookmark good sites! It is also not too early to look at the school options. Good luck with your pregnancy and let me know if you have any particular questions that I can answer.

      Delete
  9. Hi Galina!

    Great blog. What do you think of our situation? My son is 2, and he talks a lot! At home, we speak English (me and his dad are natives), and in the nursery they speak mainly Catalan (although some Spanish too). Out and about (friends, shops, neighbours), we speak Spanish - we also read in Spanish and watch a little Spanish TV. Sometimes, he speaks to me in Catalan, and I answer or carry on the conversation in Spanish because I don't really speak Catalan but the Spanish comes pretty naturally. Do you think this is confusing? So far, he seems fine, but he's still pretty small!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Niamh!
      It is wonderful that your bilingual, wait, trilingual ! (Spanish, English and Catalan) son has already started speaking! According to the researchers, talking begins when a child already learned how to separate the languages ( you can read "Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?" for more information ). So the usage of all the languages on different occasions and in different situations will not cause any confusion. However, I would ask your child to speak Spanish to you or English, depending on the situation. If you at home, and I assume you follow minority language at home strategy (ML@H), you should ask him to speak to you English only. If you outside - Spanish. If you would like your child to be active trilingual, he would need to have an opportunity to use all tree languages, otherwise, he will be able to understand all three languages, but speak only some of them.
      In any case, I would not worry much in your situation, because you and your spouse are both English speakers. Plus English is the universal language :)
      Good luck with your little one! :)

      Delete
  10. Hello,

    My name is Francesca and I am about to have a baby. My partner and I are both Italians and live in the UK. As I am very fluent in Spanish as well, I was wondering if you have any advice about how to raise my baby trilingual. My partner and I are planning to speak to the baby in Italian all the time, at home but even in presence of others although he will hear us speaking English to other people. He will start learning the community language once he starts to go the nursery I guess. How can I teach him Spanish as well? I am struggling to think about possible patterns to follow. Also, Spanish and Italian are very similar. Will I confuse him by speaking both? I would also love for him to get to know French and Portuguese at an early age and hear the distinctive phonemes of these languages quite soon so that not to struggle to reproduce them later in life should he wish to learn these languages. Is there like a cut off age to kind of storage these phonemes? Will he be confused to hear me practicing French or Portuguese (I am currently learning them). What about the languages he might hear from TV and radio since I sometimes watch movies in different languages?
    Thanks in advance for your advice.
    Kind regards,
    Francesca

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ciao Francesca! Auguri! Congratulations on your pregnancy!
      Since you are a Spanish speaker, I think it will not be a problem to pass on Spanish language to your child and raise a trilingual baby.

      As you said, your child will learn English later in nursery.
      As for Spanish and Italian, I see several possibilities. You should choose your multilingual family strategy depending on what you feel more comfortable with and on how much time you will have with your soon trilingual to be child:

      Option one is to start with following a minority language at home ( ML@H ) language arrangement, when you and your partner always speak Italian. Introduce Spanish gradually, connecting it to certain routines / activities. The goal is to keep Spanish language exposure on the same relatively low level and concentrate on Italian. When your child starts speaking Italian at around age of 2, you should gradually increase the Spanish exposure. At that point you could have not only Spanish language activates with your child, but also Spanish days, when you would speak to him Spanish only.

      The second option is for you to start speaking to your baby Spanish only and for your husband Italian only, right from the day you baby is born. You and your partner would speak Italian to each other.

      The third option is a modification to the second one, when you follow the time separation approach and alternate the languages by speaking one week Spanish, one week Italian. You could experiment and choose the time period that works best for you and your baby: every other day, every two days, one week, two weeks.

      I would also consider looking for a Spanish speaking community around where you live no matter what option you choose. I do not say it for Italian, as I am sure you already have a lot of Italian friends in UK :)

      Passive exposure to other languages in the house besides Italian, Spanish and English should not confuse your child. I watched German TV, when my older child was a baby and did not notice any negative consequences of it. If your child is going to be surrounded by many languages, my advice is to keep everything in relation to the languages transparent. If you watch a movie and your child is around, tell him/her- what language the movie is in. If you speak to your friend, tell - what language you use. Name the languages. I did it all the time and I think it helped.

      That said, one can not grantee that a child will not mix languages and/or will be able to separate them by age 2. There are monolingual late talkers and there are bilinguals with non clinical speech delay (=late taker). All children are different, learn things differently and some need more time. This article may help you to choose the right language strategy for your multilingual family: " Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help? "

      As of French and Portuguese, you could still expose your child to those languages by, for example, listening to the songs. Or, which would be best, find another person , perhaps a nanny, to speak those languages to your child. In any case there is no need to rush. You can do it after your child starts speaking, around 3-4 years of age. Read this article about passive language learning if you have not read it yet.

      Let me know if you have more questions and what you will decide. Good luck with your delivery!

      Delete
  11. Hi!

    I would love advice on my family's trilingual approach to raising our son. I'm of Indian descent, raised in the US. English is my primary language, but I'm also verbally fluent (though a little rusty at the moment) in Tamil. My husband is Austrian, and fluent in German and English. We live in London.

    Since I was pregnant, I've been speaking Tamil and my husband German to our son; and, we speak English with each other. Our son is 5 months old now, and we are continuing to do the same. Our approach is - one parent, one language and we speak English as a family (and when he starts nursery around 8-9 months onwards).

    My concern is that I sometimes slip to English because there is no Tamil equivalent to some phrases, concepts, or words. Also, all our baby books are in English or German. As I speak Tamil, I've also realised that I just don't know some words in Tamil (for example, some animals such as hedgehog, and neither do my parents)! I'm becoming less confident in my Tamil skills; the problem is, these days spoken Tamil is really mixed with a lot of English words and it's become sort of a hybrid language (especially for those of us that don't live in India.) There is no way I can speak 100% Tamil to him; it's probably closer to 80%. But it's an important part of where my side of the family comes from.

    I also don't have a Tamil community here, but Skype frequently with my family so he gets more exposure with Tamil, and my husband does the same for German.

    My questions:
    - is it too late for me to drop Tamil, and switch to only English (and my husband stocks to German)? Or should I stick with it?
    - if so, is it okay to continue speaking Tamil to him, even though there are some English words thrown in?
    - will our son experience speech delay?
    - are there any risks with our approach?
    - should I be worried that we don't speak English to him directly yet? Will it affect his English skills in the long run?

    Thanks in advance for any advice!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on your baby boy! :) This is wonderful that you have decided to pass on your mother tongues and bring him up trilingual in Tamil, German and English.

      I understand your doubts about Tamil. Should you stop speaking one of your mother's tongues to your baby? I hope I can help you find the answer to this question by asking mine.

      Will your family members be able to communicate with your baby if he does not speak Tamil?

      If your answer is no, then you should probably continue speaking it. Do not give in to English. Somethings are definitely easier to say in English, especially if you are surrounded by it. Try to find how to say words you don't know in Tamil, and do not feel bad correcting yourself. Use google translate. Your child is only 5 month old now, so you will find yourself repeating these words again and again. Slowly, piece by piece you will be able get your language fluency back. Do you read in Tamil? I would also advice you to get some books in Tamil and start reading them to your child. By doing it you will improve your language skill as well.

      If your answer is yes, and you really feel the need to stop speaking Tamil and switch to speaking English, then you should choose the slow and natural way to do so, by speaking more and more English day after day. Any sudden language changes are not advisable and could harm the baby's language development. You should not drop speaking Tamil all together. You can still pass your mother tongue onto your child by organizing weekly activities in Tamil (sing songs, play games) and by skyping with relatives. Your son most likely will not be able to speak it, but he will be able to understand it. Also later he could transfer the receptive language knowledge into active one.

      I do not know in which part of London you live, but there is The London Tamil Sangam - London Tamil community and educational center. It runs Tamil language school for children 5 -16 years old and a library. So when your child is old enough, he could continue studying the language.

      You should not worry about your child learning the community language, English. Your son hears you and your husband speaking it to each other everyday (Passive language learning ) and he will start nursery soon. This will give enough exposure to it. Later he will continue mastering English at school.

      Regarding speech delay, there are no guarantees and it's impossible to predict what could happen. The recent research rejects any clinical speech delay in bilinguals or multilinguals. You just need to concentrate on doing your best in developing your child's languages skills in at least one of the minority languages and the rest will come.

      Listen to your heart. I am sure you will make the right decision for your trilingual family. Good luck!

      Delete
  12. Hi Galina,

    Thank you for your very interesting website. I'm in a bit of a conundrum and was wondering what you thought.

    I'm trilingual (French, Swedish, English). My mother spoke to me in Swedish, my father in French and I went to English school. My husband is English. We have just moved to Italy for work (mostly in English) and will be here for 4 years.

    I'm 20 weeks pregnant and would like to gift our child with languages. my husband will speak English, and we speak English together. The question is what will I speak? Swedish is a more maternal tongue (children's songs etc) but French is a more useful language. I don't like the idea of doing one language on certain days of the week, and another on others. I do not want to send my kids to French school because they are too strict! There is no Swedish school in rome. So I'm not really sure what to do or how to incorporate the Swedish as it's looking like I'll speak French! My mother and family speak Swedish so it is important to me that the child can communicate, none of them live in rome.

    Thank you for your thoughts and advice!

    Kindly,

    Sophie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sophie!

      Congratulations on your pregnancy! This is wonderful that you are trilingual!

      You are facing a really difficult decision! The fact that you do not want to alternate the languages by days of the week leaves you with not too many options.

      You did not mention, if you'd like your child to learn Italian as well. He or she could learn it by going to a daycare (ASILO Nido) and preschool (ASILO). 4 years is a long time, even though it will go by fast :). Daycare in Italy is rather expensive no matter if you choose to go public or private. In preschool ( 3-5 years old) the payment is based on the costs of a meal and in public schools parents don't have to pay for the days a child was absent. This is just to give you a brief idea.

      I also need to understand how much time you would have with your child. Do you plan to work, while you are in Italy? Would you send your child to a nursery/ kindergarten?

      It is very important for you that your child is able to speak Swedish. Unfortunately I also could not find any Swedish daycare or preschool in Rome on the web as well. It does not mean that nothing exists. I would call or write to the Embassy of Sweden in Rome ) to double check it with them. Maybe you could get a Swedish-speaking nanny or find other Swedish-speaking families to organize kids activities together.

      There are many of bilingual nursery schools and kindergarten with French as one of the languages (French -English, French- Italian) and even a trilingual school (French- English- Italian) in Rome. You child could start going there as early as 3 month old.

      I know you said that you do not want your child to go to a French school because they are strict, but I would reevaluate this option, so you could concentrate on Swedish as there might be no other possibility to teach your child this language. As you said, she / he would need it in order to communicate with the relatives. I also believe that the French speaking nursery schools and kindergartens in Italy are somewhat different to what you are used to. Check the list of International and bilingual nursery schools, kindergartens and elementary schools in Rome, I just have started thanks to you :)

      Good luck! Let me know if you have more questions.

      Delete
  13. 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 adress my husband and his family's natural discomfort at being around languages they don't understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Betsy, Thank you for contacting me! My answer was too long for the comment box, so I published it together with your question separately (I hope you do not mind). Please follow this link to read it : http://www.trilingualchildren.com/2015/03/question-trilingual-parent-monolingual-spouse-relationship-affect-child-language-learning.html

      Delete
  14. Hi Galina
    Love the website and have been reading about people's experiences with great interest.

    I am a mother to a five month girl and would like to hear your thoughts on how we are raising her with 3 languages. I am greek native speaker and my partner is Italian native speaker. We live in the UK for over 10 years now.Our common language has always been english since the beginning but I have studied italian to a beginner/pre intermediate level so that I can communicate with his family in Italy. He has never felt the need to learn greek I guess as my family speak English very well. Now that we have our daughter we have been doing the OPOL strategy. I spend a lot of time with her as I am not working so we speak in greek, read and sing to her in Greek too. My partner does the same with Italian and I join in with Italian too. As a family when we are all together I try to use Italian but I feel bad as maybe I should stick to Greek with her so she associates me just with greek? Of course she hears us speaking to english at home too when we speak to one another, so she gets a lot of exposure in the community language already even at home. I would like to hear your thoughts on this if there is something more we can do to support the minority languages. I worry more about Greek as I feel as soon as we are home as a family we have to switch to Italian/English so that my partner is not excluded. Should I continue to use Greek with her even with dad around? Any strategies to include him? Maybe explain to him what I say to our girl every time? I must say I have been doing this a little and he seems to be learning a lot listening to just us talking. But he is still very reluctant to use what he learns or he quickly forgets! I am bit worried about Greek being fazed out as Italian seem to be more dominant among us as a family. Thank you! Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your question and warm words. My answer was too long for the comment box, so I published it together with your question separately (I hope you do not mind). Please follow this link to read my answer : http://www.trilingualchildren.com/2015/02/question-how-keep-two-heritage-languages-in-balance.html

      Delete
  15. Hello! So happy to be able to consult with you! I am Polish and my partner is Norwegian. We currently live in Norway but speak English with each other (My partner speaks very little Polish and I speak very little Norwegian). It is very important for me that our son, who is 1 year old learns proper Polish both in speaking and in writing. I am concerned that because his Father speaks Norwegian to him and the community language is Norwegian, this will be very difficult. I try and expose him to Polish as much as possible, we travel to Poland a lot, try and listen to Polish radio but I am scared of enrolling him in kindergarten because I fear the dominance of Norwegian will stop him from speaking Polish. Do you know of similar situations and do any of you have some encouragement and advice to share? Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Agata!

      This is almost like our family situation! With the difference that I speak my husband's language and his level of speaking and understanding of my language is not so bad either.

      I can say right away that you can successfully pass your mother tongue onto your child and raise him trilingually! Yes, you can do it! :)

      My two kids learned my language from me without even a single visit to the heritage language country! They both are fluent in it, can read it and even speak it to each other !

      Yes, there will be ups and downs on your way, you need to be persistent and consistent in your efforts. I have shared what works for me in my latest post "Raising a Bilingual Child. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through." (Sorry I did not answer to you earlier, as I was working on it and thought it would be better to link to it in my answer to you).
      There you will also find the links to my posts on teaching a child to read. I will say here only that I would start teaching your child Polish letter sounds now. It will give you the head start you need, as you are pretty much alone teaching your child Polish.

      Read also some of the general advice I give in "How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development? "

      As of school, do not worry. There will be initial phase, when your child will try to speak the community language with you. Let's say, he will say "car" ("bil") in Norwegian to you, your answer should be: " yes, it is "bil" in Norwegian , but it is "samochód" in Polish. Your mommy speaks Polish to you, so you should say "samochód". Even , if the child stubbornly repeats "car" in Norwegian to you, do not worry. Keep on smiling and explaining to him and he will eventually stop testing you. Work on expanding your child's vocabulary in Polish. Check what he has done at school and make sure to cover it at home as well. As I write in my article, you should be proactive.

      The fact that you are able to travel to Poland is wonderful ! This provides you with a greater support and extra language practice to your child. Keep on doing it every year or have your Polish friends and family over :)

      Good luck on your multilingual journey! Let me know if you have more questions.

      Delete
  16. Hello, First of all, thank you for all the useful information you have given us here on this site!

    I've been reading all the comments to try to find a situation similar to mine, but with no luck - so here is my story and my questions:

    I'm Danish and my husband is Albanian. We speak Italian together because we have lived in Italy for many years. We are both very proficient in Italian.
    Now we live in Denmark and are planning to have kids soon. I really think the OPOL is a good strategy - so i would speak Danish to the child and my husband would speak Albanian.
    My concern is the Italian. I would love for us to have Italian as our "family language" so we all can speak together without constant translations. I know that passive learning is helpful, but i also know from experience that if you are not talked TO in a certain language then you wont be able to speak it either. So how can we incorporate Italian?? (other than passively)

    - The community language is Danish so i'm not concerned about that, but its my mother tongue and thats what i want to speak to the baby.
    At the same time I have this idea that i would feel a bit awkward speaking Danish when we all three are together, as Italian is my "emotional language" with my husband and therefore (to some extent) also is and emotional language with/to the baby.

    I'm planning to be a home-mom until the child is at least two, so i will have plenty of time to talk to the child. Would it make ANY sense so talk Danish to the child when i'm alone with him/her and then switch to Italian when my husband comes home and we are all together?? Or is this too confusing? Or is this only something i can/should do later when the child already has the first two languages (Danish+Albanian) established around the age of 2-3?

    Extra info: I understand and speak only very basic Albanian and my husband only very basic Danish.

    Thank you so much in advance!
    Best regards Sofie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sofie,

      I think you have really good chances to raise a trilingual child with good proficiency level in Italian. The proficiency level in Albanian will depend on your husband's language input. Danish, as you say, should not be a problem as you speak it to your child and it is also the country language.

      It is clear that your husband would need to speak Albanian to your future child all the time. He will have the hardest "job". Try to support him as much as possible.
      Let him read this article: Raising a Bilingual Child. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through , so he can get some perspective on what he would need to do.

      As of what language you should speak to your baby, it is not as simple. Since Danish is not only your mother tongue, but also the country language, I would start introducing Italian as early as possible. The question here is what would be the best way of doing it.

      First of all, I do support your idea of making Italian a family language; however , I would let your husband speak Albanian around you at least in the first 2 years of your child's life. You should not have a problem to guess what he is saying, plus he can translate it to you.

      I also agree that you should switch to Italian when your husband is around. I do not see any reason why you should not do it right after the baby is born. You should think of other opportunities for speaking Italian to your baby and implementing Time and Place language strategy. When your baby is born you will understand better what activities you could do with her/him while speaking Italian only, even when your husband is not around.
      For example, reading books in Italian. I would leave Danish books reading for later, when your child is older. He will be read to at kindergarten as well.

      You could also listen to Italian music and sing wonderful Italian kids' songs. They are so great that I find it difficult to only listen to them. I always sing along with my kids :)
      I have a list of the kids’ radio stations from around the world , where you could find children’s radio stations in Albanian , Italian that broadcast a lot of songs.

      I hope you have a better sense now of what language you should speak and when. Best wishes to your family on the multilingual journey :)

      Delete
  17. Dear Galina,

    I love your page and it is really nice that at last I could find some tips here how to raise a trilingual child. But I couldn't sort out our issue so I would really like to ask you to help us in our desperate situation. I am a Hungarian native speaker, my husband is a Dutch native speaker and we live in a country in the Middle East where the main language is English. As here our baby (10 months old) doesn't have exposure to Hungarian language and as my parents only speak Hungarian I have been talking to our baby since birth in Hungarian. With my husband we talk in English and he talks to our baby in English as well because when our baby becomes 3, she has to pass an English assessment to be able to start in the better elementary schools. Therefore my husband is scared that if we expose her to 3 languages, her language development will slow down and she might not be able to pass the assessment. But we are also not planning to stay here for good. Latest when our daughter needs to start her high school, we want to move to the Netherland which requires that our daughter will need to become a native speaker of Dutch by then. My husband is at home maximum half the month because of his job and then he speaks to her in English but reads her bedtime stories in Dutch. But I noticed that whenever he gets into situations with our baby that he needs to react instinctively, he tends to do that in Dutch. This bothers me as it might be confusing for her plus he admitted that he would rather speak in his native language too but scared of the failed assessment. So our worry is that if we don't expose her at home to Dutch she won't be able to master it on such a level that she will be able to start her high school studies and she will struggle but if my husband switches to Dutch, she might not be able to pass her English assessment here in 3 years. Could you please help us what you think would be the bet solution? And how we could keep all the languages active and high level? We are really looking forward to hearing from you soon as our baby is growing so fast and we have to decide asap. Thank you so much in advance!!!

    Many regards,
    M and F

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mel,

      Thank you for warm words and sorry for taking long time to answer your question.

      I understand your concerns. It is not a very easy situation. Especially when you have to prioritise a foreign language over your native language, as your husband is doing.

      Since your child would have to pass the assessment test in English, you do need her to speak it well. If you can not have the English language input from outside the family from daycare/ babysitter/ kindergarten , there is no other way to support the language but for one of the parent speak it to the child and this is what you actually have been doing.

      In theory your husband could speak both languages, English and Dutch, to your child by alternating days. But this approach adds more uncertainty. Every child is different and learns differently, passing milestones at his/her own pace. You can not be certain that your child will progress equally in both languages. For that reason I would wait after your child passes the assessment test in English to slowly change the language strategy to include more Dutch. Right now I would dedicate most of the time to English. Your ultimate goal is for your husband to switch to speaking exclusively Dutch by introducing more and more Dutch on daily bases right after the test.

      At the age of 3 child is very receptive in learning languages and with the father as a native speaker she will do just fine. It will require a lot of dedication and work on your side, but I believe it is achievable to get your child to a good proficiency level in a pretty short time. Reading books daily and allowing cartoons in Dutch will help. You might also like to play kids radio on the back ground, when your child is playing with toys and when you can not give her personal attention. Look at the list of kids radio stations from around the world. You will find a good selection of Dutch children's stations listed there. Also you should not forget that living in the country where the language is spoken will help tremendously to its late acquisition.

      I hope my answer will help you. Let me know if you have more questions.
      Good luck in raising a trilingual child!

      Delete
  18. Is it possible to have a trilingual child if my partner, my and the community's language are all Thai?
    Given my partner can speak Thai and English, and I can speak Thai, English and Japanese. What if I speak Japanese and my partner speaks English to our child, while my partner and I speak Thai to each other but never to the child?
    Will there be a problem when my partner's English and my Japanese won't be fluent like the native? What if we pronounce some words wrong, have inaccurate accents or make grammatical errors?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, you could raise a bilingual or a trilingual child as a non-native speaker.

      You would need to rely on resources in a second language, such as books, audio books, CDs/ DVDs with children’s songs and cartoons, children’s radio, in order for your child to pick up the correct accent and grammar. You would also need to provide an opportunity for your child to practice language with native speakers. It could be by hiring a nanny and/or by participating in English / Japanese playgroups. If this is not possible, look for native speakers to talk to via Skype or using other video calling software. Plan some trips to the country, where the language is spoken. I would also consider enrolling your child in a bilingual kindergarten or a bilingual school if they are available in the area.

      Good luck in raising a trilingual child!

      Delete
  19. My native language is English as is my husband's and we live in the US. A pretty bad start! I'd love to raise a multilingual child and am trying to figure out what would be the best strategy, taking to account we might end up with a situation where it's easier to support passive language learning that, as you have written elsewhere, can lay the groundwork for later learning in school, rather than true fluency.

    In terms of the resources we do have, I speak French fluently, Chinese at a "B2" level (whatever that means), and Spanish at an intermediate level. (My husband speaks a little Spanish.) I speak and read all these languages at a level where I can very easily read, sing, and communicate with young children with very good but not native accents.

    My in-laws live half the year in a tiny town in Mexico and have learned to speak good Spanish, although it's not their native language either, and they would probably feel funny speaking in Spanish to their grandkids! In my area, there is a bilingual French/English school (starting from nursery school), a bilingual Chinese school (starting with mommy and me classes at 12 months), and a variety of Spanish playgroups. I am also in a university town, so their are always wives of grad students and professors raising their kids with these native languages in their homes. (I am sure there are a variety of informal, organic Chinese, Spanish and French play groups happening all the time.) Finally, although I will be staying at home, our personal/life situation demands that we have a live in au pair or nanny for at least the first few years who could be a source of one of these languages.

    In terms of what is my "heart" language, I have to say that French is in close running for English. I didn't really know this until I started learning French comptines (nursery rhymes). I think this is because my grandparents were francophone and although they never spoke to me directly in their language, I felt as a child and still feel a strong affinity for the sounds and rhythm of the language.

    Anyway, it would not feel natural to me to speak only to my children in English or live a life solely in English given how much the other languages I speak have become a part of my life story. I would love to hear your instincts on whether I should speak French to my kids (a direction in which I am strongly leaning) and then read books/sing songs in Spanish and Chinese. The books and songs would be a means of early exposure that might help lay the groundwork a) for matriculating into the local Chinese school and b) perhaps picking up more spanish, e.g., playing with local kids on trips to Mexico, with the idea that Spanish might be latent in the background until high school if and/when they decide to study it in earnest.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I praise you for willingness to pass your language knowledge onto your child.

      You did well to research the language schools in your area. I do not know where you live, but the language support that is available near you is unbelievably good. I think you have all the chances of raising a trilingual child - if not more! - a very strong bilingual as minimum.

      First of all you would need to decide, if you are willing to commit to speaking only one language other than English to your child.

      Assuming that “yes”. Base on what you write about your language preference, I would choose French to speak to your child, leaving English exclusively for communication with your spouse. You can provide maximum support in French and your child can learn it from you only. Whereas with Chinese he would have to receive a language input from the outside of house. For that reason, I would send him to a Chinese school.

      Can a child enter the Chinese school later than from 12 month? As it would be better for you and your child to concentrate on French until he starts speaking some words at the age of 2. If not, I do not see a big problem for you doing the “mommy and me” classes with your child. You would have to remind him before every class that you are about to speak there a different language - Chinese and at home you speak French, and the father speaks with him English and some Spanish ( I will get to the father’s bilingual language strategy a little later). At first those will be just words to him, but slowly he will understand what you are talking about. I also believe this strategy helped my children in separating the languages and in not mixing them.

      What language should your au pair or nanny speak?
      Assuming that you hire help because you will not be able to dedicate 100% of your time to the baby I would look for an au pair / nanny speaking your chosen language ( for now I assume it will be French).

      In case you want to keep speaking English and simply would like to expose your child to other language (either French or Chinese), I would concentrate on one for maximum results and I would choose schooling in that language. The remaining language can be taught later, around age of 4, depending on your child’s progress in home languages. But in this case I would choose a Spanish speaking nanny, because your child will be able to practice that language later with grandparents and perhaps visiting Mexico.

      Another option here, is to choose Chinese as a second to English language to speak to your child in order to create a base for further learning from you and private teachers and choose a bilingual French English school at this point.

      If you commit to a minority language, your husband will be the source of English for your child. He could also start rebrushing Spanish and learn it further together with the kid using, for instance, the Time and Place approach (read above) and speak Spanish during particular activities.

      It would be good, if your in-laws agree to take part in your child’s multilingual education and speak only Spanish to him/her. I would definitely give Spanish a try, if your child will be visiting your grandparents in Mexico, as he will be able to practice speaking the language there.

      I listed several possibilities for you. Now you just need to figure out what would work best for you and your family. Read also this article to get a feeling for how a trilingual family communicates. If you choose to commit to one language and you are the only language input, I advise you to speak that minority language all the time, even in public.

      I hope this helps you to make a decision. Let me know if I can answer more questions and what you decide.
      Good luck!

      Delete
  20. Dear Galina,
    I am Portuguese and I live together with a Dutch in Holland. I have a child with 7 years old now. I started to speak Portuguese, but it didn't work until I lived in Portugal for almost 1 year. I was the only one speaking Portuguese, and I didn't had Portuguese TV or other useful products. I discovered a child needs to develop a 1st language to get a 2nd language. My child was developing Dutch at the point I stayed at home with him (at 1 year). I have another son, but he just joined my actual family 3 years ago.

    Now, me and the brother speak Portuguese with the small one, the father speaks Dutch and we all on the table speak English to each-other and someone listens. At some point my small one (David) started speaking in English and he is always watching English movies.

    We are planning to go to Atlanta - USA, next Summer. I would like to start teaching my son something. He is behind on school (Dutch).

    I would like to read your opinion. Should I teach him both Portuguese and English? Or should I only focus in English and leaving Portuguese for the older son (with 17 years old, now)? For me it is easier here to get movies and books in English than Portuguese, since I can order them from amazon uk.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maria!

      What a great idea you have to prepare your child for the trip to the US!

      I would definitely not renounce Portuguese with the younger sibling. Especially because, as I understood from what you write, your older child speaks Portuguese and helps you with the younger brother.

      If you see your child is very enthusiastic about learning English, put some extra effort in teaching it too. It is easy to teach a language when a child enjoys it and does not notice all the learning behind the fun activities you do with him.

      Also I would not worry about three languages being too much. Your younger child has perfect age for learning languages. Play children's songs in English and Portuguese. Check the list of kids radio stations from around the world that your kids might enjoy listening to. Do activities where kids can learn through movement (listening a song, singing it along and dancing). If you are guilty of allowing your child play with your cell phone, download the language learning apps to reinforce the target languages.

      Let me know if you have more questions.
      Good luck on your family trilingual journey :)

      Delete
  21. Hi Galina!

    Thank you for posting this article! I know my questions may seem redundant to the speakers above but each family's situation is unique, which is why I am going to ask my questions anyway (if you do not mind). I am trilingual in French, Spanish and English living in the US with my partner being monolingual in English. The languages I plan to teach at home is French to my baby (6 months) and I have just decided to put him in a Spanish immersion daycare. He will be at said daycare for 4 days a week until age 2-2.5 (if all goes well). I speak French to him at home and English when father is home so we can all communicate. Father speaks French at an advanced beginner/intermediate level but does not feel comfortable communicating in that language to baby since it is not his maternal language. I plan to enroll my son in a French immersion school once he is 3 or 5 years old. My question is how do I effectively continue Spanish once he leaves the daycare ? In other words, I would not want all the early Spanish acquisition "to go to waste" if I cannot find an approropriate supplement. What do you recommend? Thank you!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great questions! And you are right asking it. As you have pointed out each family’s situation is unique.

      First of all it is wonderful that your husband can speak some French. It means he will be able to support you. Your child will be thrilled when the father says some words or phrases in French. It will help to avoid possible discomfort your husband might have as he will understand what you say to your child. Also I would encourage your husband to put some extra time in mastering the language even further, otherwise he will not be able to understand you two speaking when your child is older. This post can give him some ideas on how to add language learning in the busy life: 8 Quick & Effective Ways to Learn Your Spouse’s Language, For the Busy Parent .

      As of Spanish, best is to have a Spanish teacher or a babysitter to speak to your child and for you keep on speaking French at least until your baby starts going to the French immersion school. If this is not possible, since you are trilingual, you could also speak both languages, French and Spanish, yourself. One option is to alternate days or weeks , depending on how you feel more comfortable and what works best for your family dynamics, and other option is to have daily activities in Spanish and work on developing vocabulary on different topics. Your child will be already 2 years old, so it is ok to have some cartoon time too. Check out this list of kids radio stations from around the world. There are many great French and Spanish kids’ stations listed there.

      Let me know if you have more questions. And good luck with raising a trilingual child! :)

      Delete
  22. I am so glad I came across your blog. My husband is Korean and I am Chinese, but we both are only proficient in our parents' languages. My daughter is 22-months and is speaking English like a 3-4 year old. She learned Korean from her Korean nanny who was with our family since she was an infant. I just started speaking to her in my limited Mandarin and afraid that I started too late because she is so comfortable in English. She likes learning new Chinese words, but when I attempt full immersion, my daughter is frustrated that she cannot understand me and says "Mommy no, no, no, no more Chinese." :( I will keep trying, and am encouraged to see other parents here sharing their experiences!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hiii!! My situation is similar to yours, except I'm the only one speaking chinese and english, do you live in Korea? I'd love to get some advice from you , feel free to contact me at la.peche87[at]gmail

      Delete
    2. Yes! Please keep on speaking Mandarin Chinese to your daughter.

      I would suggest you to start with word learning activities instead of full immersion right away. The full immersion is great for babies but a child is older when a new language is introduced. She needs to have a different approach, especially if she was not exposed to the language all the time. Make language learning into a game. You could use flash cards or draw together and then label objects on the picture. Here is one of the language development activities that could work for you. After your daughter knows some words , it will be easier for her to figure out what you want to say and she might even try to respond you in Mandarin.
      You could also say phrases / sentences in Chinese and follow them with translation into the language she is already proficient in.
      Make language learning activities short in the beginning and increase the time according to your daughter's progress. Your goal is to eventually return to what you have started with - full immersion.

      Good luck! Hope this helps.

      Delete
  23. I'm currently pregnant with my first baby... I'm an English educated Chinese living in Korea, and I speak Chinese, English and Korean, whereas my husband only speaks Korean... My main social cycle only consist of Korean speaking people and I'm worried about how to teach my unborn child 2 languages almost by myself .... I worry that I'd confuse her by speaking 2 languages at the same time urgh...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Congratulations on your pregnancy!

      As I understood from what you write you would like to speak two languages to your future baby - Chinese and English and your child will learn Korean from your husband and the community.

      First of all I would start from investigating if there is a possibility for your child to receive a language input in English and Chinese from someone else. It could be a nanny, kindergarten, grandparents….check for bilingual schools and playgroups. Knowing this will help you understand what language you would need to concentrate on more yourself.

      You could start from speaking both language to your child from birth simply by alternating the days or weeks, depending on how you feel more comfortable. If languages are switched daily, nights could be tough, as it will be hard to figure out what language you should speak. Plus, it would probably be the least of your worries. For this reason I would opt for one language for nights to avoid mixing the two.

      Read also 9 steps for raising a bilingual child successfully for more general tips.

      Good luck! And keep me updated on how things go with your future trilingual baby;)

      Delete
  24. Hi Galina,

    I just discovered your site and LOVE it so much, I had to thank you and drop you a question :) Please excuse me if this or a similar topic was covered earlier.
    We live in Turkey, and speak to our 11 month old son only in Turkish. The lady who takes care of him speaks to him only in Russian ( Her native language ) She speaks fluent Turkish as well, so speaks to us in Turkish. He will probably start some kind of kinder-garden next year that will either introduce English gradually or fully right away.
    My question is this; Should I,(the father) start speaking English with him now? Do it exclusively with him? Do it only with my wife so he learns passively. Use it only in games, singing etc.? I'm worried if I don't do an introduction he will have trouble adopting to an all English class. Which is the best way do you think for introducing the third language? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad you like the website:)
      Could you please answer my questions below, so I could help you better.
      Are you and your wife Turkish? What languages do you both speak ? How much time is your child exposed to Russian and how much time he is exposed to Turkish? After the kindergarten do you plan to send your child to a Turkish school or to a Turkish - English bilingual school? What are your plans regarding Russian language? Thanks!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your answer Galina,
      My wife and I are both Turkish. We both are very advanced in English. I also am intermediate in Spanish and Russian and she is in French.
      We both work, so our son is exposed to Russian 80% of the time, and to Turkish 20% of the time during weekdays. On the weekends it's the reverse, so 20% Russian and 80% Turkish. He already started saying words like Adin, Maladiets, Dai etc. (sorry about spelling) and shows a few of his body parts when he hears them in Russian.
      After kindergarden we plan to send him to a bilingual Turkish-English school.
      I want him to keep his Russian throughout his life at least as his 3rd best language after English. So I plan to get him exposed to Russian during childhood years,and get him some classes for reading/writing after he is proficient in Turkish and English.
      Thank you!

      Delete
  25. Hi, Galina! I was very pleased to find your website. I´m a language enthusiast and would love to pass it over to my children. As I prepare myself to get pregnant, I´m also trying to organize what´s going to be the language strategy. My husband and I speak Portuguese and my plan is to use OPOL strategy, using only English since pregnancy, while my husband uses only Portuguese. I would like to introduce Spanish as well from the very start.

    I have developed some materials in those 3 languages to my 5 years old niece and she did pretty well with it. So I decided to expand it to other relatives who are always asking me about what they could to to encourage their children to learn new languages.

    Yesterday I started to build a page to share materials with parents that want to teach Portuguese, English and Spanish at the same time to their chindren. As I was searching for content to publish there, I found your website and have just shared an article there:

    https://www.facebook.com/portinglenhol/

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    Take care,

    Katiuscia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katiuscia,

      Good that you started planning your family language strategy ahead of time. It will give your husband enough time to learn the languages you plan to teach your child to in case he does not speak them. Having at least some basic understanding of partner’s language is good for family dynamics.

      The language strategy you propose should work well in your case. While you concentrate on English for the first two years, your husband could do some Spanish language related activities with your child. Then you could join him with the efforts and dedicate more time to Spanish.

      Read the interview with a mother , who is a non-native speaker of Portuguese and is successfully raising two bilingual children. Non-native Speaker Raising Bilingual Children. Interview with Christine Jernigan, the author of "Family Language Learning" book.

      Good luck!
      Galina

      Delete
  26. Does this language strategies is good for my son that i want to teach him natural language ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kavin, Could you please elaborate on your question? Thank you!

      Delete
  27. Hi there! Great articles! I am Ashish Awalgaonkar, I am a technical translator (Engineering docs) in Korean and Chinese. As an Indian, I can pretend to know English and am fluent in 3 Indian languages. I teach my 1 year daughter Korean and want her to be a polyglot. I also run a website www.multilingual-kid.com where I provide resources to make our kid multilingual. I would love to read your thoughts on this process through this website! Keep writing!

    ReplyDelete
  28. Hello!

    I'm pregnant with my first child and my mother tongue is spanish. My man is finnish and we're gonna raise our baby in Finland. We speak english with each other, although we both live in Sweden a.t.m. and speak swedish as well :P

    My question is how to do it with the baby? Because my spanish is also a bit rusty and I'm extremely comfortable with english and I will too learn finnish once I get the chance.

    Thank you so much for your reply! I'm glad there's help for us language lovers :D

    ReplyDelete
  29. We somehow have the same problem. We have a little daugther which is now 1.5 years old. My Lithuanian wife speaks Lithuanian with her while I speak German. Together we also speak in English and we are living in Italy. We do it like this at the moment, that we speak english when we all communicate while speaking in our languages if we only communicate with the child. Although we of course try to communicate a lot with the child "seperatly". I hope she'll be able to catch basics of all three languages prior going to kindergarden getting also involved with Italian. We have a a kind of private European School in the area where also a program is offered with English as first language. In this case Italian is the second language and German can be chosen as a third. We'd only have to take care to support her Lithuanian what would happen probably automatically spending most time with her mom. Anyway, this is all still far. At the moment she still doesn't speak. Only a few words and a lot if baby bla bla. I am a bit worried about her but hope she'll have all the benefits of it later. Never give up.

    Greetings

    Ronny

    ReplyDelete
  30. My wife is Thai and I'm American. Im monoligual and my wife is bilingual. I want my daughter (currently 1.5) to be trilingual. My goal was for my daughter to learn English and Spanish at school as her preschool teaches Spanish starting at age 3 and for my wife to teach her Thai at home. I would speak ti her inEnglish as I have no other option. Unfortunately my wife only speaks Thai when I remind her. Right now I'm the one teaching our daughter Thai through children's songs, a talking pen that "reads" a set of books that came with it, and reminding my wife to read her a bedtime story in Thai. I also plan to enroll her in Sunday language school at a local Thai temple but she can't enroll until she's 5. Is it realistic that my daughter will become trilingual with this approach seeing as how my wife is not concerned with our daughter learning her native language?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hello, this sounds really intriguing but my own situation does point me to some possible draw backs. I am German, my husband British. We live in Norway. We speak English between ourselves. I am the only one speaking both German and Norwegian. The obvious thing would be for me to speak German and for him to speak English to the child but I am worried about disadvantages when the little one starts nursery/kindergarten/school. He will not have been exposed to a lot of Norwegian before that at home as we do not have Norwegian tv etc and visitors tend to speak English - most of our friends being foreigners as well. Thank you for any advice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Katrina, I understand your concerns. I think you should not worry and just speak German. If you teach your child everything you can in your home languages, he will be able to transfers the knowledge into Norwegian later on and thus, will be well prepared for school. It is important to make sure that your kid is not isolated from Norwegian. I would make sure he has an opportunity to play with other Norwegian speaking kids. Also if you plan to send your child to a daycare from age 2 , he will have enough of the community language exposure there. The older your child is the more and more interaction in the community language he will have outside the house. Think about all the birthday parties, after school activities… my kids always have something going on.
      So it is ok to have more of your home languages exposure now. With time languages will balance out and your child will be even more proficient in Norwegian, taking that it will be his schooling language.

      If you do not focus on German now it will be harder ( but not impossible) to catch up and keep the language exposure balanced in the long run.
      Sure, you could speak two languages to your child at the same time (read One parent speaking two languages post) but the balance most likely will shift to Norwegian. Is that what you want?
      Would it be OK, if your son will only understand German but would not speak it? Will he need German to communicate with the relatives?
      If your answer to the first question is No and to the second question is Yes , I would seriously consider speaking German only to him and leave Norwegian to a daycare /school/ community.

      Work on your child's minority language vocabulary consciously developing it. Read books, show cartoons, sing kids songs , listen to the kids radio in Norwegian and English.
      Read more tips that are shared in this two articles: 9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully and 15 Inspirational Tips From A Mother Raising Trilingual Children.

      Good luck!

      Delete
  32. Hello,
    My husband is Polish, I am Lithuanian. We live In Belgium, a country with 2 official languages - French and Dutch (German is the third, but it is used only in the German part of Belgium ).We speak to each other English, but we have a dilemma, how teach our daughter (she is now 3 months old) all 5 languages. When she turns one year-old, she will start going to Dutch speaking childcare. At age of 2 years, she will go to immersion school, where she will learn in English, Dutch and French. We would like her to learn our native languages, but if stick to one language per person talking to her, but we will speak only English to each other, how is she going to understand us? :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Roja,
      Congratulations on your baby! :) Do not worry and speak your languages to her. Try to build the vocabulary in your languages, travel to your home counties. Your daughter will start the immersion school early enough, so you do not need to worry about the community languages. Read my tips on raising bilingual children here. They will put you on the right road.
      Good luck!
      Galina

      Delete
  33. Hi Galina, I am very pleased to read your posts and other comments. My wife is Russian, I am Italian and we live in Serbia. We are using the OPOL strategy to our (soon) 3y.o. son. Between us we exclusively speak in English and he is watching most of the times videos and cartoons in English as well. He seems to understand all four languages but so far he picked Russian as the only one to communicate and his vocabulary is still a bit limited. Being very busy with my job I suppose I am not reading enough books to him in Italian but I talk to him as much as I can and exclusively in Italian. Is this the reason why he can only understand but not talk? At the moment he seems to refuse to talk any other languages apart from Russian. When this will change? How to improve is proficiency in Italian, English and Serbian languages? (At kindergarten they speak Serbian and English to him and he is most of the time playing with local and Russian kids). Thank you in advance!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alberto,

      It is wonderful that you are raising a little quadrilingual child!

      I noticed that my children first mastered one language and then jump the milestones in other to just speak it in full sentences. So do not worry. Time will come! Just continue your great job.
      I do not think your child will be able to resist to Italian charisma. Italian people and language is so beautiful! Just bring your child to Italy on vacation to get more language exposure that way. Sing songs. They are powerful. Look for fun children’s songs. “ Il coccodrillo come fa…”, “Mi scappa…” , “ Una casetta in Canada”...
      Arrange thing such that when you are at home all audio and video is in Italian. It will give a good boost.

      Here you can find kids radio stations in Italian.

      And please make an effort to reading a book a day as only with their help your child will be able to learn a lot of words in such a limited input time. If you arrive home late telling a story/ singing (any song!) at bedtime will do wonders too.
      I hope this helps.

      Good luck!!!
      Galina

      Delete
  34. Hi gilina,
    Thanks for your very informative article. I would love my 18 month old son to be multilingual but i am really confused as to how to go about it. So much so that I have thus far delayed teaching my child any other language except my first language!

    My husband and i are both native english speakers and it is the communiťy language as well. My second language (my parents native language) is urdu, and my husbands second language (his parents native language) is turkish. However neither my husband nor i are fluent in our second languages. My accent isnt accurate and i make many grammatical errors. This is what has put me off from teaching my son as i dont want him to learn poorly, nor have to struggle to explain things to him in that language. But at the same time i really don't want to deprive him of his heritage language either.

    We see my parents once a week or two. I dont think this is enough for him to learn urdu just from them, is it?? And we only see my father inlaw once in 2-3weeks. Certainly not enough to learn turkish. Aside from this my husband and i love arabic (but havent yet learnt it ourselves, its a future plan) and are keen for our son to learn it too. How will we do that not knowing it ourselves, as well as teaching him his heritage languages which we arent proficient in? Should we even bother with all of them considering, and just focus on one additional language?
    Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Faz,

      It is never too late to introduce a new language and raise a bilingual child!

      I see two possibilities that can bring good results. One option is to depart on a language learning adventure all together as a family and learn Arabic. And another one is to introduce your heritage language - Urdu.

      Ask if your parents agree to speak Urdu only to your child. If yes, it would be best if you speak Urdu to your child too. Do not worry about your proficiency level. You can master the language together with your child day after day. If things go well, he will be speaking another language, if not, he will have a good base to build on as he becomes older.

      Regarding Turkish, you would need more language input for a child to start speaking it, but I still would try to expose your son to it and give him some feel of the language. Who knows he might have an opportunity and an inspiration to learn it later in life already as an adult. Read this article about kids ability to learn a language by being exposed to it passively.

      In case you decide to learn Arabic, I would suggest to start from learning some words first and then use them in phrases during different life situations: at the table, in the bathroom, during playtime… slowly build more and more complicated sentences. Also good if you will be able to find kids songs to play and sing along, cartoons can help too.

      I really encourage you to try to add one more language in your child's life. You know yourself what it means to be bilingual:)

      Good luck!
      Galina

      Delete
  35. Thank you for this great article! I am still in the planning stages of my family, but have recently started to think about what languages my children should learn. I am German and grew up in Switzerland (speaking Swiss german). My partner is Chinese-american. We are currently living in the US.

    I only speak a few words Chinese, and he only speaks a few words of German. So obviously our children would learn English as their main language. However, it would make me very sad if they wouldn't be able to speak my native language or talk to my relatives in Germany.

    My partner doesn't seem to feel like they need to learn Mandarin, as English is now his primary language, even though Mandarin would most likely be very useful to know. His parents also only speak very little English.

    I definitely want my child to speak more than one language. I feel more strongly about German, but think Mandarin would possibly be more useful. However, I think teaching them three languages at once might be too much as we are both working. Also, neither of us spends very much time with either of our families, so it would be extra effort to teach them. What are your thoughts on the subject?

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just wanted to add that I have now talked more to my partner about it. He thinks it is a great idea to teach our children all three languages. However, we are not sure hat the best strategy is.

      I would prefer something closer to a "one parent, one language" strategy, so I would speak German with them, he would speak Mandarin, and if we are all together, we would speak English.

      However, he would prefer the languages to be separated by days, so that one day we all speak German, the next day Mandarin, then English, etc. He thinks that would make it clearer when to speak which language and would help both of us in learning the other persons language better.

      I am a little bit anxious though at the thought of having to communicate in Mandarin and his German is even worse than my Mandarin. I feel like we might do more damage than good by speaking to them in a language we are not close to proficient in. Also, I feel like it would strongly limit my communication with them on the days that I have to speak Mandarin with them.

      Which strategy would you think works better in our situation?

      Delete
    2. Hi Helen!

      It would be wonderful if you and your husband could speak your respective mother tongues and raise a trilingual child.

      It is good that you stopped by to write me more and now I have more information and can advise you better.

      Best would be to start with one parent one language strategy in order to help your child to separate the languages. Read these articles: Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?
      and
      Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?

      However later, when your child is older (at about age 2-3) and is able to speak your respective languages, I would recommend to slowly transition to alternating languages strategy. You could alternate German and Mandarin daily, as proposed your husband , or weekly ( that will give you more time to focus on one language and master it better). You would need to find out what would work best for your family. I would drop English all together as it will be supported by kindergarten/ school. Everyone would be able to benefit from new set up. Your child will have more daily input in one language (this is important as you both are working parents) , you and your husband will be able to master each other's languages, and in the long run neither of you will feel left out from a conversation.

      Also now is a good time to start evaluating Chinese and German language resources available around where you live/plan to live with your baby in the future. You would need to maximize your child’s minority language exposure in the first years of his life. Check if there is a possibility to find a German/Chinese speaking nanny, bilingual daycare. Check for schooling options too. You need to plan things in advance.

      Here are more article that can help you on your journey:

      9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through.


      15 inspirational tips from a mother raising trilingual children

      Simple way to motivate a child to speak your language

      Good luck!

      Delete
  36. Dear all,

    I have tried to find our family's case online but I haven't found any similar case... Could you help us and give us some suggestions?

    Our baby is 6month now and we live in Spain. My wife is Hungarian (she speak Hungarian to the baby), I am Spanish (I speak spanish to the baby) and my wife and I speak in English (not perfect...) to each other. I would like to mention that our baby will have education in basque language, since we live in a basque speaking area.

    Our concern is how our baby will feel when she will listen us speaking English and she won't speak it (it will be just a passive language). In her environment there isn't any other English speaker influence.

    We would love to teach her English, but we don't really know how to approach this situation.

    Any tips?

    Thanks a lot in advance for your help ;)

    Daniel

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Daniel,

      My husband and I also speak English to each other. Read this article where I talk about passive language learning.

      I would concentrate initially on your two languages and when you see that, at around age 2, your child's two main languages are developing fine, start adding some activities in English, too. You can read books, engage into short conversations, teach some words, play cartoons in English, sing songs...
      Here you can find kids radio stations from around the world, there are several in English.

      And here is a link to the free audio books for kids in English.

      I hope this help!

      Delete
  37. Hi! First of all I want to congratulate on the great blog! My name is Nicole, I am Italian and my partner is Dutch. My daughter Emma was born in London, where we used to live.. Now we moved to Amsterdam and Emma is now 1 yo. At home we speak English since I don't speak dutch. When I am alone with her I speak italian and same does my partner in dutch but at home we always speak english and most of the time, when we are all together we speak english to her - so the other parson understands what we are saying. She will start daycare next month and that would be in dutch. Hope we are not confusing her since she only says the word mamma so far (in italian) and no other words yet.. All your advice are highly appreciated! Nicole xxx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nicole,

      Thank you for your warm words!

      Saying "mamma" at this age is a good progress! More words should come soon :)

      You can speak three languages to the child without confusing her. I do not see any possible problems in the way you separate the languages so far. Just remember not to mix different languages in one sentence. This point also brings up Semiha, a parents , who raises her trilingual child by speaking two languages to him.

      With the current set up Dutch and English will probably be your daughter's strongest languages. Have you already planned how to support her Italian in the long run?
      Do you plan to visit Italy often?
      Right now it is a good idea to build your child’s Italian vocabulary through books reading and play.
      Read these articles:
      Simple way to motivate your bilingual child to speak your language.


      9 steps of raising a bilingual child successfully. How to start so you don't feel giving it up halfway through.


      15 inspirational tips from a mother raising a trilingual child.


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

      I am wishing you the best of luck!!!
      Galina

      Delete
  38. Happy to find your blog! Your insights are greatly appreciated to all of us who want to raise a polyglot child. :) We are trying to raise our 2-year-old son to be trilingual (Filipino, English and French). Husband and I talk to him and read to him in English. His community language is Filipino but at preschool it's English. Since he was 2 months old, he'd been exposed to French nursery songs and Calliou TV series. As we are migrating to Canada soon, we plan to send him to a French language school (once a week). How else do you think we can make him speak French? Do you think it will be a good idea if I also attend a French class? This is a minority language for him as none of us speak French. Our son speaks French in colors and sometimes use French politeness at home. He mainly speaks in English to communicate with us. He do sometimes speak one Filipino word or two. Hubby and I converse with each other in Filipino. Thank you in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  39. Thank you for this! It's really helpful.
    Our son is 6 months, I am English, his dad is Marathi, living in a Hindi country!

    ReplyDelete
  40. Hi Galina!
    First of all congrats on your website. It has helped me a lot and your tips are simply great.
    My name is Joanna and I am polish. I also speak German and English fluently. My husband is German and we live in Germany with our 12 month old daughter.
    My husband speaks German with her, I speak polish. Until now I switched to German whenever my husband was around or when we were hanging out with German friends. Thanks to your website I started to address her in polish full time. We would like to introduce her to English. I already sing and read books in English. I would like to incorporate speaking as well.
    Do you have any tips? We live in Germany so community language is German and she will start kindergarten when she is 3 years old. My husband speaks English but it's far from being perfect plus he has a strong German accent. So I don't think speaking English with him would be such a good idea.
    I read about the time/place aspects in the language learning strategies. What if I speak English outdoors and polish at home? Or would this confuse her too much? Do you have any other suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.
    Greetings
    Joanna

    ReplyDelete
  41. Thank you for this information. It helps a lot. I do have one question though. If I have given my child three languages since birth, would these languages be considered native languages? I once read something about the number of languages given to babies before two years old.
    Thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Thanks for your question! Your child might speak those three languages with a different level of proficiency, but they still be his/her native languages. The brain of a bilingual /trilingual child that was exposed to languages from birth develops differently compare to a monolingual child.

      Delete