Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: Q&A: Question from a bilingual parent-to-be about language choice.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Q&A: Question from a bilingual parent-to-be about language choice.

Question from a bilingual parent-to-be with a monolingual spouse about language choice. They would like to raise a trilingual child, who would speak Korean, Indonesian & English.

My name is S. D. and I found your website trough google about raising children trilingual. I'm so happy to find a website that could help me figuring out how to raise my child in the future. Well, I don't have any children yet, but since I've been married for three years I'm thinking to have one in the near future.

First of all, I sent this email in the hope that you could help me figuring out how to raise my future kids multilingual.
Let me introduce my self. I'm half Korean and half Indonesian. I have Korean father and Indonesian mother. I was born and raised in Indonesia. After graduated from high school, I moved to Korea and attended university and started to learn Korean. I couldn't speak Korean before. Now, I'm not a native but quite fluent (near-native level). I'm married to Korean husband (who only can speak Korean, cannot speak English or Indonesian) and now we live in Korea.

So, my question is...
1. what language should i speak to my kid? I read from your article that I should speak my mother tongue which is Indonesian. I agree with it. But, since my husband cannot speak Indonesian, how we can communicate as a family? I don't want my husband to feel left out. Should I decide 'a family language' and 'children-mom language', 'children-daddy language'? ex: family language is Korean, children-mom language is Indonesian, and children-daddy language is Korean?

2. I want my kids to be able to speak Korean, Indonesian and English fluently. What kind of practical method can I do?

I am so worry and has lots of concern about it. I have a friend who is half Korean-Indonesian like me, but she refused to use Indonesian language since she's fluent in Korean. Her concern is she wants her kids to have a solid one mother tongue.

I'd appreciate if you could help me to decide what kind of methods and is it safe to raise my kinds multilingual?

Thank you very much.
May God bless you


Dear S. D.,

I am glad that you found the website helpful. The fact that you started thinking about your future child multilingualism now will help you to step on the right road in your multilingual family journey.

The children's brain is ready to learn several language from birth (Can babies distinguish foreign languages?  ) and there is no harm in it. We should not forget that there are entire countries, where bilingualism and multilingualism is official: Belgium, India, South Africa, Switzerland. So you should not worry.

Since your husband does not speak the language you plan to speak to your child, I would advise you to do what you can to support him in learning it before the baby comes. It would be great if your husband could take a course of Indonesian. If there are no classes offered near by, you can find an online course or computer course, or teach him yourself! He does not need to become fluent - knowing the basics will help him understand when you will be speaking to your child and he won't feel completely left out of your conversations. Also your husband will be able to continue learning the language together with your child. This could bring nice dynamics to your family.

Ask your husband how he think he will feel about you speaking Indonesian to your child when he is around. He might not mind it at all! After all this is something you do for your child :)

As for the language arrangement, I would set it as you have mentioned: You and your child - Indonesian, you and your husband Korean, your husband and your child - Korean. The country language will dominate, so you need to concentrate on quality input in Indonesian. Read books, sing songs, interact with your child all the time, ...

As for English language - I would look for learning options outside of the house, since you would need to put all your energy towards Indonesian. At home I would limit English learning to some weekly English language activities. My kids love English language nursery rhymes and songs - they work best for small kids. There will be more English language input at school, if it's offered as a subject.

I hope this helps.

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

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You might also like:

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

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

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

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