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Baby growing up in multilingual home...

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
43 messages over 6 pages: 1 2 3 46  Next >>
Senior Member
Joined 3589 days ago

284 posts - 410 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Esperanto, Toki Pona, German, French

 Message 33 of 43
13 June 2011 at 7:46pm | IP Logged 
When I have a kid I'd love to raise him/her bilingually, but my partner and I are both monolingual, so it could be tough. Maybe by then I'll be sufficiently fluent in Esperanto. In any case, my plan is to have my dad's family (who are all French) speak only French to the kid. French immersion school is also something I'm considering. I'll be optimistic and assume that by then I'll have a sufficient command of French that I'll at least be able to understand if my child speaks French to me.

Another thing I'm interested in pursuing is using sign language with my baby, while speaking English. I don't know ASL, other than the alphabet and a couple of basic signs, but I've still got a few years of learning time before I plan to have a baby.
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Super Polyglot
Senior Member
Joined 4569 days ago

126 posts - 721 votes 
Speaks: French, English*, German, Spanish, Dutch, Macedonian, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Czech, Catalan, Welsh, Serbo-Croatian
Studies: Sign Language, Toki Pona, Albanian, Polish, Bulgarian, TurkishA1, Esperanto, Romanian, Danish, Mandarin, Icelandic, Modern Hebrew, Greek, Latvian, Estonian

 Message 34 of 43
17 October 2011 at 11:34pm | IP Logged 
Time for my yearly update on this thread...

What a difference a year makes! I have been reading about and hearing stories of multilingual children who stop speak all but one of their languages.   This thought is quite concerning to anyone wishing to bring up a child with multiple languages. Sadly it is quite common for children to reject languages and only speak one of them. They simply cannot understand our adult reasoning behind bringing them up multilingual. They cannot be expected fully appreciate the advantages this can bring in later life. This seems to be most common in monolingual countries and many parents do bite the bullet and drop a language or two.

Fortunately for me, I have not had these issues with my daughter so far. She has questioned the use of languages, of course. But there have been no revolts. In fact since my last update the issue has been the opposite. I have had to keep her focussed on the languages she has and not diversify too much whilst she is still so young. I feel that helping her to attain a good level in her first three languages is paramount. To ensure she develops language at the same rate as monolinguals, time needs to be given to develop vocabulary and grammatical structures, as well as idioms and regional variants. After all it is important that she has the necessary tools to adapt to and fit into life in both the UK and Macedonia in the first instance. I hope to cover the bases required for my daughter to be able to fit in culturally wherever she chooses to call home.   This is not an easy thing to address, given the stark cultural differences between The Balkans and The British Isles! ;)

The language development over the last 12 months

A native English speaker and a native Macedonian speaker would not be able to tell that my daughter is any different to any other monolingual child of her age. Her vocabulary, grammar and ability to express her thoughts, ideas and emotions in both languages are excellent for her age. These languages have simply continued to develop as before.

The big change has been in her French. French was a less prominent language, but since the interactions at school with teachers and other French speakers, she is now able to communicate in that language too. In fact she now regularly asks me to speak in French, as we did in the UK, just to play around with the language and have a change. She is able to manipulate the grammar of the language to change person and tense and to make the language her own.

The thing that has pleased me most this year is the growth in her pride at speaking multiple languages. She takes great pleasure in her Spanish and German time and in telling people that she can speak them. Her ability to produce flowing conversations in German and Spanish is not at the level of her other three languages, but she can understand them without any problem and she is able to ask for meanings of words she is not clear on. She enjoys listening to stories in German and Spanish too and can ask meaningful questions about them, albeit in one of her first three languages if the words fail her in German or Spanish.

Why is she able to do this?

This is quite normal in some countries of the world, where multiple languages are spoken by the majority on a daily basis. Living in a multilingual country therefore helps a lot. In addition to that, she has multilingual friends and she sees daddy using a variety of languages too. All of this make her experience normal.

My daughter is aware of other languages spoken around, which she does not speak. She also asks about learning Albanian, as it is another language spoken by a lot of children in Skopje.   I had hoped to explore that with her as she would be able to use it here quite often, when playing with other children. After some thought I decided this can wait until next year.   She needs this year to focus on her other languages more as well as to build other general skills she is developing, such as maths.

I try not to suffocate my daughter with crazy goals for her. After all she is not me and later on she must choose what is right for her. My goal as a parent is to equip her with the knowledge she needs to make the most of life. The languages she is learning now will help her to do that and five languages are plenty for her at this stage. I prefer to let her develop at her own pace and to encourage her when I see that she is keen to learn. At the moment my role is to support her learning in general and I help her to activate her knowledge of Spanish and German.

In play she will also still refer back to words and phrases in a number of other languages, which she does not speak. She seems to enjoy repeating the sounds in foreign languages and seeing the reaction she gets from doing it. If she does decide to study more languages, then I will support her. Though this for me is secondary now to developing other skills in addition to the languages she already has.
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Joined 5489 days ago

3795 posts - 4268 votes 
Speaks: Spanish, English*
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 Message 35 of 43
21 October 2011 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
Torbyrne wrote:
I try not to suffocate my daughter with crazy goals for her. After all she is not me and later on she must choose what is right for her. My goal as a parent is to equip her with the knowledge she needs to make the most of life.

In my opinion, this is the best thing a parent can do for their child.

Congratulations on your continued success.
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Solfrid Cristin
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Joined 3808 days ago

4143 posts - 8863 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 Message 36 of 43
07 November 2011 at 7:33pm | IP Logged 
I love what you are doing, and both you and your daughter are very fortunate.
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Super Polyglot
Senior Member
Joined 4569 days ago

126 posts - 721 votes 
Speaks: French, English*, German, Spanish, Dutch, Macedonian, Portuguese, Italian, Swedish, Czech, Catalan, Welsh, Serbo-Croatian
Studies: Sign Language, Toki Pona, Albanian, Polish, Bulgarian, TurkishA1, Esperanto, Romanian, Danish, Mandarin, Icelandic, Modern Hebrew, Greek, Latvian, Estonian

 Message 37 of 43
19 January 2013 at 5:54pm | IP Logged 
My daughter is now in her first year of formal education. She is studying in the French system (CP), so her
day is in French and she is making great progress in her writing, reading and speaking. Her vocabulary
continues to expand in English, Macedonian and French and she can express herself in all three languages
without any problem.

We continue with Spanish and German in the same informal manner as before and she enjoys the odd story
and song in them. She tries to speak them, but will use French, English or Macedonian where she cannot
think of the word or phrase in German or Spanish. She sees more of the relevance of Spanish because of a
Spanish family here now with a young girl at her school. That gave her active Spanish a huge kick last year
in particular. Where s replies in other languages, I simply reply in the target language and she is maintaining
a good understanding of both languages for future use in a more formal setting.

Last year she got her wish to start Mandarin. She does it just once a week in a classroom environment, but
she likes to practice what she learns at home. I am pleased to see her enjoying the learning process and my
own studies are providing a useful support to help her move forward too. I have say that her desire to learn is
motivating me too! :)

She continues to show interest in other languages she doesn't know, especially Albanian because many use
it here on a daily basis. We are holding back to give her chance with what she already has and try to content
her with some basic vocabulary for now. I am unsure whether much of this strong desire to learn more
languages comes from seeing me use a range of them, often around her.

My focus now is to help her with her reading in English and to support her school work in all subjects
(conducted in French). She is also learning to read Cyrillic for Macedonian and has not had too many
problems confusing the letters. The good thing is that there is plenty of practice all around the city, which
helps her to connect the reason for doing it to the learning process.   

One thing I love is the positive way the children talk about languages. They are all keen to learn more. This
environment really supports my daughter's learning most of all.

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Senior Member
Joined 3078 days ago

269 posts - 397 votes 
Speaks: English*, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, French
Studies: German, Italian

 Message 38 of 43
19 January 2013 at 6:40pm | IP Logged 
Richard, I cannot add anything to your excellent and insightful information above. I just
want to say that what you are doing is simply remarkable. As a trainee Primary School
teacher, I am constantly amazed by the capabilities of the child. Seeing the human mind
at work, as a person assimilates and puts into practice endless amounts of information is
truly beautiful. You daughter is very lucky to be given this gift at such a young age,
and she is very lucky to have yourself as a dad. I'm sure that you are rightfully proud.
2 persons have voted this message useful

Senior Member
United KingdomRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3096 days ago

1049 posts - 2152 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Russian, Serbian, Hungarian

 Message 39 of 43
20 January 2013 at 11:39am | IP Logged 
I know a couple in the UK where the mother is German and the father British. Mum speaks German with the
kids when they are alone together but English when Dad is present (he knows only basic German). Dad
speaks English exclusively with the children. (He doesn't dislike German, he's just not interested in language

Obviously the children are schooled in English and speak only English with their friends. They are still young
and haven't "rebelled" against German yet.

The point I am trying to make is. The kids are learning German from birth, it is quite literally their
mothertongue. But the only source of German input is from Mum and occasional visits to Germany. Does this
mean they grow up with an incomplete vocabulary? I don't know if they are encouraged to read German
books or if they watch German TV but there can be no substitute for daily spoken interaction with a wide
range of people.

So perhaps they go to Germany as young adults, they have excellent structural knowledge of the language
and a convincing accent, some idiomatic phrases thrown in for good measure, but they suddenly get stumped
on a word that everyone else around them knows?

Edited by beano on 20 January 2013 at 11:43am

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Masked Avenger
Senior Member
Joined 4608 days ago

145 posts - 151 votes 
Speaks: English, French*, Danish
Studies: Finnish, Latin

 Message 40 of 43
29 June 2013 at 8:37pm | IP Logged 
I am the one who wrote the OP so maybe I can give an update?

I have two kids, one still a baby at 9 months, can't speak obviously, but does
understand a few things in both languages (milk, don't bite!).

I have an older 3 1/2.year-old, that one is very advanced in Danish and can speak in
many nuances (with some childish mistakes), but her French is so-so. She understands
most of what I say, but is more limited in her speaking ability and is shy about it.
She's inquisitive about how things are said in the language, she's making slow
progress, but I'd say her level is more like 2 or 2 1/2 year old.

I'm not really surprised by this difference. Her mom and my in-laws speak Danish, she
goes to Danish daycare, watches Danish TV shows while her dad, me, is not the chatty
type. I do speak to her in French exclusively, but perhaps I let her reply to me in
Danish too much. Trying to fix that!

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