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Albanian/Italian couple raising son in UK

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Hungringo
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 Message 1 of 9
16 October 2015 at 10:59pm | IP Logged 
An Albanian friend of mine is seeking some advice about how to raise their child trilingual.

He is Albanian and speaks fluent Italian and English, his wife is Italian, speaks no Albanian at all and has just started learning English possibly having an A2-B1 level. They've just moved to the UK and she is pregnant. They use Italian as their common language.

They would stick to the one parent one language rule, both speaking their native language to the child and keeping Italian as the family language, while hoping that the baby would learn English on the playground before starting school.

Nevertheless, my friend, who works long hours while his wife stays at home, is concerned that the baby wouldn't have enough Albanian input. He is also concerned that the child might not speak English well enough when he starts school.

What would you guys recommend to them?

Edited by Hungringo on 16 October 2015 at 11:01pm

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Serpent
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serpent-849.livejour
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 Message 2 of 9
17 October 2015 at 2:02am | IP Logged 
English shouldn't be a problem. But the kid will want to watch the same things as his/her peers. So at the very least they need fun materials in both Italian and Albanian. They should also try to connect with some expats in the UK and to visit their home countries if possible.
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dampingwire
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 Message 3 of 9
18 October 2015 at 1:25am | IP Logged 
Hungringo wrote:
Nevertheless, my friend, who works long hours while his wife stays at home, is concerned that the baby wouldn't have enough Albanian
input.


Well if there isn't enough Albanian floating around the house then it's likely to be the child's weakest language. That's still a lot better than having
no Albanian at all though.

Hungringo wrote:
He is also concerned that the child might not speak English well enough when he starts school.


My wife used to teach a nursery class and on occasion had new arrivals starting school with zero English. Every single one was functional within the first
year and pretty much indistinguishable from a native speaker within two years. All the child's peers will be speaking English and that's a huge
incentive to learn.

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William Camden
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 Message 4 of 9
21 October 2015 at 5:28pm | IP Logged 
The first weeks of kindergarten/school might be bewildering if the child in question has
no English - it depends on how much contact the child has with other children before
that. In the medium term however, English is almost certain to be learned. In the
scenario described it might be Albanian that is not learned well.
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Serpent
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 Message 5 of 9
21 October 2015 at 6:13pm | IP Logged 
The biggest challenge will be if the kid refuses to reply in Italian or especially Albanian.

Also, there seems to be a lot of information online if you search for bringing up bilingual kids. AFAIU it's common for multilingual kids' language skills to develop a bit slower, but it's important not to give up and just wait and continue (rather than change the strategy frantically). There's a lot of variation even within monolingual kids. My aunt didn't speak until she was about three, but started using simple sentences from the beginning.

For Italian, dialect vs standard language may be a bit of a problem. Would the mum feel strange speaking standard Italian to her child?
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William Camden
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 Message 6 of 9
21 October 2015 at 6:28pm | IP Logged 
There may be some confusion between languages, or the child might produce sentences that
are a mixture of them. After a time they learn to compartmentalise the languages, and
then you might have "code switching" in their use.
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Hungringo
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 Message 7 of 9
22 October 2015 at 10:24am | IP Logged 
Thanks for your answers.

I am not in a position to judge the mother's Italian as my own grasp of the language is minimal, but as a Spanish and French speaker I understand her pretty well, so I guess it is fairly close to the literary standard.


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shk00design
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 Message 8 of 9
22 October 2015 at 2:28pm | IP Logged 
When it comes to raising kids to be bilingual, part of the problem has to do with support from parents and grandparents. I know some locals in the Chinese community who are fluent in both Chinese and English and others who can understand the language but have trouble speaking. When you have relatives who would speak to the child in Chinese regularly, the child becomes fluent in the language. Sometimes you have grandparents who cannot speak English and need their grandchildren as translators for visits to the doctor.

When it comes to Chinese, it is understandable the next generation won't be able to write the characters or read a restaurant menu without formal education. For them to be able to watch TV programs and speak fluently is better than not at all.


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