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Can we raise a child speaking three completely different languages?
Thread poster: machy
machy
Local time: 06:34
Spanish to Russian
Aug 3, 2004

Hi, I'm an spanish speaker mother, worried about raising my baby in england, and having a russian husband...are we doing any good trying to teach him to speack russian and spaniah at the same time?..are we confusing him too much?.
I really need some advise...can anybody help?


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
One example: Charles Berlitz Aug 3, 2004

Charles Berlitz, world-renowned linguist and author of books on paranormal phenomena, is reputed by different sources to have spoken from 25 to 32 different languages.

As the grandson of Maximilian D. Berlitz, who founded the first Berlitz School of Languages in Providence, R.I., in 1878, Charles Berlitz developed an early command of foreign languages. There was no way to avoid it.

Born in New York, he grew up with his mother speaking to him in French, his father to him in English, his grandfather in German and a cousin and the domestic help in Spanish.

"I didn't realize they were speaking different languages," Mr. Berlitz told the Washington Post in 1982. "I thought each person had their own particular way of speaking."

By the time he was 3, Mr. Berlitz was speaking four languages. He ultimately spoke a reported 32 languages with varying degrees of fluency.


Source: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/7617900.htm


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Terese Whitty
United States
Local time: 04:34
Member (2004)
English to Swedish
Yes! Aug 3, 2004

If you always use your respective mother tongue and support it with books, videos and visits to the country then I am sure that you can maintain all three of them. He will still learn English in school and among friends, maybe with some external support in the beginning, but it will all pay off in the end.

I am raising bilingual children but I have heard of trilingual people too. It is a gift! Dont waste it! It just takes hard work! Good luck!


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 11:34
Swedish to English
+ ...
I agree! Aug 3, 2004

I completely agree with the above - my son (now 7) is completely bilingual and it is a gift that he takes for granted. As a family we speak only English to each other (my partner is Swedish), so he has learned all of his Swedish outside our home.

As well as translating I work as a teacher for bilingual children - if I were to give you one piece of advice it would be to be consistent! Choose which language you and your family speak to each other and try not to mix too much - perhaps have a joint "dinner table language" and then each speak your mother tounge to your child. In my experience the children who have the most problems with their bi/trilingualism are those with parents who mix languages/situations. (By problems I mean relatively minor things such as odd sentence structures or a weaker vocabulary in one language - I haven't yet met a child who can only speak Swenglish!).

Above all, enjoy it and don't stress - watching children play with language and culture is great fun.


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:34
French to Spanish
+ ...
No veo el problema. Aug 3, 2004

Te contesto en español, y ojalá que ningún moderador me "esquachee" por no hacerlo en inglés, pero la verdad no escribo bien en ese idioma.
Crecí con 3 idiomas maternos: el francés por parte de mi padre, el español y el catalán por parte de mi santa madre. Después, inglés y flamenco en la escuela... después, algo de suizo alemán y, la verdad, no estoy tan loco.
Se ha hablado en varias ocasiones aquí, en ProZ, de las ventajas del multilingüismo: te recomiendo que busques los debates por ahí.
Una cosa es cierta e incontestable: el multilingüismo sin duda azuza el intelecto y, por si fuera poco, conserva más jóvenes a los que lo practican... ve mi foto... estoy por cumplir 48 años.
Ahora bien: español/inglés/ruso, pues sí, son idiomas bastante diferentes... no sé qué consecuencias tengan en tu vástago... esperemos opiniones.
Juan.


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GoodWords  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Traducción de la nota de Juan Jacob Aug 3, 2004

Here's a translation for the benefit of the rest.

Juan Jacob wrote:
Crecí con 3 idiomas maternos: el francés por parte de mi padre, el español y el catalán por parte de mi santa madre. Después, inglés y flamenco en la escuela... después, algo de suizo alemán y, la verdad, no estoy tan loco.
Se ha hablado en varias ocasiones aquí, en ProZ, de las ventajas del multilingüismo: te recomiendo que busques los debates por ahí.
Una cosa es cierta e incontestable: el multilingüismo sin duda azuza el intelecto y, por si fuera poco, conserva más jóvenes a los que lo practican... ve mi foto... estoy por cumplir 48 años.
Ahora bien: español/inglés/ruso, pues sí, son idiomas bastante diferentes... no sé qué consecuencias tengan en tu vástago... esperemos opiniones.
Juan.


"I grew up with three mother tongues; French from my father, and Spanish and Catalan from my mother. Later I learned English and Flemish at school, and some Swiss German... and believe it or not, I didn't turn out too crazy.

The advantages of multilingualism have been discussed on ProZ on various occasions; you might want to look for these discussions.

One truth that can't be denied is that multilingualism sharpens the intellect. And as if that weren't enough, it keeps its practitioners younger, too (look at my picture-- I'm nearly 48!)

One thing, though, Spanish, English and Russian are quite different. I don't know what effect that will have on your offspring; let's see what the others say.
-Juan"

[Edited at 2004-08-03 22:28]


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Juan Jacob  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 04:34
French to Spanish
+ ...
Four KudoZ for GoodWords! Aug 4, 2004

Gracias, colega.

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Donatella Talpo  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 11:34
English to Italian
+ ...
YES, SURE Aug 4, 2004

I had the same problem, and sames fears, but children are very clever.
I am italian, living in Catalonia with Spanish and Catalan as official languages, and my son is attending the French school. THe only problem we had, is that he spoke a little bit later than usual, but that was all.
At present he speaks and writes perfectly the 4 languages, and has started with english, ...
So, be confident....
donatella


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PB Trans

Local time: 10:34
French to English
+ ...
I grew up trilingual Aug 4, 2004

machy wrote:

Hi, I'm an spanish speaker mother, worried about raising my baby in england, and having a russian husband...are we doing any good trying to teach him to speack russian and spaniah at the same time?..are we confusing him too much?.
I really need some advise...can anybody help?


Yes, it's possible. I was born in Montreal, Canada of Italian parents. My first language was Italian but I also spoke English with my sisters and French with my schoolmates. Being exposed to all these languages at an early age was a definite advantage.


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Laura Vinti  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
German to Italian
+ ...
Every kid is different - pay attention to their talents and trust your heart Aug 4, 2004

Hi machy,

I know some friends who raise their children (boy:6 1/2 and girl: 5) trilingual (Italia, German and English). The kids have a main language (in their case German, as they live here in Germany), their mother speaks Italian to them and sometimes they do answer in Italian but very often they answer in German.
Their father is English and although they understand what he says, this is their weakest language.

Another family I know speaks German, Hungarian and Danish to their girls (8 and 4), and from what I see, the situation here is very much like the one I depicted above. (In my experience, the father's language is usually the weakest, but this might be due to the fact that in these cases the fathers spend less time at home than the mothers)

I also know very many bilingual families with German plus another European language and here situations differ a lot: some kids absolutely refuse to speak the other language and although they understand it, they only use their main one; some speak the second language with a strong foreign accent, some speak it (more or less) perfectly.

What I have gathered seeing all these various situations is that every kid is different and should be treated as such. If they refuse to speak another language, that should be treated with respect and accepted. It might be just too much for them to handle.
This means that if he/she is not very talented with languages or for whatever reason does not want to speak another language, he/she should not be forced to do so. AND this does not necessarily mean that s/he is stupid or slow or whatever, simply that his/her strengths lay somewhere else.

In our case, my two daughters (7 and 5) both speak Italian and German. My oldest one does not have any German accent when she speaks Italian, the youngest one does not either but she cannot pronounce the italian "R" (at least not for now).
They both use weird constructions every once in a while or words that don't work in the Italian context (and you can tell they have translated them from German), but that is fine and also normal I think.
I correct them, and I am sure that as soon as they'll have the chance to be in Italy for longer periods, their Italian will be perfect.

Hope this is somewhat helpful.
Good luck!

Laura

P.S. In all these cases, the "foreign" parent would consistently speak with the kids in his/her own language.
I also know of people who don't, and their kids just grow up monolingual.
Also, if you start speak in another language, then that's it. It will be very difficult to go back to your own language at a later stage, as it wouldn't feel "right" anymore, and your kids won't let you.


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Laura Vinti  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:34
German to Italian
+ ...
One more thing: Aug 4, 2004

Even if your kid does not want to use your language, I wouldn't give up speaking it consistently. That way, s/he will at least learn it passively and could build up on that later on if s/he wishes to do so.
Also, from what I understand, for now it is just a matter of speaking two languages at home. English will come at a later stage, when your baby will go to school/kindergarten. After that, English will probably become his/her strongest language.

[Edited at 2004-08-04 11:08]


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Pamela Brizzola  Identity Verified
Italy
Local time: 11:34
Member (2004)
English to Italian
+ ...
Absolutely possible Aug 4, 2004

A young lady I know is Italian and married to an English man. They live in France and have two children.
The whole family speaks English at home but the children have grown up in France and are now going to school.
When they speak with their mother only, they do it in Italian.
They go back to Italy 3 times a year and have a large number loving relatives who speak Italian only.
Results: these two children speak English, French and Italian almost perfectly, although you can catch the French accent in their Italian. But this makes them even more lovable.

I think that this kind of situations is a blessing for the children and the whole family.

Don't worry. Go ahead.



[Edited at 2004-08-04 13:49]


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ecuatraddesign
United States
Local time: 06:34
Spanish to English
+ ...
Kids tend to take the easy way out Aug 4, 2004

I would also like to add that most kids will take the path of least resistance (as do most adults too) and prefer to speak whatever language is dominant in their environment. Once they go to school, a lot of things are beyond your control and they may even forget a language they once spoke fluently. Even if you speak to them in your language, if they know that you speak the national language (English, German or whatever the case may be), they will prefer to use that.

In my case, I was born and grew up in the US but my parents spoke only a little English, so I had to learn Spanish- there wasn't much of a choice. Plus I've always loved speaking different languages, so I was more motivated.

Fast-forward 15 years later. I don't have any kids yet myself, but my nieces are 8 years old (twins) and English is definitely their dominant language. At first we spoke mostly Spanish to them, and before they started school they were bilingual, but after that English became dominant. Now they refuse to speak to us in Spanish ("us" being their mother, and their aunt and uncles), since they know we speak English and can understand them. Attempts at forcing them to speak Spanish to us (by pretending not to hear, etc. if they speak English) have failed miserably. They will only speak Spanish to their grandparents and other relatives who they know to be monolingual. Someone said in another topic that twins will conspire against you. This is very true.

So yes, it is possible to raise multilingual kids, but sometimes the odds are stacked against you. Travel or residence abroad, and a set of monolingual grandparents/relatives, definitely helps.


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machy
Local time: 06:34
Spanish to Russian
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks all of you for your advises and support. Aug 5, 2004

machy wrote:

Hi, I'm an spanish speaker mother, worried about raising my baby in england, and having a russian husband...are we doing any good trying to teach him to speack russian and spaniah at the same time?..are we confusing him too much?.
I really need some advise...can anybody help?


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xxxsarahl
Local time: 03:34
English to French
+ ...
you put your finger on it! Aug 6, 2004

Juan Jacob wrote:

Te contesto en español, y ojalá que ningún moderador me "esquachee" por no hacerlo en inglés, pero la verdad no escribo bien en ese idioma.
Crecí con 3 idiomas maternos: el francés por parte de mi padre, el español y el catalán por parte de mi santa madre. Después, inglés y flamenco en la escuela... después, algo de suizo alemán y, la verdad, no estoy tan loco.
Se ha hablado en varias ocasiones aquí, en ProZ, de las ventajas del multilingüismo: te recomiendo que busques los debates por ahí.
Una cosa es cierta e incontestable: el multilingüismo sin duda azuza el intelecto y, por si fuera poco, conserva más jóvenes a los que lo practican... ve mi foto... estoy por cumplir 48 años.
Ahora bien: español/inglés/ruso, pues sí, son idiomas bastante diferentes... no sé qué consecuencias tengan en tu vástago... esperemos opiniones.
Juan.

(disculpa me, Juan, tengo que contestar en ingles)
From what I have seen in my multinational family, kids will pick up any language they're exposed to, as long as it is natural, natural for whoever speaks it to speak it, natural for the setting, etc. I see a number of parents here trying to "teach" a language to their children. Well, the bi- or trilingual people in my family were never taught their languages, they just learnt through exposure. some better than others, of course.
so relax!
Sarah


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