Bilingual kids learning a third language
Thread poster: nruddy
nruddy  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:35
German to English
Nov 6, 2013

My twins are almost two and are being brought up with Spanish and English. One has a fair amount of vocabulary, the other doesn't, but does understand. They go to nursery school (Spanish, with some English taught). I would like them to learn German and am thinking of applying to the nearby Swiss school (the German school is too far away) to see whether they would be accepted for the next school year, starting in September. We're still talking preschool level with learning through playing ("maternal" in Mexico). I can help them with German.

The Swiss school accepts kids entering "maternal" (age 3) or Kindergarten (from 4) to start German. My question to parents of multilingual children is what would you advise? My gut feeling is the earlier they start learning German the better. However, I also wonder whether we should hold off a year so that they have a stronger grasp of their first languages. There, English will not be taught until 5th class. I will discuss this with the school, but would like some input from parents in the same situation.

Looking forward to hearing about your experience,
Niamh


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Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 20:35
Chinese to English
The earlier the better Nov 6, 2013

I agree with you. My older boy is six, and when he was younger his mum and grandparents only spoke to him in one of his languages (they all speak two). Now his speaking patterns are set, and he is quite resistant to picking up the third language (Minnanhua or Taiwanese). My younger is 2, and speaks very comfortably in all three. There's occasional mixing, but the languages don't interfere with each other in any negative way.

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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 08:35
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Go ahead, but... Nov 6, 2013

I say start them in the German school as soon as you can. Starting a third language should not be a problem in itself.
The only thing that raised a bit of a red flag to me was when you wrote: "I can help them with German."
I am not sure that would be a good idea, as from what you wrote I understood that the language you spoke to them so far was not German.
Experts say (and my own experience shows it, too) that kids need to have a clear connection between the language and the person. "OPOL" is the phrase they use, "one parent, one language". I assume your children are being brought up bilingual using this method, for example Mom only uses English with them, and Dad only uses Spanish. This works very well.
German would come into the picture outside of the home, and the kids would connect that language to that place. If you all of a sudden start speaking to them in German at home, that may be a problem.

Just my two cents


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nruddy  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 07:35
German to English
TOPIC STARTER
No worries! Nov 6, 2013

I wasn't planning to speak to them in German at all. I only mentioned that I can help them with German to point out that they wouldn't be learning a language which no one at home speaks or understands. I speak English to them, their father speaks Spanish.

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Anna Sarah Krämer Fazendeiro
Germany
Local time: 14:35
Member (2011)
English to German
+ ...
Earlier is better Nov 6, 2013

My son grew up with three languages spoken in the house - he learned Portuguese from his father and German from me. And he learned English by just being exposed to it because my husband and I use it to speak to each other. It was a wonderful arrangement and worked very well, he speaks all three languages fluently. I was being careful not to mix the languages at first, but now he's nine and occasionally we begin a sentence in English, continue it in Portuguese and finish it in German, and then laugh a lot. He doesn't mix anything up when he speaks with "monolingual" persons.

Multilingual families are great!


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