Trilingual 7 year old with reading difficulties
Thread poster: xxxMistee
xxxMistee
English to Spanish
Sep 23, 2007

Hello everyone

I just discovered this site and I appreciate any response to my post.

I'm interested to hear from peoples experience(s) with raising a trilingual child.

Background information.
My daughter and I are English
When she was 3 years old we moved to Seville where she was exposed to and started to speak Spanish.
We then moved to Barcelona adter 8 months and at the age of 4, she started school where she learnt Catalan.
I speak to her only in English. My husband is from Barcelona, but speaks to her in English, although is speaking to her more and more in Spanish as she instigates that language with him.

She doesn't like Catalan and sees it as an instructional language and my husband doesn't like the language either. He would prefer her to learn Spanish or English.

Unfortunately she has problems reading. She reads very slowly enunciating the sounds and hates it. She gets frustrated easily and my husband finds this difficult. Further, she doesn't like me doing her Catalan homework with her because I "sound" funny. My husband, in my opinion, projects his distaste to the learning of this language and further indidcates that she is slow.

I don't think this helps her at all and I am looking for advise on how to deal with this. My personal opinion is that as she is fluent in speaking three languages she will catch up eventually and I believe around 8 or 9 everything will drop into place. I also believe by hiring a Catalan tutor for 2 hours a week will build her confidence in reading in Catalan.

Further, despite the arguments around the world usage of Catalan am I the only one in thinking that it doesn't matter which language a child learns thoroughly well, as long as the child is being educated and able to communicate in this language?

I'm wondering if there is a certain age that children reach when they should be able to read in their L3 language at the level of their native counterpart.

Any thoughts, theories or experiences on this topic would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your help.

Mistee
English Mother, Spanish Father, Catalan Educated 7 year old


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Berni Armstrong  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:35
Member
English
+ ...
Don't panic! Sep 23, 2007

That's the main thing. Kids are incredibly flexible at your child's age and pick up languages with little or no effort.

I am more worried about your husband's reactions here. Kids are also efficient at picking up their parent's implied or expressed prejudices.... and passing on a dislike of Catalan in Catalonia today is a recipe for disaster, unless you plan to leave Catalonia within the forseeable future.

As for the slow reading aspect. As they say here in Catalonia. "Every Child is a World!" - I am sure your daughter will already be advanced in other areas (being trilingual for one!) - so don't worry too much about aspects in which she may be apparently behind the average.

Try and get her more into Catalan through videos of "Les Tres Bessones" or other good Catalan kids' stuff and back that up with the associated comic books usually available in public libraries here. Encourage her to love Catalan - I think your Catalan tutor idea is a good one, but even better would be to make sure you surround her with children who are catalanoparlants.

Whatver you do, make sure these gifts you are giving your child are gifts of love, given in that spirit.

Good luck and keep us posted about how your efforts are progressing.

Berni

PS get in touch with me by private post if you like for more suggestions.

Dad to Jana (11/11/98) OPOL Mum (ESP) Dad (ENG) Street, Friends & School (CAT)


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Clare Barnes  Identity Verified
Sweden
Local time: 03:35
Swedish to English
+ ...
Agree with Berni! Sep 23, 2007

Hi!

I wholeheartedly agree with Berni - even though my son isn't trilingual, but he is genuinely bilingual (at the age of 10 he doesn't seem to have any "non-native" language, lucky thing).

If it's any comfort, he was also what I would consider to be a "slow starter" on reading, though has always been very verbal and able to express himself in both languages. He also reacted to being made to read - either in Swedish or in English - with exactly the same response as your daughter seems to have. However, at the age of 9 something clicked and he discovered the wonderful world of books that he can read himself (he's always loved being read to) and we haven't looked back since.

Good luck!


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seraalice  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 03:35
Member (2007)
English to Czech
+ ...
She will do it! Sep 23, 2007

Hello,

I entirely agree with Clare and Barni. Your daughter will certainly manage the difficulties she has now. I know it is sometimes very tough with children being stuborn. But when you are patient it will pay in the end.
I think, most children who live in multilingual families has this problem. And be sure you are giving your daughter the best education you can. When she grows, she will certainly be very gratefull for it!

Good luck.
Alice


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xxxMistee
English to Spanish
TOPIC STARTER
Wow :-) Sep 23, 2007

Thank you so much Berni. You really helped me. Today was a very emotional day for us as a family over this matter and I think I neglected to stand up and take part of the blame. I've resisted learning Catalan because A) I really wanted to focus on Spanish and I've found learning Spanish difficult enough and B) I've never been really fond of the Catalan language; the sound of it.

I think this has also been projected on to our daughter. So today, I've had a turnaround. I spoke to an English friend who is in the same situation and she said she's started to learn the basics of Catalan, i.e. vowel sounds, pronunciation and so forth. The strange thing is, as I work for a Spanish company when the clients speak to me in Catalan, I understand...I just don't know how to speak it. So like her, I shall encourage our daughter by actively learning it.

Also, I realise that we are not moving from Barcelona...so I have to learn to love and embrace the language, or our daughter won't...especially as she's going through a stage of looking up to me and being really attached to me...so anything I say or do...she mimics.

I realise this is a long reply...but the frustration has been lifted...and my husband and I on the basis of these replies, are starting to make plans on how we can help her love and enjoy reading and writing in Catalan.

Thank you for your experience with your son, Clare. I was told that at that age...they just kind of get it. I guess with my husband being an "over-achiever" he is judging her by what he could do at that age. He was raised in a Spanish household, but went to a French school. I just think that it's a little different for us parents with multi-lingual children and we are also learning.

I might just send you a pp Berni...I'd appreciate more suggestions.

Mistee
p.s. i don't know why I use a lot of "..."


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cisternas  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:35
English to Spanish
+ ...
My experience Sep 24, 2007

Hello Mistee,

I have a 7 year-old daughter and despite she is not fully bilingual she goes to an English school. According to our research and what we found at school, children learn to read just once, I mean if she can manage it in English first she will do it that way faster. This does not mean she won´t be able to read in other languages, but it will take a bit (just a bit) longer.

I think you have to motivate her, and also yourself, through children books. Tutor idea is good, but be careful in choosing somebody that "plays" with her using the language.

Besides, my sister is a primary teacher and she explained to me that some children are ready to read at 5 and other at 7, but this is and ability that matures in any minute. I fact, here in Chile (Spanish speaking country) children go to second grade (7-8 year-old) even if they are not able to read, because, as I said, this happens in any minute. If she is 10 an she is not able to read you can worry. This is not the minute, yet.

Show her interest in the language and try to avoid negative comments. Also try not to influence yourself in a negative way regarding Catalonian. The more positive you are, the better results you will get (both of you).

regards, Cristina


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xxxNMR
France
Local time: 03:35
French to Dutch
+ ...
My opinion Sep 24, 2007

When my children were young, someone advised me to teach them reading and writing only in the language of the school, and to wait for the second (and third language) till the first language had been acquired in writing, that is about 10-12 years. If they grasp it earlier, that is welcome, but don't force it. In fact now they are 14 and 12, my eldest son forgot Dutch but learnt English and German at school, and likes it.

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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:35
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Really? Sep 26, 2007

Mistee wrote:
I guess with my husband being an "over-achiever" he is judging her by what he could do at that age.


I bet your daughter can do a lot of things your husband couldn't at that age!

In any case, children mature at different rates, and people are different, their talent may not be directly inherited from their parents but lay elswhere. Discover and nurture the talent she has, it will serve her best in life.

Positive parental attitude and encouragement helps.
If she is interested in something, she will improve fast, so find some reading matter she will not want to put down.

Best wishes
Judith


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
Reading difficulties... Sep 27, 2007

Besides, my sister is a primary teacher and she explained to me that some children are ready to read at 5 and other at 7, but this is and ability that matures in any minute.


That is so true - but the problem here in the UK is that all children are more or less required to start to read at 5... That's a problem we're having right now, my daughter (bilingual, Finnish and English), 5, shows no signs of being able to read yet, despite efforts... Not sure if this has to do with just the bilingualism though, but I just find these demands so frustrating, especially as in Finland (where I come from and went to school) children start school at 7, and only start learning to read then, which imho is much more humane...
(I myself did lean to read at 5, incidentally, by my own initiative, but I was considered as something of a whiz kid because of that.)


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juvera  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:35
English to Hungarian
+ ...
It is a problem in the UK.... Sep 27, 2007

Melina Kajander wrote:
Besides, my sister is a primary teacher and she explained to me that some children are ready to read at 5 and other at 7, but this is and ability that matures in any minute.

That is so true - but the problem here in the UK is that all children are more or less required to start to read at 5...

...in Finland children start school at 7, and only start learning to read then, which imho is much more humane...


It is not a question of being humane; it is just good practice based on knowledge. It is widely known, that if a child is not ready to read, it will take much longer for him/her to learn.

In the UK, the early reading practices are criticized, because the example elsewhere in Europe, where children start reading at the age of 6 or 7, shows that they learn much faster and well within a year they are neck-and-neck with their British counterparts.
In the UK, not having a well-established nursery school system brought about the early entry into primary school. Schools are obliged to teach reading and writing, so the poor little ones are dragged through the first couple of years, with prolonged attempts made to teach them, and it takes most of them at least that long to learn.

Watching my two sons to grow up, I came to the conclusion that the best method to make them learn from the day dot is to observe them and support their momentary or more prolonged interests.
I am talking about a baby wanting to turn, grab objects, sit up, stand up, say the first words, hold a pencil, turn the pages of a book, wanting to know what's on it, counting, becoming aware of letters, wanting to know them, etc.

If we grab the moment and help them when they want it, when they are ready, learning is child's play.

If the parent or somebody else decides it is time for them to learn something, it may be a very difficult process if they are not ready, and with that misguided effort we may stop them to learn what they are preoccupied with at the time, hindering their natural development.


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Melina Kajander
Finland
English to Finnish
* Oct 1, 2007

Thank you for your reply, Juvera! It was interesting to hear your thoughts about this.

juvera wrote:
Watching my two sons to grow up, I came to the conclusion that the best method to make them learn from the day dot is to observe them and support their momentary or more prolonged interests.
I am talking about a baby wanting to turn, grab objects, sit up, stand up, say the first words, hold a pencil, turn the pages of a book, wanting to know what's on it, counting, becoming aware of letters, wanting to know them, etc.

I know, the schools also say the same, but to be honest, it's a very long way from all that to reading... It doesn't necessarily lead to an interest in it.
A least with my daughter, as she has done these things from a very early age, but shows no interest in actual reading so far, no matter how much she's encouraged... (She loves to "read" books, but making up herself what it says there...)


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mihalj
Macedonian to Hungarian
+ ...
keep on! May 11, 2008

My mother tongue is: hungarian, father tongue: serbian, instruction tongue in primary&highschool&university+most of the friends: macedonian.

When I was in the first grade one of my teachers told my parents that we should use only macedonian because I'm attending macedonian school and serbian&hungarian will have very bad influence on my macedonian. My mother kept speaking with me hungarian and still didn't have any problems mixing these three languages, except that I was lazy in studying things that didn't interested me like maths(back then in 80's the school system was very complicated, in first grade we were learning things that in Canada&USA children are learning in 5th or 6th grade).

With reading&writing I didn't have any problems except that my handwriteing was judged as very bad until 8th grade(last grade of primary schoolin Macedonia) and in high-school my professor of history refered to it as egyptian hierogliphics and I felt very bad about it, in University I understood that actualy my handwriteing was normal only they were illiterate.

I would say keep on useing Catalan, Spanish and English and if possible (later) get her involved in some other language(German, Arab, Japqanese, Greek - whatever) course or summer language camp, however her free will should be respected - do not try doeing anything by force! It will have the oposite effect!

Personaly I'm very thankfull to my parents for keeping there languages in usage with me and boughting me tons of interesting books and comics in serbian, hungarian and macedonian when I was a child. It payed great interest later!


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