How to Raise a Child in More than Three Languages - Multilingual Family Q&A
A very common question that I get asked over and over again is: How to Raise a Child in
More than Three Languages. I want to help your multilingual family find a fail-safe
strategy. So, in this video I will dive deeper into three real-life-scenarios. Stick with
me until the end, because the last case is really interesting, and I have a useful tool
called Strategy Builder that will help you find your way. Coming up next!
Hi there, Andrea here, teacher specialized in languages. In this channel I share with
you tips and tricks and useful material about how to raise multilingual children, so if
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Thank you for all your questions and kind words. That really motivates me to keep on
going. I seriously appreciate every LIKE and comment that you give me. So THANKS again!
Before I start analyzing the next three cases, I just want to say that I will give you my
opinion on how I would do it in your case, based on my personal and professional experience,
out of the perspective of a language teacher, a mother of trilingual kids and someone that
already experienced what it means to grow up multilingual, because I was brought up
multilingual as well. But that doesn’t mean that what I suggest is the only way to reach
your goals. In spite of that, I'm pretty sure that my
recommendations are one of the most efficient, fale-safe and promising strategies that you
can get for your multilingual families. If you follow the next tips, I promise you
that you will be starting on the right foot. In the future you can still adapt your methods
or add new ones, depending on how your multilingual kids develop and how your life in general
So are you ready? Let’s get started with case # 1
Garias, you live in NYC and your first language is Spanish, because you come from Colombia.
I don’t know exactly where your husband comes from, but he speaks French and Arabic
- interesting combination. Together you speak in English. That means that you are dealing
with 4 languages. How should you go about it was your question. Well, let's take a closer
look at your case. I suggest that you, Garias, talk to your child
consistently in Spanish, using the OPOL method. Check out this video if you don’t know what
I’m talking about. Your husband should ideally choose his strongest language, that is not
always the mother tongue. If he doesn't know which one to choose, tell him to ask himself
these questions: In what language does he dream?
In what language does he swear when he gets mad? That is, if he ever gets mad.
And what language does he use when he sees a little cute baby? ...
All of those questions should help him figure out which language is his strongest.
Now, for the weaker language, you should find external support like grandparents, daycares,
nannies, videos, music, play dates etc., to expose your multilingual child to that language
as much as possible. Once your baby starts talking in Spanish and in the strongest language
of your husband, he could start thinking about using, what I like to call, the OAOL method
to support his weaker language. Check out this video to learn more about that method.
But, what should you do with English? Well, since it is the majority language, because
you live in NYC, your child will learn it anyway. Besides, you and your husband speak
it at home, in which case your children will learn English passively. Just make sure that
your child also gets regular contact with English speaking people. It could be a native
speaking nanny, a daycare, or a playgroup. It is important that your child can speak
English before going to school, so that he or she can have a smooth start. (The teacher
is taking now) So, dear Garias, that can be your strategy
for the beginning. Remember that you still have to nourish each language and support
it as much as possible using lots of books and other resources. Keep on following me
to get more information and ideas. Please hit the like button if you are getting
value out of this. Gracias, merci, thank you, danke, tak (wow, that was in order, form my
strongest to my weakest language). But that doesn’t interest you.
Let’s go to case # 2 Dear Alex, you are fluent in Spanish and English.
Judging by your last name Delgado, I suppose that your first language is Spanish. If that
is the case, you should choose Spanish as your primary language to speak to your child.
Also, because your wife’s strongest language is English and you live in the US, it would
be a real pity if you spoke to your child in English as well because your multilingual
baby’s strongest language will probably be English anyway. It would be a wonderful
gift to him or her if you passed on your Hispanic roots and culture. Use enough external support
to nourish the minority language, that means in your case: Spanish.
That being said, let’s go to the more interesting question: what to do with Tagalog. You say
that your wife’s mother speaks Tagalog, which makes me think that she comes from the
Philippines. You said that both of you are learning it too at the moment, to be able
to support your child. What I would do, is expose your baby as much
as possible to Tagalog through the grandmother. Make sure they build up a strong bond and
they see each other frequently and regularly. At this point, I hope that the grandmother
lives somewhere near you. If that is not so, try to visit her as often as possible and
use Skype, Zoom, Whataspp (in these times of Corona) and make sure they stay in contact.
Look also for additional support: find other Tagalog-speaking families, nannies, friends
and books, music, videos etc. You can’t expect that Tagalog develops at
the same rate as English and Spanish, but it would still be a huge advantage for your
multilingual child, if he gets exposure before turning 6. Check out my other videos to learn
more about that. A question for you:
Why do you think a child has an advantage when learning languages before the age of
6. Let me know in the comment section. And hey, please share this video with your multilingual
friends! Now comes case # 3
Hello Ridha, thank you for being such an active follower. I must say, your case is quite complex
but very interesting. You are Indonesian and speak English as well.
Your husband is Turkish but was brought up in the Netherlands. Dutch is his strongest
language and he can speak English better than Turkish. In addition, he is learning Arabic.
What should you do with all these languages? You also mentioned, and I quote: “Is it
really important to speak our strongest language to our children instead of English? We were
wondering, since my husband and I speak English at home. We think English is more important
than our own languages and we both don’t really like our own languages for any reason.”
Ok, let me say it very clearly. YES, it is ESSENTIAL that you speak your strongest language
with your baby. Believe me, I’ve seen 10 years in public schools in Switzerland, what
happens to kids, when the parents don't speak their strongest language with them… and
honestly, I wouldn’t recommend it. Your baby has to build up an identity, know
where she comes from and be proud of her roots. You would be making a BIG mistake and be risking
that your child develops a low self-esteem, she could develop identity and psychological
problems in the future. Struggling with identity issues may lead also to anxiety and insecurity.
So NO, do not speak with your child in English. Period. I would suggest that you speak Indonesian,
using the OPOL method, your husband ideally Dutch. Because the majority language is also
Dutch, it will probably become the strongest language of your child as well. Which is not
bad, if you plan to stay in the Netherlands. When it comes to English, I would make sure
that the child goes to a bilingual daycare or preschool, or find a nanny or somebody
else that speaks English as a native tongue that could build up a relationship with your
multilingual baby. Or simply wait until your child learns English in school. Depending
on your goals, that might be good enough. So, for English you should ideally use external
Regarding Turkish, see if your husband's family can speak consistently with your baby in Turkish,
visit the country once in a while and keep close contact with friends and other family
members that speak that language natively. If all these languages are developing well
and the child reaches at least a conversational level, you can start thinking about exposing
your kid to Arabic. If your child gets Arabic exposure before the age of 6 it would be beneficial.
But also for Arabic, use external support. In your case it's about setting priorities
and going one step at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed.
Good luck to you all! Keep on asking questions. I know these are big topics and I can’t
cover everything in one video, but I can still create more.
That was it for now. Hopefully, I could answer some of your questions regarding how to raise
a child in more than three languages. Watch my other videos for more support. Please help
me out by liking and sharing this video. This was Multilingual Family - keep on doing a
great job and talk to you soon.