raising multilingual kids
How to do it? When to start? What to use?
These and many other questions will come to mind when you want to introduce an extra language to your child or you just had your baby. Your mother tongue, an extra one, your partner one, or one just for fun.
Doesn’t matter the how, when or what, the most important thing is consistency.
Our case: my kids spoke now four languages. I’m Spanish on the origin but lived in the UK for 15 years, my husband is Italian and our kids, all, born in London. So since the day one Amelie, our older daughter, born, I decided to speak to her only in Spanish at home and alone, and English when we were outside in playgrounds, playgroups and with friends who weren’t Spanish. And my husband in Italian.
We were consistency about that, I didn’t read any book on how to raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I just started what it seems natural to do, talk in my mother tongue with my daughter since she was a baby, and after with my other two kids, Dylan and Zoe.
Some days I doubt if it was worthy to talk to her in Spanish all the time or most of the time if I was putting a barrier on her to learn English if I was limiting her to the official language people speak where we lived. But time proves me wrong. I’m not saying it was easy, and we got a bit of trouble sometimes. When she started nursery at the age of two years old she understood a bit of English but she didn’t speak much. She spoke since she was one year old but it was Spanish the language she chooses. She understood also Italian but as she was with me 24 hours a day until she was 2 years old it was a bit obvious which language she will speak first. That doesn’t mind your child will do the same, every child is different and every experience is different. It took a bit for her to settle on the nursery due the language, and we got lucky to have a nursery assistant who talked Spanish. But after 4 months she started nursery she was speaking English and didn’t have any trouble. And at the age of four, she was starting to correct my spoken English! With her, we were continuing talking in our mother tongue but also supporting English, as most of kids books are on English and when the tv is on (rarely or when I need a digital nanny) all the content is in English too.
Now with our twins, is a different game, as each child is different… they are of course different on the way they learned. We were doing exactly the same with Dylan and Zoe, they understand three languages: English, Spanish and Italian, but they speak very little by 34 months old they are now. As they are twins sometimes are delays in speaking and as a second/third child are also delays. They speak few words in the three languages, and they speak between them, twins language, a new make language just for the two of them.
We moved abroad last year to North of Spain, where they talk Catalan, a different language, base on Latin and with some similarities to Spanish and Italian but quite different too. We are here since November, and my older daughter started school here since the middle of November, that four months ago, so by my huge surprise, she already speaks Catalan, her school only speak Catalan however they were supporting her with Spanish on the beginning for her to adapt easily. But now they don’t need, she speaks the local language, of course, not fluently yet, but give her one year and we will see!
And not, she doesn’t confuse any language, she knows by the age of 5 which language needs to talk to who, it’s really amazing and speechless to see that!
My advice, don’t give up your mother tongue, speak to your kids. And if your mother tongue is English, start to introduce the second one, little by little, games, books, tv content. The first year’s kid is just sponges of learning, they absorb so much, and talking two or more languages are so good for kids.
There are many book and advice blogs around, one of my favourites one which I read time to time is ‘bilingualmonkeys.com‘ they give you actual science facts and ideas and advice to raise bilingual kids.
One great article from them, ‘My best tips for raising bilingual kids: http://bilingualmonkeys.com/my-best-tips-for-raising-bilingual-kids/
There are many myths and misconceptions, just watch up for those!
Also don’t be surprised if your kid says in one sentence two or more languages, it’s very common, it will pass, don’t worry about it. (I found it amazing!)
But the most important part is to trust your intuition and do what is best for your kid/s