Raising a trilingual baby

Lubna - posted on 04/26/2009 ( 4 moms have responded )

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Hello All. I am facing difficulty with this and i would appreicate if somebody have an advice or know a recource for info for raising trilingual baby. My mothertongue is Arabic, my husband english and we speack English with each other. We live in Cyprus so we are learning Greek, my HUsband parents are greek so he knows some. I want my baby girl to be able to speak arabic but my husband worries that we will have a special relation/language and he will be elinated. Also he says that the English is the most important language for her future and i agree with that but if i did not teach her arabic now it will be very difficult for her to learn it later (its a very difficult language) do not know what to do? and i also do not know what approach to take so my baby will be able to learn the 3 languages, English, Arabic and Greek. Any advice?

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Jennifer - posted on 04/26/2009

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I agree completely with Katherine. I'm a Child Development specialist, and we know that the earlier kids are exposed to another language, the easier/more fluent/etc. that they will be in that language. As an adult, one would think it quite hard to learn so many languages at a time, but kids really do an amazing job. There will be a period though where your daughter will mix the languages up in one sentence, quite funny, but they do figure it out. Since your husband can speak Greek with your daughter, you should feel comfortable speaking Arabic. I would try to be sensitive to his feelings though and translate often for him when he's around.

Reading stories, singing songs, talking to yourself in that particular language (example: at the grocery store...We need to buy some vegetables, I wonder what we should have for dinner, etc.) and everyday interaction will all help with her understanding. What a wonderful gift you'll be able to provide for your little girl! Wish I was that lucky.

Katherine - posted on 04/26/2009

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My kids are bilingul, and I know several families where the kids are trilingual or quadlingual (if that's how to refer to speaking four languages!). I am Anglophone and ONLY speak English to my kids from birth. My husband is French (we live in Quebec) and he and his family ONLY speak French. My daughter goes to school in French so english is really in the minority here for they. Since I am a SAHM, they get English all day long until they start school. My friends who speak four languages do the same. The mother is Italian (speaks Italian to the kids), the father is Spanish (of course speaking Spanish). They live in Montreal where English and French are the spoken languages. Since the kids attend school in English, they get the English and the French, and the parents speak French together. Sounds complicated, but it's really not for a child. They are like sponges! They will pick up all the languages and associate each person with their language! Good luck, and try to keep your Arabic in the picture! It is a richness that we can give to our children! They will have no limits if they speak many languages!

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Elizabeth - posted on 11/20/2012

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Give her a solid foundation...if she is strong in her native tongue or in a "first/primary language" then she will be able to learn others later, especially in school. She needs to have one strong language then it will help her in school. So if she will be attending a school where she will be taught in English, it sounds like it may be a good idea to teach her English first, as you both agree to do. It is difficult in school when you are not speaking the "common" language or in the learning environment, because then you have to first translate the language in your head/mind in order to process or respond. It appears and feels like the student is not smart or slower then the other students and can delay the learning process. It also can be very discouraging. (I worked as a Bilingual Classroom Assistant for 7 1/2 years). In the primary school level it is one thing, but when they move up to Jr. High and High School it is even more difficult.

Katherine - posted on 04/26/2009

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My kids are bilingul, and I know several families where the kids are trilingual or quadlingual (if that's how to refer to speaking four languages!). I am Anglophone and ONLY speak English to my kids from birth. My husband is French (we live in Quebec) and he and his family ONLY speak French. My daughter goes to school in French so english is really in the minority here for they. Since I am a SAHM, they get English all day long until they start school. My friends who speak four languages do the same. The mother is Italian (speaks Italian to the kids), the father is Spanish (of course speaking Spanish). They live in Montreal where English and French are the spoken languages. Since the kids attend school in English, they get the English and the French, and the parents speak French together. Sounds complicated, but it's really not for a child. They are like sponges! They will pick up all the languages and associate each person with their language! Good luck, and try to keep your Arabic in the picture! It is a richness that we can give to our children! They will have no limits if they speak many languages!

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