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Reply with quote  #1 

Ok, here is a good one for you: I am American by birth, but my mother is Swedish (lives there) and my father is Danish and lives in Mexico. I speak 6 languages, 4 perfectly fluently. My husband is French and he speaks English for work, but we always speak French together (and with his family). We live in Luxembourg, where Luxembourgish is the "street" language, but everyone speaks German, French and English. We have 10 month old twin girls. I speak mostly English to them, but sometimes I do speak French because I lived there for a third of my life and it is rather automatic, I do it without thinking. My husband speaks only French to them. I speak Italian to the babysitter and she speaks Italian to me and the girls. My friends are mostly Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish and the girls and I go to Scandinavian playgroups and sing songs in Swedish. When we are in Sweden, we only speak Swedish, except I speak French to my husband. AND, the thing is we don't have the money to send our girls to private school really, so they will most likely attend the public schools. In these schools (from 4 years old), Luxembourgish is spoken but the lessons are all in German starting at 6 years old. Certain classes are in French after 9 years old or so, and then English classes start. We have DVDs and books in English, French, and Swedish. I don't mind if they speak late, but they already totally understand certain words in French and English. Am I going to make my poor girls crazy?? By the way, I imagine we'll live here for at least 10-15 years and everyone here speaks 5 languages by 18 years old.....

Reply with quote  #2 

i really do not think you should concern yourself with the near term and whether they confuse the languages rather focus on the long-term and the benefits that they will have to knowing so many languages. i think that the young children do not initially differentiate that they are speaking different languages, just that in some circumstances they should use some words (french, italian, german) and other times others.... for them it is just one big vocabulary... if they forget the word for lake in english, they may say lago (italiano)... gradually they will begin to understand that "those words are italian, and those words are english" just think for example we know there are words that we use with our friends and then we shift when in the presence of an 80-year old person who does not know all the latest gargon and lingo.

Reply with quote  #3 
I enjoyed reading your post.

Your last sentence made me realize that you are not concerned about your children going crazy, but rather it sounds like if you wonder if your world is going crazy.

You yourself said that "everybody here speaks 5 languages".   Sounds like a situation many people wish they could be in.

Reply with quote  #4 


I was looking for websites with the word "quadrilingual" and read your interesting post. I guess I can say I grew up quadrilingual since my mother is Swiss (from the French-speaking part) and my dad is American, I spent my first 19 years in Italy where I went to the Schweizer Schule Rom (in German). My parents only allowed us to speak French to my mother and English to my dad. If we ever said anything in Italian we did not get an answer until we translated into either French or English (depending on whom we were speaking to).

Since all courses in the Swiss school in Rome were given in German and we spoke Italian to our friends people often ask us if that did not get us confused as we were growing up. Except for some interesting sentences -like my sister saying "don't faire così"- I must say the experience was not traumatic, in fact, it was beneficial. However, if I may give you some advice, I'd keep the different languages confined to specific milieus. We spoke only French to mom, only English to dad, only German at the Swiss school and only Italian with our friends. Of course, sooner or later identity issues arise and of course one of the languages is going to be “stronger” than the others, but generally speaking I’d say the experience is enriching (and yes, here in Geneva most people do speak 4 or 5 or more languages and it’s quite normal and people seem to do just fine ; - ) )  

Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks for your response! It makes me feel better. Here in Luxembourg many people speak 4 or 5 languages but the public school system isn't so great, so their true skills tend to be weak. We are actually contemplating a move to Geneva or Zurich for professional reasons. I think it might work out nicely with their English, Italian and French that they have now. They start the Waldorf school which will be in German with French and English and apparently the Waldorf school that I looked at in Geneva also is trilingual. Plus they said we would have priority on the waiting list coming from another trilingual Waldorf school. Have you always lived in Geneva? We are going to do a couple visits to Zurich and Geneva next year to see which we prefer.  I guess they are both 3.5 hours from Italy, which would be convenient.....
Reply with quote  #6 
Hello there, its 6 years after the first posts were written here, so by now l guess you all see the benefits of learning many languages at once... l am Hungarian, my husband is Belgian. We both only speak on our mother tongue to our boys now 5 and 7 years old. We speak English with my husband and we live in a Spanish environment. Our kids speak perfect Hungarian, Dutch and Spanish, and understand everything in English and recently started to talk in English too. Our first boy started talking when he was 25months old on Hungarian to me and Dutch to his dad. Our second born when he was 22 months old. They don't mix the languages,and don't make mistakes. We are consistent, always and only speaking to them in our own language, even if it means to repeat everything in both lenguages. It is not difficult and not tiring its actually quite entertaining[smile] Good luck and no worries!
Reply with quote  #7 

Our daughter is growing up with four languages. I am German but grew up in the UK so speak to our daughter in English. My husband is Basque and speaks to her in Spanish. She attends french nursery as we live in a French speaking part of Belgium. My parents mainly speak German with her but don't see her that often.

Even though I am fluent in four languages I still need a bit of reassurance that this is going to work. I didn't learn all my languages at once so my own experience was a bit different.
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