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Edward
Reply with quote  #1 

I am a trilingual father from birth (Catalan, English, Spanish; grew up in Barcelona) married to an English mother who speaks very good Spanish and understands Catalan. We have a 19 month daughter and second child on the way and we live in solidly monolingual England.

Initially, we spoke Spanish (me) and English to our daughter as we felt Spanish would be more "useful" to her than Catalan and I speak Spanish to my wife anyway.
However, on recent trips "back home" to Catalonia it has dawned on me that I would like our daughter to speak Catalan as this is what I speak to my mother, brother and most of my friends. Since coming back, I have been speaking Catalan to her, my wife (and society) speak English to her and I speak Spanish to my wife.

Our concerns are:

(1) She won't master Spanish just from hearing me speak it to my wife (although my wife appears to understand 80% of Catalan just from hearing me talk it to my mum a few times a week, which I guess shows how much one can pick up "passively"). When we visit family at home, all 3 languages are spoken but > 50% of people on the street speak Catalan so achieving full immersion in Spanish on holiday won't be that simple.

(2) I'm not sure what to speak when I want to address both daughter and wife. Catalan, at the risk of reducing daughter's exposure to Spanish and making it weird for my wife, to whom I've never spoken in Catalan in 7 years? Spanish, but risk confusing my daughter?

(3) Is my daughter more likely to rebel against speaking a minority language that nobody in England cares about? People here think learning Spanish is cool but learning Catalan is pointless and I worry that such comments will put her off. I'm aware I was glad to speak English as a child in Spain as everyone was jealous of this.

I see lots of posts of trilingual families where each parent follows the OPOL model and society provides the third language but what if the third language is only heard at home amongst parents?
I should say my daughter currently understands English and Catalan very well; and has a limited vocabulary which is 70:30% English:Catalan. My wife speaks very good Spanish and understands Catalan quite well but isn't used to me speaking it to her (feels weird).

 
 
 
July 29, 2012
10:51 pm
Edward
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NannyAbroad
Reply with quote  #2 
I have a couple of ideas for you.  You live in England so what if you continue to speak Catalan to your daughter, your wife speaks Spanish to her, and she learns English outside the home.  Or you continue what you are doing but enroll her in a Spanish school, or hire a native Spanish speaking nanny/ teacher to work/play with her a few times a week.  Even a Spanish language teacher twice a week will make a big difference especially as she hears her parents speaking Spanish at home.  I think the easiest option is the first though since she will learn English fluently in school anyway.  Playdates with other children in Spanish will help as well.

Best of luck!
Olga
Reply with quote  #3 
Dear Edward,
From our experience I can tell, that a child can learn third language passively. We have the same, but different situation: I am Ukrainian, speaking Russian to our daughter, my husband is Dutch, speaking Dutch to her. With husband we speak English to each other. At first, we were sure, that English (the language of our relationship) will stay just our language. But soon, when our daughter was about 2,5, we started noticing, that she understood what we said to each other. As we live in NL, the first language she started speaking was Dutch as around the age of 2 she started attending kindergarten. Russian joined a few months later. Now it is approximately 60% to 40% (Dutch-Russian). At the age of 3 our daughter surprised us, when she started speaking a bit of English to us. We never spoke English to her before. An though her English was not grammatically great, from that moment we started thinking of developing her English.
We try to support languages by reading a lot to her. Lately also in English.

I think that it is important to prioritize the languages by their possible importance/need/usage in her future. I did not try to teach my child Ukrainian, even though it is a very beautiful language. Just because I think that when she's grown up, she will, probably, have a better chance to be understood by others while speaking Russian. Wether it is Ukraine, Russia or any other country of former USSR.
What I also think is that with languages one of the most important things is consistensy. That is why, speaking Russian to my daughter, I do not switch to any other language. Only shortly and in the form of game. This way we learn English.
Hope that our experience will help you to find the right way.
Lots of luck!

hannah
Reply with quote  #4 
Hi,

I am very interested in this phenomenon of children learning the language the parents speak amongst themselves without ever being addressed in that language or expected to response in that language.

Does anyone know what the terminology for this is or if there is a book on this?

Thanks!
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