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Reply with quote  #1 



My name is Tanna, I live in Peru. Me and my husband we are both peruvian and we are trilingual in French, English and Spanish, which is our native language. We are trying to have a baby but we've alrealdy decided that we want to raise him/her multilingual. The thing is we'll be moving to Quebec in a couple of years so our baby might spend his/her first months in Peru and the rest of his/her life in Quebec. We've decided that I would be speaking english to him and my husband spanish since he/she'll learn french anyway from the community. My concern is that, eventhough, I'm fluent in english and have no difficulty with it, no matter how good my english can be, it won't feel "natural" to speak to my child in english ¿Wouldn't that affect our relationship? 


For all I've read on the subject I do believe that children can become very naturally multilingual if parents are consistent with the system they've chosen, but I'm doubtfull when it comes to teaching them to read and write in two or three languages. ¿How would that work?


One last question: I suppose DVD's or audio book are really usefull, is it alright if the child sees DVD's and listens to musics and tales in english, french and spanish or is it better that he/she relates the dvd's with one language, if so, what other alternatives are there to reinforce the minority languages?


Thank you. This website is very usefull! 

Reply with quote  #2 
Hi Tanna,

My suggestion is the following: You speak English and your husband Spanish. Try to maintain this system also when you move to Canada. Once there, you’ll find that English childrens material is easy to get, but Spanish will be harder. Over time you may change over to where you both speak Spanish at home. However, don’t rely too much on TV for small children (under 2 years of age) Language really needs to be interactive. Read more about that in this article.
Also, about speaking a non-native language to your child -- see this article.

Best of luck,
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Christina Bosemark
Founder & List Moderator
Multilingual Children’s Association

Reply with quote  #3 
We live in the US in a monolingual area; English is my native language and Russian is my husband's. My husband has been in the US all his adult life and speaks English 99% as well as he speaks Russian.

I try to speak Russian, which is not my native language, with my 2 1/2 year old son. It's not easy. I do it every day, but very little on some days. I could not bring myself to speak only Russian with him. That would never happen. Well, if I were rearing him under some kind of inhumane police state and it was "Russian or else," I would deal. But as long as it depends only on me? Never. From your post I would guess that your English is better than my Russian; I would never have put together such a long and detailed message in Russian. So it could be very different for you. Still, so much of parenting is doing what we remember from our own childhood, and it's hard to separate that from language.

Have you considered allowing English to be a weak third language for your son? What if, say, you and your husband both spoke Spanish with your child but spoke English with each other most of the time? And you had books, videos, and toys in all three languages? Of course Quebec is in the French part of Canada, but it's an island in a sea of English, which is also a dominant language in the world right now and from what I've heard quite easy to pick up as a foreign language. So he would have ample opportunity to learn English, whether you speak it with him or not.

I just wanted to throw out the idea of a weak third. The only reason I speak Russian with my son at all is that he has so few sources of Russian that I believe that my limited contribution is still of some use. I would not recommend speaking with your child in a language you didn't grow up with if you are not sure about it.
Reply with quote  #4 
I just posted but had to respond to the article the moderator suggested. I think the article sees things through slightly rose-colored glasses.

The article says, "When baby is small, the language is very simple; as he grows, your own language will grow alongside him. You will have plenty of time to brush up and to maybe take a refresher class or two."

Your language will not grow alongside your baby's if you have no new input. If you have plenty of books and other media and friends in the language, you might be all set. Otherwise, where will your new vocabulary come from? I have had a hard time finding Russian books that I want to read to my child. Russian children's literature is so different from the American children's books that I grew up with and love, and the selection I have found online is rather disappointing. It is the same with videos.

New parents do not have plenty of time to take a class or two, and even if they did, foreign-language classes teach scholarly and tourist language, not parenting language. I doubt that in the world there exists a class that teaches the Russian equivalent of "The Eency-weency Spider" or "This little Piggy went to Market."

The article says, "You'll always be able to find native speakers to supplement your own efforts. You can or plan a few trips to the country for full immersion which will be good for both of your language skills." No, it's not always that easy to find native speakers that you like and want to spend time with, along with your child. And, I would love to take a few trips to Russia. I have not been there since 1996. Travelling is great if you have the time and the money.

Finally, the two quotes above are preceded by this one: "Not speaking perfectly and occasionally being at a loss of words turn out to really be not problems at all." An article that asserts this is not an article but a pep talk. I am all for growing up with more than one language, or I wouldn't be here. But it does not serve parents well to pretend that their problems are not actually problems. For new parents, life becomes more complicated and difficult than it was. Adding a foreign language makes it that much more complicated. I believe that it is worth it or I wouldn't be doing it. I just don't see that anyone is served by being optimistic out of proportion with reality.

Having said all that, I do think the article makes some good points. I should consult a dictionary more often, instead of just switching to English. Just, not while I am late for work and he's still in his pajamas. I have learned some fun, esoteric vocabulary in Russian (dump truck, cement mixer). And the songs you sing with children don't have to be "children's songs." My son's latest favorite is Queen's "We are the champions." (He calls it "The wheel song." You know, "Wheel keep on fighting till the end....") I should probably expose him to more good old-fashioned rock-n-roll in Russian. So it's a good place to go if you want encouragement and some tips. I just felt compelled to point out that it doesn't give the whole picture.

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