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Reply with quote  #1 

Dear Multi-Lingual experts,

I am in a bit of a tricky situation. I am a mother tongue italian with 18 years of life in England. I am just about to have my first baby as a single mother in Italy. My plan is to live in Italy for the first 4 months of the baby’s life and then move to Germany. My dilemma now is the following. I would like my child to grow up as tri-lingual with Italian, English and German. In the time in Italy I would like to start speaking English to him, whilst the rest of my family and my mother more importantly will be speaking to him in Italian. But the problem comes when  I move to Germany and the baby is 4 months of age.  I will be then become the only source of Italian for the baby. I will be living with 2 German speakers who will speak German to the baby and English to me. So what do people with experience recommend?

Should I just start off with Italian myself as well? And sticky to it? What is my chance of teaching English?


I hope the situation is clear and I am eager to hear all your comments as I am in a real “pickle” here!






Erik K
Reply with quote  #2 
For simplicity and consistency, maybe it is better if you always speak Italian from the time the child is born. Also, be sure that your Italian relatives speak with the child frequently (either over the phone, or you can visit Italy, or your relatives can visit you).

You said two other people will live with you in Germany. Are they willing to help you by speaking different languages? If so, then there are two methods I can think of.

Method 1:
Have one person always speak German to the child, and have the other person always speak English to him/her. You three adults can speak English to each other.

Method 2:
Have both of the adults speak English inside the home and speak German outside the home (except when speaking to you). If your child will rarely see those two people outside the home, then make sure the child speaks with other Germans outside the home.

Either way, your kid will hear all three languages every day.

Reply with quote  #3 
I think you should just speak your native Italian to baby from the time He/SHE is born. If you want to include English, fine. Maybe you could come up with a list of 50-100 phrases that you will use in Italian and English on a regular basis with the baby just so they get used to hearing and speaking some basic English.

When you move to Germany, baby will get plenty of German from the community in Nursery/Daycare, school, cartoons, friends, neighbors etc, as they grow so dont worry about German. Continue to speak primarily Italian with your baby and use English with room mates and friends when you can, if you can get someone to speak to your baby in German regularly that would be great but dont worry to much. Try and get as much Italian into him as possible and follow it up with some English. When baby is 2 or 3 years old he/she should speak Italian and understand plenty of common English phrases and words.
Reply with quote  #4 
Hi Laura,

I really agree with Siya - if you plan to live in Germany for longer, don't worry about your child learning German. He'll learn that from nursery, school, friends etc.
Your concern is to keep up the Italian and English and to make these two languages solid enough for him to still want to speak them when he is 4-5 y.o. In my experience it's around that age, that the children make their own choices and decide to drop a language if it's too difficult or of no use to them. Stick to Italian from day one and ask you roommates to speak only English to both of you at home.
And remember - teaching your child to speak more languages is a gift and should be fun. It's not always easy (sometimes very hard work and frustrating when they don't react the way you planned ;-) but it's always worth it. They'll go through phases where they struggle, they refuse, they mix up the languages etc. etc. etc. - but try not to worry (if you can't then just don't show it) and you WILL get there! Maybe it takes 2 years, maybe 5 years - you'll get there!
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