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Reply with quote  #1 
I am a native Portuguese speaker living in the United States. I also heard Spanish and French at home while growing up. My husband is American (and spoke only English to his older children) but grew up abroad and is completely fluent in Spanish and Italian. We both speak several other languages fluently, and plan to have our child study at least two others, besides the ones we will use with him/her. Right now we are debating which language my husband should speak to the child I am expecting. Our fear is that if he chooses Spanish the child might get confused, due to the marked similarity between Spanish and Portuguese. We would have the same concern with Italian. What is the general opinion? Thanks for your help.

Reply with quote  #2 

Wouldn't it be helpful to think about it another way - which languages will it be hardest for your child to learn later? I wouldn't have thought it would be a problem for the child to learn Spanish and Portugese, (don't know about Portugese and Italian as don't know how similar they are), but it might be very easy for them to learn Spanish later on for example if they are fluent in Portugese, and then you would have missed out on the opportunity to teach them another language.   My son is a passive bilingual in Spanish (he's 3) and he appears to understand Portugese as well despite never having been exposed to it.  Also, how will he talk to your husband's other children? Do they speak all these languages as well? What will your family language be? Whatever you do needs to feel natural to you all or it won't work.

Reply with quote  #3 
Bilingual kids don't mix languages no matter how close.  I live in Catalonia, and Catalan and Spanish are both Romance languages and so is French, which my son also speaks. No mixing at all within the 3.  

BUT, I think you should only consider a language you master as a native speaker. Thinking is built with language,  so it is very important to give our children the best thinking tool we can provide.  That is the best possible grammar and the richest vocabulary that helps us build sentences and ultimately, thoughts.  

Both my wife and I speak English and know that it is the most important language to master, yet since none of us is a native we don't speak it with him.  He can learn it in the future from native speakers.  Being multilingual to start with is a great advantage to later learn another language.

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