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Cristiana Zachau
Reply with quote  #1 
Hi all,

We are a multinational family, living in Germany at present, not sure whereto in the future. Our daughter is now 4 months. I am Romanian-Canadian and my husband is German. We live in Germany but my husband and I speak English at home (husband with some minor mistakes).

I speak Romanian to her during the day when we are alone. I try to stick only to Romanian. When my husband is alone with her, he speaks only German. Of course his entire family and a major part of our friends also speak German. This is going to be the main language, kindergarten will also be in German. So far, so good, it almost looks like OPOL. But, in the evenings, when we are all 3, we speak English. I talk to her in English when my husband is around so he understands what I'm saying and he mostly does the same. It is important to us that she learns English, as she is Canadian and may end up going to school in Canada. It is important to me that she learn Romanian, as it will ease the acquisition of French, Spanish, Italian or any other Latin-based language.

Uffffff ... is this going to work? I have read about how we should use the same books in all 3 languages. I could do that, translate everything. Problem is with the songs and nursery rhymes. I don't know any in Romanian and only do that in English. My husband doesn't do much of that in German either. I suppose she'll learn that in kindergarten. The only thing we don't have much exposure to for her is Romanian. I am the only one who speaks it, and my family when we are in Canada, which is too seldom for my taste.

Will this work? Is there anything else? Thanks for your help.

Erik K
Reply with quote  #2 
Actually, I recommend making a change.

I assume you don't speak German very well? Your message does not say.

Your daughter is getting plenty of exposure to German, so your husband can stop speaking it at home when the three of you are alone. Your husband can speak it when you are out of the house, or when German speakers visit your home.

Your husband could consistently speak only English at home. Ask for his permission for you to correct his mistakes in using that language.

You could always speak Romanian with her, and if needed then repeat your words in English to your husband.


If you move to Canada, then your daughter will hear plenty of English (except maybe if you move to Quebec). At that point in time, you both should stop speaking English at home (except when you really need to). Your husband would start speaking German at home (repeating his words in English for you, if needed).

If you stay in Canada, your daughter will need to learn French, right? Is the school system good enough to teach that language effectively from a young age? If not, and if you're not living in Quebec, you would need to find French speaking children (perhaps a French language play-group).

Erik K
Reply with quote  #3 
I forgot to comment about the nursery rhymes.

Maybe you can order books and music recordings.

Also, can you modify English songs by using the Romanian translation in place of the English lyrics? You could try this, and see if you can make the rhythm work somehow.

I like the idea of using the same books in all three languages. I guess you could write one language above the printed words, and the other language below the printed words.

Maybe you could go to and search for romanian communities/families/etc in your area. Finding Romanian speaking kids for play-dates would be perfect. Actually, you could do this for English speaking kids too.

Reply with quote  #4 
Hi Erik, thank you for your answer and suggestions.

To clarify - I understand and speak German very well now, not native level, but better than some natives. If we move to Canada we figured we'd switch to German between the 2 of us. She would get a lot more exposure in Romanian in Canada (yes, funny) since I have my entire family and community there to rely on. Anyway, Canada is not an option at this moment, just a "maybe" in the future.

I have friends here from Canada and other English-speakers with kids so she should get some English exposure later on. The more I think of it, the more I fear for Romanian. I have found no Romanians here to socialize with, there are not many in this area.

The suggestion that he speak English with her is not bad, I had thought of it myself. However he already does, the only times he speaks German to her is when they are alone and, sadly for me, it doesn't happen  that often.

Another worry I have is about her hearing me mix Romanian and English. Not to mention German. Not sure whether she'll figure it out how mommy separates them all. When I read books to her and show her things I try to separate and not mix. So one day she hears the story in Romanian, another day in English. Perhaps later on we may be able to get an Au-Pair and that would solve the issue. Right now we can't.

Erik K
Reply with quote  #5 
Given enough time, your daughter will probably sort out the different languages, no matter which system you end up using. Your current system might be fine.

Still, I wonder if she will learn faster/better if you use one of two possible systems, slightly different than what I suggested before:

One system is: everyone speak German outside the home or when there are German speakers (other than you and your husband) present; when the child is alone with you, use only Romanian; when the child has both parents present and nobody else, use only English.

The other system: you address her in Romanian in all situations, your husband addresses her in English in all situations (even if he would rather use German), and you and your husband both address other people in whatever language the listeners prefer.

There are so many ways to do it. Perhaps you should choose a system based on which gives her the closest to equal time of exposure to each language.

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