Raising children quadrilingually

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"I speak Spanish to God, Italian to women, French to men, and German to my horse."

 

- Charles V

 

So your kid's gonna be in decent company :)

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I think four is a bit too ambitious out of the gate and it sounds like that's turning out the case for original poster.

 

One with each parent at home and then a main language at school and with friends seems like plenty to take on, yet very doable. English being the 4th in this case seems like no big deal, as they can study that in school, with friends and obviously krakp.

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" obviously krakp."

 

Huh?

EDIT: Thanks. I didn't know whether it was age confusion or a clever new expression.

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Huh?

 

haha, I had typed "obviously online", but I went back to replace "original poster" with his screen name in my previous paragraph and screwed up by replacing the wrong words...

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Way Back when, I spoke to my oldest in German and Norwegian, my better half in English and spanish ( lived in spain at this time )

Her spanish was like a native, same with her english, her german was about my standard and same with Norwegian. We left spain and went back to the uk and kept it up for a few years but over time she lost it and only used English. Cut forward to last year, came over for a visit and heard german for the first time in god knows how long, was up to a very good ( albeit formal ) standard within a fortnight.

She had the same experience in Spain, picked it up again real quick - I suspect that it´s hard-wired if they learn early enough.

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I think four is a bit too ambitious out of the gate...

Again - this is not really a matter of ambition for us. It is rather the reality of having 2 different mother tongues of the parents at home and another language at school (and generally 'outside'). Before we had a baby, we were asking ourselves if it is a good idea and if we shouldn't rather push ourselves to speaking only German at home (which we both speak but for sure far from native level). Until now the idea of each using their mother tongue has proven successful and that is what I wanted to share with the community :-)

 

The side effect is that even though English is spoken mostly at home (between me and my wife) it does not seem to be playing a big role for our daughter at the moment, since she does not need to understand or use it. It was never our 'goal' to teach as many languages as possible to the baby - we rather just wanted to be sure that we are not hindering her development by using our native languages - and until now it is definitely a success in this sense.

 

Cheers,

krakp

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How great that your daughter is happy in the three languages, and that you have continued to update your progress - TT must have loads of multi language families who will be encouraged by your experience.

 

I wish all families had your view - we live next door to a greek/turkish family and they made the decision to only speak German at home. Now they see our kids speaking English at home, and fluent German with them and regret it.

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@krakp

I guess you had luck with your daughter. My son is now 3yrs and 4 months. And rarely uses sentences with more that 3 -4 words. We raised our son with 4 languages - I speak English (and Chinese), my husband speaks German (and Serbian). We speak English to each other, and our respective languages to our son. I swear to you - my son made up his own language. He thought everyone had their own language, so he made up his own that he uses to "speak" to his toys. He speaks mainly English if he wants something, goes to a stadtkindergarten (german), and a sprinkle of the other languages for certain nouns. He has to go to speech therapy to sort this out. His speech therapist says more than 3 languages can increase the chances of serious speech delay.

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Kids will speak whatever languages they are regularly exposed to. Not necessarily to the same level. My almost 7 y.o. daughter has a passive knowledge of German still which she picked up at Kindergarten and has kept up through watching Kinderkanal for an hour every evening (no damn adverts!!). I know she understands and can speak it (with mistakes) to her German Opa but she won't speak it to anyone else. Her every day language is French and her English, which she only speaks with me, is a little limited for her age.

 

My severely handicapped nephew does not speak in sentences but in as far as he does speak he speaks and understands English, French and Swiss German. Also knew a perfectly bilingual (French and Flemish) chap with severe learning difficulties.

 

To Toronto: the speach-therapist has to make a living. I see actively "sorting out" language differentiation in a 3-year old as creating a problem where there is none for the speaker - just for those around him. If you gave it a year it would sort itself out without any active intervention. Indeed, speech will be delayed but you can bet he will still function. What does "serious" mean in this context? You can say my daughter has a serious delay in her German - but is delayed German better or worse than no German? Your kid is not the first to make up his own language for his toys - this happens with kids who only speak one language too.

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@krakp

I guess you had luck with your daughter. My son is now 3yrs and 4 months. And rarely uses sentences with more that 3 -4 words. We raised our son with 4 languages - I speak English (and Chinese), my husbands speaks German (and Serbian). We speak English to each other, and our respective languages to our son. I swear to you - my son made up his own language. He thought everyone had their own language, so he made up his own that he uses to "speak" to his toys. He speaks mainly English if he wants something, goes to a stadtkindergarten (german), and a sprinkle of the other languages for certain nouns. He has to go to speech therapy to sort this out. His speech therapist says more than 3 languages can increase the chances of serious speech delay.

 

krakp, I really do appreciate this thread and while I know it's not ambition that drives you, my wife happens to be a speech pathologist. She's from Russia, but works here in California and has treated many Chinese and Spanish speaking patients (through a translator). So, I have access to some knowledge about this topic. Also, we have serious concerns for our son, as we are discussing moving to Germany in 2-3 years and our son just turned 1. She currently speaks Russian to him and I speak English. Our plan is to continue this and introduce him to German in Kindergarten when we move there.

 

So, I do know you're not driven by ambition, but my wife also says that a 4th language so early can be too much (as the poster above suggests), hence my words "too ambitious". So, sorry if it sounded like I was implying anything deviant. :-)

 

Thanks for starting (and updating) a wonderfully helpful thread.

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I honestly believe the answer to these "problems" is patience and allowing the kid more time to develop at his own pace. Of course if you have to learn 4 languages progress will be slow. But that is all. Just slow. So what? There may be some frustration on his part if he cannot express himself the way he would like (have seen this with my lo) but small kids get frustrated at other stuff too.

 

Good things come to those who wait! Adapt your expectations accordingly.

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@featherlight

He has speech delay in all languages. Even though he has the same exposure to all languages - the only one he can communicate with is English and even with that, he didn't start speaking until he was exactly 3 years. In the 4 months we attended speech therapy he is finally speaking in 3-4 word sentences. (Plus the speech therapist is part of a LMU department, and so I assume and hope that their intentions are more about the study/research of speech therapy and to best interest of my son- than money.) Don't get me wrong, my son FULLY understands all the languages - but hasn't been able to speak. And i see him struggle to communicate. I agree that exposing as many language to your children is important. But do you understand how frustrating it is to not understand your child? It was like playing charades/guessing game with a my son for a year, while other kids are making their needs known.

 

I would like to wait for my son to speak, but being a parent is frustrating enough. Try having a a fully functional child having a tantrum, and he can't tell you why he is so upset. Or if he has a allergic reaction to a new food you introduce...he can't tell you. Normally extroverted and outgoing - he falls behind in socializing with other kids or the teachers because he can't talk to them - he just follows - that has repercussions with confidence issues. I know he will eventually speak and know all the languages - and that is great... i just want other parents to know the down side of this too. I don't regret teaching him so many languages - but we should have been more careful.

 

What we should have done was that we should have limited a single language per person - so English for me, German for my hubby, Chinese for the grandparents (minor exposure), and Serbian for the other grandparents (minor exposure). In this way, the languages are more separate and easier for the child to distinguish. But we (plus grandparents) all are bi-trilingual and we sort of didn't realize we were confusing him when we naturally speak in one language to another.

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He has to go to speech therapy to sort this out. His speech therapist says more than 3 languages can increase the chances of serious speech delay.

 

That's a myth that speech therapists love to cling on to. There's been a lot of research done on this and they've found that there is no correlation between a child learning more than one language at a time and speech delay. If he has a delay, then he has a delay, but it's not because you've confused him. The fact that he understands all the language indicates that there's something else going on and hopefully the therapy will be able to help with that.

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I do understand your frustration Toronto - I have been there to some extent with my lo. At some point every parent experiences this. But your son is only three - also boys are often slower in language acquisition. Just hang in there! It will come.

 

Concerning the social aspects, I have seen this with my daughter too but it does pass in time.

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I had a coworker who was raising a child bi-lingually and her daughter did not speak a word until she had them both figured out and then it was like a faucet being turned on and she hasn't stopped talking since. Your son probably just needs a bit more time to get all his languages straight.

 

It is funny about making up his own language but I read an article years ago where they interviewed the guy who spoke the most languages in the world at that time. He said he grew up with 4 languages and he also wanted to make up his own language because he thought everybody had their own. It was his grandfather who convinced him it was not necessary and if he wanted to learn more languages, there was already a lot of them out there.

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I greened Westvan although I do not entirely agree with the speech delay not being correlated to having to acquire more than one language simultaneoulsy - in all cases. You have to define what is meant by speech delay, which is not easy. Kids develop at different rates in different fields of activity in relation to each other. I was also a "late" speaker apparently but am now multilingual and given the chance on the right subject hard to shut up...

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Nope, not in all cases, you're absolutely right. But I cringe when I hear "Oh, if your child learns more than one language he will automatically have a speech delay". That's simply not true and was not the case with our kids and many others that I know.

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Toronto, my wife and I researched speech therapists in Germany and they're actually not paid very well compared with the US and UK, so I'm not sure they're in it for the money. We exchanged some messages with a very nice lady in Berlin who was treating a Russian speaking child and my Russian wife actually watched some videos to help a bit via email. It's a very difficult and competitive field to get into, so they really are highly qualified professionals that study quite a bit to become certified. The language spoken isn't the thing focused on the most when diagnosing speech disorders as there are very noticeable mechanics that professionals are able to spot, whether they understand the words the child/person speaks.

 

I had met this person on TT, so message me if you'd like her contact info for the therapist in Berlin. She seemed very kind and genuine.

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