Raising children quadrilingually

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I'm glad to hear that your daughter is doing well in school, but most migrant children in Germany have language deficits, because they don't speak German at home, e.g. Turkish children. They already lag behind when they go to kindergarten. A lot of studies prove this. It also depends, of course, what effort parents put in there themselves to learn the local language.

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Yes, I have heard a lot about this, and never quite got the exact correlation - ours have had no German at all up until kindergarten, and then really only in that setting, my personal effort has remained keeping them strongly english speakers, and my German is quite crappy, having never had the opportunity to do a course, and picked it up slowly and randomly here and there.

 

I wonder whether the exposure to the language is the main issue, or whether there is an issue about learning in general with these kids and their families - perhaps the attitude of school not really mattering, and possibly the kids stick in language groups at Pause. We have a friend who was working with a foundation in Frankfurt encouraging Turkish young people to become kiga/school teachers, as a way of addressing some of the issues.

 

Mine have never had other english speaking kids to play with at school, so they have definitely had to 'be German' during kindy/school hours.

 

It is a proper shame when the kids don't have workable German, and it is also a proper shame when like my Turkish/Greek neighbours, the kids only speak german and have lost their family mother tongue.

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Same situation for us.

I am italian and my wife is japanese, we speak english to each other (we have been living in england 8 and 11 years.), and we are moving to germany with our 3yr old daughter.

I hope we don't gett too confused... back to my german books now.

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On 11/8/2012, 1:55:22, krakp said:

 

It is a two-edged sword, actually. If German is not your mother tongue, then the things you teach may not be fully correct. Additionally your accent, pronunciation, etc. will probably also not be natural.

 

Our daughter has just started the Kindergarten and the very first thing the teachers told us was for the ‘foreign’ parents not to try to use German at home (which, for us, was a nice confirmation that we might be doing the things right). The ‘bad’ German that the kids learn at home is something that is then very difficult to get rid of – we were told that it is simpler to teach German from scratch than to correct all the mistakes that are there already.

 

Also, you will never be able to express yourself in a foreign language in a way that you can do this in your mother tongue. When it comes to strong feelings the mother tongue is much better to come across with the ideas.

 

I guess it all depends on your level of German – if you believe it is near to native then your kid will benefit from you using it – otherwise it is better to stick to your own language.

 

Cheers,

 

krakp

 

 

Hey, 

The forum is very old, but I would be very interested how is it going with your daughter? So many years have passed. Is she trilingual now? 

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20 hours ago, Sarahhh said:

Hey, 

The forum is very old, but I would be very interested how is it going with your daughter? So many years have passed. Is she trilingual now? 

 

I understand it's not to me that you asked the question but nevertheless don't be offended if I jump in and give my answer.

 

My daugther is exposed to 4 languages: italian from Dad (it's me, well at least I hope so :-), Japanese from Mum (who has worked as Japanese language teacher for the last 20yr), german from everybody around (done 3yr in Kita, 1yr in Grundschule), and english from daily Dad-Mum speaking.

 

Mum says her japanese is as good as the japanese of kids her age growing up in Japan. (I guess Mum knows, she teaches to adults and to kids, to Japanese and to foreigners)

Most Germans tell us they can't tell she is not "German". When we asked her school teacher how good her german is, the teacher told us she is it the same lavel as other kids, she was even surprised we bothered to ask the question.

I can tell her italian seems to be much less good that the one of school children in Italy. I taught her reading italian, but she still finds it much harder than german. Even worse with writing.

English she can jump in a conversation. She can't read nor write.

Watching children youtube programs she seems (and claims to be) equally comfortable with the 4 languages.

 

Good luck.

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2 hours ago, Gambatte said:

My daugther is exposed to 4 languages: italian from Dad (it's me, well at least I hope so :-), Japanese from Mum 

[...]

Mum says her japanese is as good as the japanese of kids her age growing up in Japan. [...]

I can tell her italian seems to be much less good that the one of school children in Italy.

I think mum might be biased. I have met four German-Japanese children who had grown up in Germany and none of them claimed to be even close to a native Japanese speaker. Actually, I have yet to meet anybody who learned a language only from one parent who ended up speaking that language like a native speaker. Just my observation, but the sample is big.

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I can understand trilingually, both parents speaking their own native language (it's usually best if the parents stick to one language each when talking to the child)  and the child going to German school, but where is the fourth language at native level and on a regular basis coming from?

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I think for up to 5 or 6 years old, it is possible (dependent on the kid and the arrangement) to keep up with four languages at similar levels. 

 

However, at school age, one or two languages need to act as tool to learn knowledge in other categories beyond language itself (biology, geography, history, etc.), and then it becomes extremely difficult to keep up all four languages at similar levels. In fact, it is unnecessarily to keep up all four at similar levels.

 

My son is four and he speaks four languages, three of which are at similar levels of native speakers, the fourth one is relatively weaker. 

 

My daughter is 10 and in Gymnasium, of course German is the main tool for her to acquire further knowledge. English is a secondary tool. I give her homework at the similar level of the UK school kids of her age, and she reads in English well. The other two languages, we only keep up at limited conversational level with everyday topics, so that at least she doesn't forget them.

 

I think the parents need to have reasonable expectation, and adjust their arrangement alone the way. 

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3 minutes ago, Uncle Nick said:

I can understand trilingually, both parents speaking their own native language (it's usually best if the parents stick to one language each when talking to the child)  and the child going to German school, but where is the fourth language at native level and on a regular basis coming from?

 

The fourth one is the common language that the parents speak between themselves...and presumably the one that is spoken when a family discussion is needed in a common language. This obviously requires both parents to be (at least) highly proficient in the common language. 

 

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What if I speak my native language, my husband his native English, the child learns German at school and the nanny is Latin American? :) 4 languages :)

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1 hour ago, LeChamois said:

I think mum might be biased. I have met four German-Japanese children who had grown up in Germany and none of them claimed to be even close to a native Japanese speaker. Actually, I have yet to meet anybody who learned a language only from one parent who ended up speaking that language like a native speaker. Just my observation, but the sample is big.

 

But even then is there any disadvantage in the whole thing? A child who has been exposed to different languages is more open to cultures, learns better, etc. It's usually the parents who are lazy to continue when the first difficulties arise. Besides, who cares about the native speaker level? It's an old school concept. Languages are for communicating, not for being perfect! 

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Native speaker level helps the child to learn the language properly without the mistakes that a non-native (level) speaker may make.

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1 hour ago, LeChamois said:

I think mum might be biased. I have met four German-Japanese children who had grown up in Germany and none of them claimed to be even close to a native Japanese speaker. Actually, I have yet to meet anybody who learned a language only from one parent who ended up speaking that language like a native speaker. Just my observation, but the sample is big.

 

A couple I know have been raised both by English/French parents and they speak/write/read as well in either language, they studied in both France and the US. I don't know why they speak to each other in German but anyway to each his own. 

Their 4 children speak 3 languages from the time they started to speak and have picked up a few more since then.

 

My cousins were sons of a diplomat. They lived in each country 2 years at a time. By now the whole gang speaks 8 languages, 2 african languages, Japanese, Mandarin, French, German, Italian and English. Dinner at their place is a nightmare for the idiots like me who can only speak 4 languages, languages change mid sentence, sometimes multiple times. So far they seem to be doing quite ok. 2 of them are interpreters at the UN, the rest is still in school. They don't seem to be confused between languages, they just use whichever is the most convenient.

 

Not a huge sample but still, apparently it can be done.

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About us:

Mum-Dad we use English because is the only language we have in common at a sufficient level. We lived (studied, worked) many years in England, so the level is not native but good.

Mum-child use the native language of Mum (which Dad speaks only a little).

Dad-child use the native language of Dad (which Mum speaks only a little).

Of course we use our own native languages with our child, otherwise she would not be able to speak with her granparents etc etc.

Child is never intentionally spoken to in English, but unavoidably hears it all the time.

 

I presume long term her best language will be german, whereas our german will stay okish but never good (studying hard but never used at work, only with neghbours etc).

 

 

 

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40 minutes ago, quietlaugh said:

My cousins were sons of a diplomat. They lived in each country 2 years at a time. By now the whole gang speaks 8 languages, 2 african languages, Japanese, Mandarin, French, German, Italian and English. Dinner at their place is a nightmare for the idiots like me who can only speak 4 languages, languages change mid sentence, sometimes multiple times. So far they seem to be doing quite ok. 2 of them are interpreters at the UN, the rest is still in school. They don't seem to be confused between languages, they just use whichever is the most convenient.

Konnichiwa. Je pense they just want to angeben.

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1 hour ago, Sarahhh said:

who cares about the native speaker level? It's an old school concept. Languages are for communicating, not for being perfect! 

It is a huge disadvantage in any professional setting, for instance not to being able to produce a text that doesn't have to be edited by somebody else in any language.

 

1 hour ago, quietlaugh said:

Their 4 children speak 3 languages from the time they started to speak and have picked up a few more since then.

[...]

apparently it can be done.

Of course it can be done, it's not even difficult to learn a dozen or more languages, it's only a matter of what level you want to reach. The point I was trying to make is that that there seems to be a limit to how many languages you can learn to speak as a native speaker - probably two - and there are plenty of multilingual children who could just as well be called a-lingual, depending on your point of view. I am not sure that works to their advantage.

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1 hour ago, LeChamois said:

It is a huge disadvantage in any professional setting, for instance not to being able to produce a text that doesn't have to be edited by somebody else in any language.

 

Of course it can be done, it's not even difficult to learn a dozen or more languages, it's only a matter of what level you want to reach. The point I was trying to make is that that there seems to be a limit to how many languages you can learn to speak as a native speaker - probably two - and there are plenty of multilingual children who could just as well be called a-lingual, depending on your point of view. I am not sure that works to their advantage.

 

First you have to define what "native" means.

 

Depending on the definition, 3 at a native level, assuming parents with a different native language and a third environmental language, is actually very easy - especially if there is contact with the extended family. 

 

As long as the language is learnt while they are still young enough and they keep using it, they can be proficient to a "native" level. However, it is true that children will naturally prefer some languages over the others and be more proficient in those. If one language is only used with one parent, as the child grows up and communication is reduced, the language skills will also suffer. Reading and writing also have to be taught separately - easily done if the child enjoys reading, otherwise mostly a lost cause.

 

If we consider proficiency at a "professional" level, the number of languages can be even much greater. As long as they are learnt while still young enough (maybe up to early teens), languages which are similar enough to a native language can be learnt fluently very quickly. These might not be "native" but, with enough practice, definitely enough to satisfy any professional requirement (short of translation into that language)

 

 

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5 hours ago, LeChamois said:

I think mum might be biased. I have met four German-Japanese children who had grown up in Germany and none of them claimed to be even close to a native Japanese speaker. Actually, I have yet to meet anybody who learned a language only from one parent who ended up speaking that language like a native speaker. Just my observation, but the sample is big.

You are not correct, and you are too harsh. If you find normal, that children speaking abroad have some accept and might not know some words, especially new ones like selfie, smartphone, tablet, then you can come to conclusion that these children speak fluent language. Their lack of vocabulary can be easily fixed by visiting the country and living there for a while.

 

AFAIK, Japanese are very afraid to speak English, because of too harsh language assessment and low self esteem. They can speak English, but they don't because they are afraid to be laughed at. That is terrible.

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1 hour ago, msam said:

 

First you have to define what "native" means.

[...]

As long as they are learnt while still young enough (maybe up to early teens), languages which are similar enough to a native language can be learnt fluently very quickly. These might not be "native" but,

 

 

It seems like you know very well what a native language is... 

38 minutes ago, yourkeau said:

You are not correct, and you are too harsh. [...]Their lack of vocabulary can be easily fixed[...]

Yourkeau, you keep on telling me I am wrong just because you think so. There is much more to a native language than just vocabulary.

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47 minutes ago, LeChamois said:

Yourkeau, you keep on telling me I am wrong just because you think so. There is much more to a native language than just vocabulary.

Am I correct?

 

1 hour ago, yourkeau said:

AFAIK, Japanese are very afraid to speak English, because of too harsh language assessment and low self esteem. They can speak English, but they don't because they are afraid to be laughed at. That is terrible.

 

Sure I am not an expert in Japanese, but I also a native speaker of two languages, know a couple of bilingual children, and know a couple of adults raised bilingual, with one of their languages being my native language. That gives me possibility to judge your opinion as not correct. Japanese, unlike Chinese, is not a tone language, for my ear it sounds like Hungarian/Finnish: exotic, but possible to learn. I have doubts it is special and different from other languages in this respect (child learning).

 

That's why I think you are simply too harsh to people who speak not exactly like native speakers. Think about these children moving to Japan. Would they pick the local accent very quickly? In contrast to foreigners who are programmed to have accent for life, they could, and then you would not differentiate them from Japanese born monolinguals.

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