FAQs

Frequently asked questions about bilingual & multilingual children | Trilingual Mama

Hello! In this page, you will find both Personal FAQ's about our family's multilingual project as well as more General FAQ's about bi/multilingualism. If you have any other questions, please leave me a message down below. I love to hear from you!

PERSONAL QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR FAMILY’S MULTILINGUAL PROJECT

What languages does your family speak? English, Spanish and French.

Do both you and your husband speak these languages and are your children also fluent? Yes, my husband is French, fluent in English and has a working command of Spanish. I was born in the United States, raised bilingually (Spanish/English) and became fluent in French as an adult. Each one of our children speaks each of the three languages at his/her own level.

What language do your children play/interact in? Do they have a preferred language? My children definitely interact with each other almost 100% in French, except for with our little Rémy who is 14 months old. With him it’s also mostly in French, but I’ve heard them speak to him in English and Spanish quite often as well. Aside from French, my children have a clear preference for one of the minority languages. Alexandre (12) prefers English and my girls Elena (10) and Gabriela (7) prefer Spanish. We are not sure what Rémy prefers!

What language teaching method do you use? My husband and I started out using OPOL (One Parent One Language) when we were living in the United States. I spoke Spanish with our children, he spoke French and English they got everywhere else. When we moved to France in 2006 we modified our use of OPOL. He still speaks exclusively French with our children while I divide my time between English and Spanish. We spend 2 weeks on each of the minority languages, switching every other Saturday. It takes some serious mental gymnastics, but it’s working!

Do your children confuse the languages? More than confusion, I like to call it interlanguage transfer, meaning that they borrow language rules or vocabulary from one language and apply to another. Rather than showing they’re confused, it truly shows how smart children are at learning language.

When did you start teaching your children all three languages? From birth, and that said, actually while they were still in the womb! But the second each of my babies were placed in my arms, I began his or her language training by speaking to him in the target language (English or Spanish) and following the same two-week rhythm as with the older children. This feels strange in the first few moments, but quickly becomes a cherished habit.

GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT MULTILINGUALISM

How many languages can a child learn simultaneously? WorldSpeak Language School in Los Angeles, California, has very young students learning three, four, and even five. You can read about it here: From the Mouth of Babes. But here is a more academic approach by Ute of Expat Since Birth: How many languages can a child learn? where she makes a thorough round of frequently asked questions about children and multilingualism backed by solid research.

My child has a speech or developmental impairment, is it still okay to raise him or her bilingually? Yes! New research shows that children with special challenges (even Down Syndrome and Autism) can be raised bilingually without causing any additional language or developmental delays. You can read about the study here: Can children with language impairments learn two languages?

I don’t speak a foreign language or the foreign language I speak is not my native language, can I still teach it to my child? Can I still raise my child bilingual? In this brilliant article, Ana Flores outlines three major challenges and questions and responds to each with answers from the experts: How Monolingual Parents Can Raise a Bilingual Child.  You can also read the June 2014 edition of the Mulilingual Children Blogging Carnival: Monolingual parents and bilingual children.

My child’s teacher/doctor/speech therapist has asked me to drop the minority language we speak in our home, how can I respond? Read this beautifully articulate and well-researched article: What to do if you are told to drop one of your languages.

How can I find other families who are raising their children bilingually or multilingually? Multilingual Family Blogs is a non-exhaustive list of families who volunteered their information. You will find families classed by how many languages they speak and for each famly you will find information about where they live and what languages they speak. Included is a website or email address for each family.

Where can I find other helpful resources? Trilingual Mama’s page Resources includes links to resources I have personally used. Each of the links listed, will lead you to a plethora of other multilingual resources.

Comments, thoughts, questions?