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Old 21.05.2012, 16:26
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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I would say anything more than two is bound to fail, even though the young ones catch up words fast and easily, they will lack the word pool needed later in life.
Do you have anything to back this up? From my limited reading, this is just a variation on the old theory of "don't mess up their heads, make them learn one language properly first, then they can go onto another language" which has since been disproved and is rarely mentioned nowadays.

As others have already stated, it is important that at least one of the speakers be a real native/native-like speaker of the language, so that mistakes can be spotted and correctly (and do not become fossilized).

In addition, the important thing is "complete phrases" in a language. Switching languages is not a problem and is to be expected, and should not necessarily be looked down upon - however, mixing up several languages in the same sentence is not good for language development.
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:32
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Do you have anything to back this up? From my limited reading, this is just a variation on the old theory of "don't mess up their heads, make them learn one language properly first, then they can go onto another language" which has since been disproved and is rarely mentioned nowadays.

As others have already stated, it is important that at least one of the speakers be a real native/native-like speaker of the language, so that mistakes can be spotted and correctly (and do not become fossilized).

In addition, the important thing is "complete phrases" in a language. Switching languages is not a problem and is to be expected, and should not necessarily be looked down upon - however, mixing up several languages in the same sentence is not good for language development.
I should let Ms MD explain her own statement, but I took her as meaning that if your child is learning multilanguages at one time, do not expect them all to be perfect.

For which theory I do have hard evidence. My eldest son's first language was French, followed by English. We then moved to CH and he moved into the CH public school system and I started speaking to him in English (having previously only spoken in French). 6 years on and the rankings are (1) English (2) joint German and Swiss German (3) French.

His French father speaks to him in French but he hears perhaps an hour a day of French. I am a stay at home mother so he has perhaps 4 to 7 hours a day of English (depending if he has afternoon school or not). It's not counter intuitive to realise that his French will suffer due to lack of exposure and practice. But he still holds his own with his French cousins/family .. albiet that even he complains that he just can't get his words out as he would like in French (in comparison to English/German/Swiss German).
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Old 21.05.2012, 16:37
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Do you have anything to back this up? From my limited reading, this is just a variation on the old theory of "don't mess up their heads, make them learn one language properly first, then they can go onto another language" which has since been disproved and is rarely mentioned nowadays.

As others have already stated, it is important that at least one of the speakers be a real native/native-like speaker of the language, so that mistakes can be spotted and correctly (and do not become fossilized).

In addition, the important thing is "complete phrases" in a language. Switching languages is not a problem and is to be expected, and should not necessarily be looked down upon - however, mixing up several languages in the same sentence is not good for language development.
Well for one my own experience. I grew up with two languages and speak them both well, but I would say I have actually mastered only one - which is good enough. Also, as mentioned, many young multinational people I have met.
And of course it's better to be around different languages from a young age, I just don't believe you will be able to speak more than two properly and if you speak the others on a good conversational level, that's great. However, I do believe that being able to speak three or four languages fluently and more or less as a native speaker it requires a brilliant mind and only very few will be able to do it.
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  #24  
Old 21.05.2012, 17:23
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

There has been a lot of discussion in the press and specialist press about learning more than 2 languages at once. In the UK I had some extremely talented linguists in my classes who had been brought up with 3 or more, and had developed this amazing ability. But also many who had become confused and unable to achieve mastery or good control in any.

In Switzerland, this is perhaps even more important, due to the very selective process, where an excellent command of the local language + another national language, is paramount to accessing academic education. As children are selected on all their subjects to join a class, and not on individual subjects, as in the UK for instance. So this has to be the priority imho. SOME children may acquire excellence in more than 2 languages, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

I do envy families where 1 parent can speak their own language, and the other their own - and still understood by each other. In such cases it usually works brilliantly - and adding a third is normally not a problem.

In such a selective system - I'd say it is wise to not introduce more than two at an early age within the family, and add 1 or more when acquisition of the first 2 is solid, including writing skills.

I had many children who were bi or tri lingual according to the parents- but had serious gaps in writing skills and in fact didn't do so well in academic exams- although they could quite happily babble away in several languages.
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Old 21.05.2012, 18:20
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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I do envy families where 1 parent can speak their own language, and the other their own - and still understood by each other.
Even then, it's hard work... says the child who had to do the work. I had to read a book in the other language for each book we read in class. For those of you who went to French high school on the literature/philosophy line, you understand my pain. The laid back reading time in German middle school got a whole different meaning to me
That explains my English: no time for it. Working on it right now.
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Old 22.05.2012, 13:32
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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And of course it's better to be around different languages from a young age, I just don't believe you will be able to speak more than two properly and if you speak the others on a good conversational level, that's great. However, I do believe that being able to speak three or four languages fluently and more or less as a native speaker it requires a brilliant mind and only very few will be able to do it.
Thanks to all you guys for a lot of good comments.

I just want to point out however that by no means do I expect/hope/wish that my child will be native in 4 languages. His/her mother tongue will always be Swedish, but unless we plan to live in Finland or Sweden in the future, a Swedish speaking school is not very likely. The language that he/she will learn in school (which I then expect to become the main language) will depend on in which country we live, but will most likely be English. The other languages (Polish, German...) I hope he can learn good enough so he can speak with relatives/kids on the block etc, but it's very unlikely that he will take "A-levels" in them, hence perfect knowledge is not necessary.
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Old 22.05.2012, 13:53
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Hi there,
Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???
First world problem? Sorry couldn't resist
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  #28  
Old 23.05.2012, 19:21
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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First world problem? Sorry couldn't resist
Hey Krash357, looks like you are having first-world annoyances. Had you been living in a third-world country, you probably would have bigger problems than annoying yourself about random posts on the internet, now wouldn't you? Sorry, couldn't resist
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  #29  
Old 23.05.2012, 20:10
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Hey Krash357, looks like you are having first-world annoyances. Had you been living in a third-world country, you probably would have bigger problems than annoying yourself about random posts on the internet, now wouldn't you? Sorry, couldn't resist
Born and raised in a third-world but penta-lingual environment, I see very very clearly how much of a non-issue your 'problem' is. The shallowness of some of those living in the first world astounds me, leading me to sometimes respond, naively perhaps, to inane stuff. Sorry, couldn't resist this time either Good luck with your problem, you won't need it
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Old 06.12.2013, 15:14
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

I am in a similar situation: i speak dutch, my husband german, together english and at daycare/out side of the home italian (we live in ticino). My son is just 2 and speaks words from all four languages, but only two or three words he uses in different languages. Basically all words he chooses one language for that particular word and stick to it. so he says "food" in dutch and "Open" in German, "yes" and "no" in italian and "down" in english.
I would love to get in touch with people in the same situation and with kids under 5 and discuss how you approach the issues you encounter if there are any. Would be great to start a group based on this topic where parents can come for advice etc. I'd also like to find some expert articles on the topic or an institute i can contact, just to make sure we are doing it right ;-) All info is welcome.
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Old 06.12.2013, 15:22
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Born and raised in a third-world but penta-lingual environment, I see very very clearly how much of a non-issue your 'problem' is. The shallowness of some of those living in the first world astounds me, leading me to sometimes respond, naively perhaps, to inane stuff. Sorry, couldn't resist this time either Good luck with your problem, you won't need it
I understand there are quite a few countries where multilingualism is quite normal, but i do not know anything about the level of these languages. Are people fluent in reading and writing to the point their orgin could not be tracked back? Aring for the wellbeing of your child could never be a first or third world kind of problem. It would be silly not to ask oneself questions on how to treat multilingualism or any other topic that is out of the ordinary (for that particular parent). Also, i guess that if it si so normal in your country to speak so many languages, that the languages are spoken all around in family, friends, at stores etc. With two of our languages for example that is not the case. Only we speak those on the day to day basis to our son. Quite a different story too.
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  #32  
Old 06.12.2013, 15:27
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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I am in a similar situation: i speak dutch, my husband german, together english and at daycare/out side of the home italian (we live in ticino). My son is just 2 and speaks words from all four languages, but only two or three words he uses in different languages. Basically all words he chooses one language for that particular word and stick to it. so he says "food" in dutch and "Open" in German, "yes" and "no" in italian and "down" in english.
I would love to get in touch with people in the same situation and with kids under 5 and discuss how you approach the issues you encounter if there are any. Would be great to start a group based on this topic where parents can come for advice etc. I'd also like to find some expert articles on the topic or an institute i can contact, just to make sure we are doing it right ;-) All info is welcome.
It'll right itself, trust me. The thing we've done is just continue speaking in one language each to our little boy and he's gone from mixing (at around 2 years) to being mostly one or the other.

I don't think you need to take special action other than be consistent with the language you choose to speak to your child in.
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Old 06.12.2013, 16:13
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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I am in a similar situation: i speak dutch, my husband german, together english and at daycare/out side of the home italian (we live in ticino). My son is just 2 and speaks words from all four languages, but only two or three words he uses in different languages. Basically all words he chooses one language for that particular word and stick to it. so he says "food" in dutch and "Open" in German, "yes" and "no" in italian and "down" in english.
I would love to get in touch with people in the same situation and with kids under 5 and discuss how you approach the issues you encounter if there are any. Would be great to start a group based on this topic where parents can come for advice etc. I'd also like to find some expert articles on the topic or an institute i can contact, just to make sure we are doing it right ;-) All info is welcome.
I have a trilingual child and the basic idea is that you speak only your mother tongue to your child no matter what language they speak to you in. The downside is that one will always be dominant and it does tend to slow their speech and writing down a little bit when compared to kids who aren't dealing with so many languages. You don't need experts, just be consistent and the kid(s) will do the rest.
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  #34  
Old 06.12.2013, 16:26
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

We should try that with step grandson #2 (#1 is already tri-lingual: Thai, German, English) and do Italian-Vietnamese-English-Napolitano.

Tom
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Old 06.12.2013, 16:29
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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We should try that with step grandson #2 (#1 is already tri-lingual: Thai, German, English) and do Italian-Vietnamese-English-Napolitano.

Tom
Poor kid.....

Grandfather Tom, stop reading EF. You have got only the wrong ideas.
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Old 06.12.2013, 16:52
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

My daughter is almost 5 and she speaks 3 languages quite fluently (Spanish - mother, English - father & German - school). She understands Hindi as well, but she somehow refuses to speak it..
She grew up with all these languages and it was so natural for her that she never mixed them up at all... Since she was very small she knew exactly which language to speak with whom!
I thought that was amazing, as I also was quite worried about the potential linguistic confusion she would go through. But believe me, kids are just so amazing, they learn so quickly and without any efforts..
She was also not at all slower with her speech as compared to other kids speaking just one language. She started speaking words at little past one year and she was able to form simple full sentences at 2 in all the languages.
I have now a 8 months baby boy who is as well 'absorbing' all the languages. I hope he is also as quick as his sister, though they say boys are slower!! :-)
Definitely, the key is continuous exposure, as kids learn fast they also forget fast...
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  #37  
Old 06.12.2013, 16:59
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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I have a trilingual child and the basic idea is that you speak only your mother tongue to your child no matter what language they speak to you in. The downside is that one will always be dominant and it does tend to slow their speech and writing down a little bit when compared to kids who aren't dealing with so many languages. You don't need experts, just be consistent and the kid(s) will do the rest.
Consistency as you say is the key. But if you are totally immersed in a country with a different language, have mainly friends, who have children, who speak the local language and not the one you want to teach your child (usually your mother-tongue) then consistency is impossible. If you live in an 'expat bubble' it may be easier. When my first child was born, I had been living in the UK for a few years, all our life was based on English, both at home and outside the home. All our friends had children at the same time, and several of our neighbours in the small cul-de-sac where we lived. Impossible therefore to be consistent unless we were at home on our own, which was very rare.
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Old 06.12.2013, 17:11
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

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Consistency as you say is the key. But if you are totally immersed in a country with a different language, have mainly friends, who have children, who speak the local language and not the one you want to teach your child (usually your mother-tongue) then consistency is impossible.
Well, that would be tricky, because in my case I don not speak any German or Swiss German, neither does my husband.. Of course, all my daughter's friends speak only Swiss German... So, how would our kids communicate to us??? We only spoke English (father/common) and Spanish (mother) at home, so even before she got to go to krippe and got her own friends, she already knew these 2.. then she quickly learned the 3rd.. Also, regular grandparents visits helped a lot to improve her skills...
So, I think you still can be consistent in an alien country...
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Old 06.12.2013, 17:16
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

Of course- as you say you do not speak German, and perhaps do not have much contact with German speakers, but the kids do.

My mother-tongue is French, but by the time our kids were born, in the UK (dad being British)- I had been speaking English only, apart from a few visits to Switzerland, for several years- all our friends in the UK were Brits, all their children spoke English, and so did our neighbours. As friends, neighbours and children were constantly visiting us, and we them- I spoke English most of the time, so could not be consistent with speaking French only to my kids. It just did not work. And as OH did not speak or understand French, I had to constantly mix. A mess, sadly.

If both parents are bilingual, and one can naturally speak their MT only to the kids (and be understood/not exclude the other parent), and the other parent their own mother-tongue, it works rally well- with kids also acquiring the local language at school and with friends, etc.
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Old 06.12.2013, 17:20
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Re: Multilingual problems - can baby learn 4 languages???

Odile, I have the same situation but it works a treat. My kid does speak the local language very better than English (I see it in his word order) and he knows he and his mom speak my language together but he speaks to her in her mother tongue and to me in mine.

It's best to pick one language for you to communicate with the child and if there are more, let it happen naturally. Mom and Dad are not the only ones teaching kids a language
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