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  #41  
Old 15.02.2008, 11:06
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Imagine if you turned up tomorrow as an au-pair in some weird family in Asia and the husband spoke to you in Thai, the wife in Mandarin and everyone else spoke to you in Arabic. How long would it take you to communicate fluently with everyone? It's a daunting prospect, right? Chances are that for several years you would be extremely frustrated with your capacity to express yourself.

Now consider that you already know the mechanics of 3+ languages which should help you learn these new ones more easily than someone who doesn't.

Personally, I would aim to simplify life for the toddler. It is much easier to learn languages sequentially than all in one go.

As for "semilingual", I didn't know it was a controversial term. Could someone suggest a better word for the concept I was aiming for?
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Old 15.02.2008, 11:29
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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I have a question to you all :-)

Our situation is the following: me=italian, Mr. K=German, our common language=english and living in Zuerich :-)

If we were to have children they would be exposed to 4 languages from the start (counting Swiss German) and I am afraid this is too much...

Also, woudl it be an issue if we talk our respective languages in 1-1 situation with the child but english when we are all together? would this confuse the child?

we oculd also only talk italian and german to each other as we have a sufficient understanding, but we find it is a pity that the child would not be exposed to english...

thanks for advice!

Cristina
This is the exact same situation as we have and our children are masters (age equivalent) of all three languages and to boot understand the languages of our neighbours (French), speaking is mixed with other languages when the words fail and of course speak better Swiss German than we do if you count that as a separate language...
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  #43  
Old 15.02.2008, 11:47
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Jana My triplets are 2 boys and one girl (aged nearly 15) and I did not mean to imply that they are anything but individuals, but they definitely communicated when very young in a way known only to them. As teenagers they are very different personality wise but they also share many similarities too. I know at least 20 other families with triplets in the UK and Europe who had similar experiences but its entirely possible that this was at the pre speech age and that it was parental fantasy. On the subject of development speed walking etc the competition seemed to move things along quickly once they reached 2 years old. ash
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  #44  
Old 15.02.2008, 11:58
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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As for "semilingual", I didn't know it was a controversial term. Could someone suggest a better word for the concept I was aiming for?
American..
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  #45  
Old 15.02.2008, 12:36
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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As for "semilingual", I didn't know it was a controversial term. Could someone suggest a better word for the concept I was aiming for?
Semilingual - A person who has partial or incomplete working knowledge of a language or languages.

Have a look through the website to get a better understanding of the terms used:

http://www.multilingualchildren.org/.../glossary.html
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  #46  
Old 15.02.2008, 12:41
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Imagine if you turned up tomorrow as an au-pair in some weird family in Asia and the husband spoke to you in Thai, the wife in Mandarin and everyone else spoke to you in Arabic. How long would it take you to communicate fluently with everyone? It's a daunting prospect, right? Chances are that for several years you would be extremely frustrated with your capacity to express yourself.

Now consider that you already know the mechanics of 3+ languages which should help you learn these new ones more easily than someone who doesn't.

Personally, I would aim to simplify life for the toddler. It is much easier to learn languages sequentially than all in one go.

As for "semilingual", I didn't know it was a controversial term. Could someone suggest a better word for the concept I was aiming for?
Ralph, interesting that you post in an opposite way from pretty much everyone else that has answered hear. May I ask, is this viewpoint from direct experience with your own children ?

(my bolding & no, not looking for a flame-fight)
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Old 15.02.2008, 14:12
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Ralph, interesting that you post in an opposite way from pretty much everyone else that has answered hear. May I ask, is this viewpoint from direct experience with your own children ?

(my bolding & no, not looking for a flame-fight)
I think it is a viewpoint. There are quite a few supporters of the concept don't introduce a second language until the roots of the first language have taken hold ie introduce a second language at 3 onwards. There is little if any scientific research that backs up the don't but I know of one or two that have managed to produce children who are equally fluent in more than two languages through this process. And anyway as long as the child is introduced to the language before the age of circa 7 there should be no problems learning it to L0 or native language.
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Old 15.02.2008, 14:37
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Without meaning to belabour my point, that definition of semilingual was precisely what I had in mind.

And yes, my opinions come from family experience. We have lived all over Europe and all of us speak 4+ languages fluently.

My point is that you need a clear dominant language in which you can strive for advanced native-level grasp. Vocabulary and an ability to maintain a conversation is not enough, IMO. You need a language in which you know the names of the flowers, the birds and the trees. In which you can express your most fleeting perceptions with ease and without hunting for the words. I personally see this as far more valuable than being conversational in three, four, or more with no real mother tongue to speak of. At least then you can express yourself and later figure out the translation rather than not be able to express yourself at all.

I.e. Quality not quantity.

It is pretty easy to learn a language to conversational level. e.g. It'd probably only take a year or so to learn Spanish or Italian for someone who knows French. However, it takes decades of complete insertion into the culture to become a proficient native speaker of any language. Even translation professionals are rarely asked to translate to anything but their one mother tongue.

Those of you who grew up in a monolingual environment (parents, friends, school: all one tongue) may struggle to see my point. Perhaps, those of you who grew up in a mixed environment can confirm the downsides I'm alluding to.
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  #49  
Old 15.02.2008, 14:40
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Without meaning to belabour my point, that definition of semilingual was precisely what I had in mind.

And yes, my opinions come from family experience. We have lived all over Europe and all of us speak 4+ languages fluently.

My point is that you need a clear dominant language in which you can strive for advanced native-level grasp. Vocabulary and an ability to maintain a conversation is not enough, IMO. You need a language in which you know the names of the flowers, the birds and the trees. In which you can express your most fleeting perceptions with ease and without hunting for the words. I personally see this as far more valuable than being conversational in three, four, or more with no real mother tongue to speak of. At least then you can express yourself and later figure out the translation rather than not be able to express yourself at all.

I.e. Quality not quantity.

It is pretty easy to learn a language to conversational level. e.g. It'd probably only take a year or so to learn Spanish or Italian for someone who knows French. However, it takes decades of complete insertion into the culture to become a proficient native speaker of any language. Even translation professionals are rarely asked to translate to anything but their one mother tongue.

Those of you who grew up in a monolingual environment (parents, friends, school: all one tongue) may struggle to see my point. Perhaps, those of you who grew up in a mixed environment can confirm the downsides I'm alluding to.
ok, I see where you are coming from here, common language with Mrs P is German, not mother tongue for either & it still causes upsets as English-German-Slovak & vice versa can be a little bit like Chinese whispers.
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Old 15.02.2008, 16:01
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Without meaning to belabour my point, that definition of semilingual was precisely what I had in mind.

And yes, my opinions come from family experience. We have lived all over Europe and all of us speak 4+ languages fluently.

My point is that you need a clear dominant language in which you can strive for advanced native-level grasp. Vocabulary and an ability to maintain a conversation is not enough, IMO. You need a language in which you know the names of the flowers, the birds and the trees. In which you can express your most fleeting perceptions with ease and without hunting for the words. I personally see this as far more valuable than being conversational in three, four, or more with no real mother tongue to speak of. At least then you can express yourself and later figure out the translation rather than not be able to express yourself at all.

I.e. Quality not quantity.

It is pretty easy to learn a language to conversational level. e.g. It'd probably only take a year or so to learn Spanish or Italian for someone who knows French. However, it takes decades of complete insertion into the culture to become a proficient native speaker of any language. Even translation professionals are rarely asked to translate to anything but their one mother tongue.

Those of you who grew up in a monolingual environment (parents, friends, school: all one tongue) may struggle to see my point. Perhaps, those of you who grew up in a mixed environment can confirm the downsides I'm alluding to.
Sorry but I cannot agree with you. I do not see, from personal experience, any reason why you cannot know the name of flowers, birds and trees or whatever else in multiple languages. That is purely down to the extent of your vocabulary. Generally if I don't know them in one language it is because that particular one does not exist in common use in that language unless you are a specialist in that area. And if you are not able to express your fleeting perceptions easily without hunting for words then you are simply not fluent. You might have conversational abilities in a language but that does not make you fluent in it. Marrying into a family full of polyglots has certainly opened my eyes and they have only holes in their vocabulary where they never learnt that at school, university of wherever.

If the having of these holes in vocabulary is your definition of quality then clearly everyone should remain monolingual in their native country as langauge is not a standalone but a part of culture and certain words are used to describe things or events that exist in that culture or closely related cultures only.

ie you can try as much as you like to be "perfect" in a language but unless you live in the culture at the root of the language you will be very hard pressed to succeed.

Of course the above is only my opinion and carries exactly the same weight as yours!!
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  #51  
Old 16.02.2008, 10:05
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I used to work as an audiologist in a city hospital in a rather multicultural area in Holland and lost count of the number of children I saw due to suspected hearing loss. Many of the children I saw were growing up in multilingual households and therefore were (slightly) delayed in developing speech. Therefore we had to exclude a hearing loss as causal factor.
We found the most significant indicator of developing speech (perhaps with a slight early delay) was consistency of the language spoken by the family (as other posters have suggested). Whether other languages were learnt sequentially or in parallel, our recommendation was to always ensure the parents or caregivers would stick to their native language and not mix the language spoken to the children. That way the child could early on differentiate that 'mummy always speaks x' and 'daddy always speaks y'.
I'm not a parent myself, however, so I suspect this may be rather difficult if the parents don't speak both languages themselves.
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Old 16.02.2008, 10:10
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Frankly methinks most of us worry too much about this issue along with most other issues about raising kids (children not goats).

I am certain as a parent it would have been far easier if they came with definitive instructions but sadly they are all different and whatever the approach its sure not going to work for all.

Relax when they are 50 plus they will be having the same debate although in the case of those who are multi lingual probably in several languages at once.

ash
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Old 17.02.2008, 15:42
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Our elder son started talking after 3 y.o. Before that - kept pretty quiet, tho he could understand our both languages very good (Russian+English), it looked like he was just absorbing. After 3 - started talking like storm, both languages the same time. No problem switching from one language to another
Now he is 5 and goes to Kindergarten and brings more and more Swiss German every day. So, technically, we have 3 languages now.
So, if your child has no medical problems - then there's nothing to worry about, just give him some time, it's not so easy. Anyway, speech doctors usually don't work with multilingual kids till they turn 5-6 years.
The most important thing is to keep it "strict" - each parent speaks only his language, no mixing!
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Old 17.02.2008, 15:55
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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So, if your child has no medical problems - then there's nothing to worry about, just give him some time, it's not so easy. Anyway, speech doctors usually don't work with multilingual kids till they turn 5-6 years.
The most important thing is to keep it "strict" - each parent speaks only his language, no mixing!
Make sure you keep an eye on his speaking development. While it is probably just a normal delay, it could also be a sign of a hearing impairment. Our second child did not speak as early or as much as our first, after her second birthday the doctor decided to test her hearing just to eliminate it from the potential list of issues only to find out that she was severe and profoundly deaf (each ear had different hearing loss).

Not trying to be doom and gloom, just want you to be aware of other potential issues.
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Old 17.02.2008, 18:39
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Aside from my mother being a bit worried about my slow speech development, my kindy teachers were also a bit frustrated with my lack of communication. They even asked my parents to start speaking in English at home, but my parents had other plans - they persisted in speaking in their native tongues and I am grateful because I can now speak three languages.

I think I turned out ok
Well done to your parents. I had a bilingual father and wasn't taught his language. The problem there was that he could not effectively communicate with us kids when we were young.
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Old 17.02.2008, 18:48
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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Make sure you keep an eye on his speaking development. While it is probably just a normal delay, it could also be a sign of a hearing impairment. Our second child did not speak as early or as much as our first, after her second birthday the doctor decided to test her hearing just to eliminate it from the potential list of issues only to find out that she was severe and profoundly deaf (each ear had different hearing loss).

Not trying to be doom and gloom, just want you to be aware of other potential issues.
Right you are, that's what I also meant by "med.problems".
But normally parents should control the kid's reaction on their voice, music, etc. since his birth, and consult the doctor if they have any doubts right away..
Both my kids were born here in CH and each time we had to fill some special papers about their hearing situation and hand it back to our doc ( first from 1 month up to 6 months old, I had to test their hearing development and write down the results).
And of course our doctor checks their ears anyway.. once in a while

Last edited by Alessia; 17.02.2008 at 19:34.
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  #57  
Old 17.02.2008, 19:27
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

To add my 10 Rappens worth, we are a British family living in CH, I speak only German to the children, yes I am lucky to be able to speak German fluently. Some research I read a few years ago is that if you are bringing children up multilingually then one parent should speak only one language and not mix languages. Children want continuity. Bottom line Mother one language, father one language, nursery / school another language then thats great.
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Old 17.02.2008, 19:50
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I speak English to my 4 year old son, my wife swiss dialect. He understands both very well but doesn't speak english very often, and never full sentences. His conversational language is dialect.

I think the main advantage he gains is that he realised from an early age that different people speak different languages, that there are more than one word for things. And that some people can understand both Mommy and Daddy, but some people only understand one.

It sometimes leads to funny comments, like when he told my (English only speaking) mother that she has to clean her ears properly because she doesn't understand dialect.
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Old 18.02.2008, 08:50
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Being a parent to multilingual children, I was curious if any of you have tackled the issue of teaching your children to read in the language that they are not taught in school. Living in Lugano, my kids are learning to read and write in Italian. We speak English at home.

I haven't tried teaching them to read in English, but was wondering if anybody else has had success with it. (whether it be English or another language)

My son who is in 2nd grade does attempt to read certain words in English and I just correct him as he is reading them phonetically (like how it is done in Italian).
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Old 18.02.2008, 08:57
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

My son is in a French school and has set reading in French which I read with him in French at home.

I bought him loads of English books and those we read together in English.


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