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  #121  
Old 08.06.2011, 18:37
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

Hi,

I am somewhat disappointed that the argumentation in this thread is leaning towards answers like "well, I know this neighbour' kid, and he was struggling with 2 languages will never be fluent in both" etc...

(it reminds me of an argument - My grandpa was smoking all his life, and he was 98 when he died, therefore I conclude that smoking is not bad)

There has been scientific evidence that kids from multilingual environment are better in abstracting things; since abstraction capabilities are coming from the fact that one item can be described in different ways.

"
Kids who grow up in bilingual homes may be slower to speak than other kids, but once they've learned both languages they appear to have a number of intellectual advantages.
People who speak two languages early in life quickly learn that names of objects are arbitrary, said Suzanne Flynn, a professor of linguistics and second-language acquisition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "So they deal with a level of abstraction very early."
Also, bilingual kids become exceptionally good at learning to ignore "misleading information," said Ellen Bialystok, professor of psychology at York University in Toronto"

http://www.heritagefrancais.org/docu...manArticle.pdf


Here is some more interesting reading for you:
http://www.mendeley.com/research/eff...-memory-tasks/

which shows that kids from multilingual environment are better on average in semantic memory tasks.


Essentially - your kid is very lucky, Nil, to have such environment! Keep up the good work!
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  #122  
Old 08.06.2011, 19:00
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

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Hi,

I am somewhat disappointed that the argumentation in this thread is leaning towards answers like "well, I know this neighbour' kid, and he was struggling with 2 languages will never be fluent in both" etc...

(it reminds me of an argument - My grandpa was smoking all his life, and he was 98 when he died, therefore I conclude that smoking is not bad)
I didn't make any conclusion, I'm just talking about my own personal experience and I never said this would automatically be a universal truth. I think it's valuable to hear from people who have some experience either way. But of course, since you have links to scientific research that must be the truth and the only truth.

And your personal experience is...?
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  #123  
Old 08.06.2011, 19:28
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

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I am somewhat disappointed that the argumentation in this thread is leaning towards answers like "well, I know this neighbour' kid, and he was struggling with 2 languages will never be fluent in both" etc...

There has been scientific evidence that kids from multilingual environment are better in abstracting things....

Here is some more interesting reading for you...
If your comment was tossed at me, then you missed my opener - "kids are adaptable". The rest was an anecdote to show how headstrong kids can be when they want to, not argumentation.

My personal experience of real life with my own family and expat families I work with, is that within reason young kids will cope with what languages come their way. But they forget them as quick as they pick them up if you move around and they don't continually use them. My daughter speaks four languages but she has to work at them to keep them up to scratch. Another son has retained two languages. The third and the elder never showed much interest in languages and claims to be fluent in only English though I suspect that's laziness and he remembers more than he's letting on. However he is much better at abstracting things than the other two. So much for the theory.
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  #124  
Old 08.06.2011, 19:40
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

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...

My personal experience of real life with my own family and expat families I work with, is that within reason young kids will cope with what languages come their way. But they forget them as quick as they pick them up if you move around and they don't continually use them. My daughter speaks four languages but she has to work at them to keep them up to scratch. Another son has retained two languages. The third and the elder never showed much interest in languages and claims to be fluent in only English though I suspect that's laziness and he remembers more than he's letting on. However he is much better at abstracting things than the other two. So much for the theory.
This is true in my experience as well. Happened to me and one of my siblings. We could speak 3 languages fluently as kids aged 5 and 3.5 but as soon as we were no longer exposed to two of them due to moving around, they were soon forgotten as we had not reached the ages/stage where we could maintain the knowledge and ability to speak them on our own. Sadly...
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  #125  
Old 08.06.2011, 19:42
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

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If your comment was tossed at me, then you missed my opener - "kids are adaptable". The rest was an anecdote to show how headstrong kids can be when they want to, not argumentation.
oh, please don't take it personally; my comment was not aimed at you specifically nor to MD's comment. Your personal story is interesting, and it does gives useful information.


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However he is much better at abstracting things than the other two. So much for the theory.
This is where I disagree. I am sure that there are instances where the rule which was discovered in scientific experiment are not happening. However 'so much for the theory' is not a valid statement. It doesn't make theory less useful. My grandpa lived long although he was a chain smoker. But it doesn't make scientific proof that smoking is bad any less valid.


Back to the OP's question - whether multiple languages are good for a child or 'too much'; which was asked. I think for a healthy discussion research papers are giving much better indication whether something is conclusive or not than anecdotal evidence from one instance.
In other words, statistically speaking, according to scientific research it is more likely that OP's child will have benefits from multilingual environment and develop 'abstracting capabilities' . Which doesn't exclude the chance that it will be the opposite; though less likely.
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  #126  
Old 08.06.2011, 20:15
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

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I once had this colleage who claimed to speak 6 languages. However, another co-worker quickly pointed out she could not speak any of them well. So I do believe there is a downside to say more than 3 languages. To be fluent in reading, writing, oral, etc. takes a lot of work.
I agree totally on the work load, having many languages is a fact to act accordingly to. It's not a bad news, it's just a news with consequences.

Bilingualism is a biggy. A Swiss high shot on that area is Pr. Lüdi, Basel University. A very healthy reading, here the French version:
http://sprachenkonzept.franz.unibas.ch/Annexe_8.html

Important to understand: one can be multilingual at several levels. From daily life shores to academic writing, one can master the one or the other but not both... it always takes time and efforts to get there, but not necesserely tears. Keep it natural but be honnest with your children: being perfectly multilingual at 16 when in school is one thing, but developping language skills in all areas in order to achieve at high cognitive level in all languages. The balance is to be found again and again year after year, so that one does not end up being 25 years old but speaking/writing like a 16 year old, even if it's fluent high-school level, it's still high school level. It is not good enough for an adult.

From what I have experienced in my teaching career, it can be tricky at young age but every child finds a way to deal with this identity as long as it is accepted, valued and respected all around it (is a child a "it" in English?).

Hope you find the article interesting, Nil. Between us, dear Nil, the attitude of adults and the community toward languages and multilingualism has far more impact on a child's mind than the quantity of cognitive work to be processed because of multilingualism. Make sure your child is proud of each of its languages, it be one, two, four.... or more of them.
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  #127  
Old 08.06.2011, 22:41
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

My son is 4 years and at home we speak Dutch and English - and I think he is more fluent in both than many monolingual kids. He was born in Basel and has been at Kinderkrippe since 6 months old - now we live in Downtown Switzerland - and by all accounts his Züridytsch is fine too...

Mrs Nickatbasel and I are quite strict about him addressing us in our respective languages and he speaks Dytsch with the neighbours and anyone else who he thinks is not Dutch or English speaking. For each person he encounters, he picks a language he is going to speak to them and sticks to it. So his way of handling things I suppose.

He is able to translate freely between all three languages - sometimes he makes mistakes with grammar but we make a point of correcting any English or Dutch errors he makes. But I think this happens in monolingual families too.

I think the important thing as parents in multilingual households is to read to your children as much as possible and expose them as much as possible to your respective languages through songs, stories, television programmes and playgroups. And we do a lot of other activities at home like cooking, painting, playing with Lego, train sets etc where it involves using language.

I've already started teaching him to read English - using Dr Suess for the moment which he is doing well with but I will look for a more phonic-based reading scheme. The experience from other expat families is the German / Swiss German will take over once formal school starts.

Our other plan when he is a little older is to pack him off to respective grandparents / uncles / aunts for weeks at a time so he will be in a 100% <respective language>-based environment for such a period.

As a parent, you have a responsibility for your child's education and it is a mistake to expect it all to happen at school.

Cheers,
Nick
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  #128  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:15
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Re: Children with 2-3-4 and more languages

IMHO, It is definitely certain hindrance in fast multilingual development that may lead to speech impediment of a child who has to process too many languages from its first day eyes have opened and parents uttered the first words to it. I witnessed once upbringing, never mind being a best man at my Polish friend's wedding with his Colombian wife back in SA. Given multicultural background (child was born there) and automatically three languages were spoken at home English, Polish and Spanish. In the kindergarden back in Pretoria he was also spoken to in Afrikaans on daily basis. It took few years before his son started speaking and much longer than average kid in his age. Not that there was anything wrong with parents as their both hailed from educated families and studied at the varsity. It is just circumstances and cultural changes that boy's neurons had to process before it passed info into synapses and these responded. Now they settled down in the UK where child will continue education. At the end of the day he will be multilingual and in the long run it's beneficial to his education. However it is a long learning curve that parents from multicultural/multlingual bacgrounds need to face. Just be patient and hang in there until the little prodigy will surprise you with talents.
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  #129  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:26
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

You've touched on something interesting here. If it happens naturally, with a bit of effort and encouragement + common sense- it is fantastic. Just don't know how to say this as my aim is not to upset, but sometimes I feel that the multilingual parents are the knew ballet or football mums/dads - you used the word prodigy- and in some cases, I feel it might be what is aimed at. Kids are not circus monkeys - I feel that maybe some parents are a bit too pushy - not sure if anybody will relate to this. Sorry. Kids need time to climb trees and graze knees, in whatever language.
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  #130  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:38
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I'm quite sure that happens. We're just lucky to be in the right situation with our respective languages and being in a place where a third language is spoken.

My 4 y.o. has yet to compose his first symphony so he hasn't quite beaten Mozart. But he is a smart enough kid - given his usual attempts at applying logic when trying to persuade me to read another bedtime story and he really isn't tired at all.

In our case he missed out on the Kindergarten "Stichdatum" by 2 days. We could have insisted he starts in August but I'm happy he stays back a year - and we can do stuff like learning to read Dr Suess, swimming lessons, horse riding, setting hash runs and generally having a good time. He'll be in school for a decade or two so I see no need to rush.

With the reading, if he decides he doesn't want to do it today I'll say, "You know, we could read a page then go and bake some bread or play with the electric train set" and he'll then have a go at the reading. Probably a teacher would be a bit less tolerant of such things but I think things like reading should be a pleasure and not a chore.

Cheers,
Nick

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You've touched on something interesting here. If it happens naturally, with a bit of effort and encouragement + common sense- it is fantastic. Just don't know how to say this as my aim is not to upset, but sometimes I feel that the multilingual parents are the knew ballet or football mums/dads - you used the word prodigy- and in some cases, I feel it might be what is aimed at. Kids are not circus monkeys - I feel that maybe some parents are a bit too pushy - not sure if anybody will relate to this. Sorry.
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  #131  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:48
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

My 2.5 years old is surprising us with english she learned in pre-school in Basel. They did a wonderful job and I was amazed of what she came up with... Things she never heard from us like:

-Naughty Baba!
-schtop!

And one day she began to count to 10 in english... Plus in my language and her dad's... I was very surprise of what she could learn.

I am a bit concern because she will go to a local pre-school in september and it won't have any english anymore, only Spanish and Catalan. And with the french, turkish and english she already has at home, I am concerned of what will happen. She doesn't speak as well as a monolingual child of her age, she is not easy to understand for others because she talks with the 3 languages mixed in one.

She associates a word with one language. Banana can be in french, apple in english and milk in Turkish. She understand them all and can say them too but she stick to the same ones when she talks. So for other people who don't speak our home languages, they can't understand what she is talking about while it is clear for us.

I am concerned about this issue...
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  #132  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:49
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

in terms of bilingual toddlers, it can seem like they have less vocabulary at some point but in fact, usually, they don't- it's merely that they have two languages worth of vocabulary and very often become aware of registers or when to use which language at a young age. when dealing with older children, often you'll seen that they have very specific registers for each language, thus the vocabulary and language they use is sometimes quite specific to certain situations.

i grew up speaking english and spanish. i am bilingual (not including languages i've learned later, without the same fluency). when i first began teaching i was a substitute teacher for a spanish science class. initially, i had no idea of certain words that were science specific, as opposed to words used commonly in conversation because i didn't learn academics in spanish. this is where multiple languages in older students can become a problem if a student is using a 'home' language in an academic setting. then, they will have to go back from their 'school' language and translate, at least in the beginning, though it does come much faster because of their experience of the language.

in regards to odile's point, i see a ton of parents who are here in switzerland and push learning a lot of languages at once, thinking that if their child is bilingual they are gifted and can and should learn more. but a language is really only valid for a child if they are using it regularly, i.e at home, at school, on the playground, etc. a child going to german class once or twice a week is not likely to be able to get a good grip on the language because it doesn't hold as much meaning for them.

my son was bilingual in the states. now he is trilingual because he has fluency in french from school, socially and hubby speaks french to him at home. most of the time he chooses the language to speak depending on who he is speaking to. he picked up french easily in one year for a few reasons, but i am sure that being bilingual since birth already created a flexibility in understanding and processing languages. being bilingual as a child has been compared to mental gymnastics, with researchers saying that a bilingual child's brain is more agile than those that are monolingual. personally, i agree with this, as i have seen bilingual children from 4 to 10 years old specifically, really playing with words between multiple languages,like a game. i'm sure it also helps that bilingual kids often have parents who are ultra open to language in general, which also plays a huge role in how they see language in general.

either way, nil, i can say with two languages at home, when your daughter is ready for school and another language that comes along, she most likely will be open to it and not have the same fear or discomfort as most kids.
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  #133  
Old 08.06.2011, 23:50
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I am the mother of a three year old. She is bilingual and she faces a clear split between the language which is spoken at home (Italian) and the language that is spoken at the creche (Swiss German). I can speak High German and sometimes I read her books in German. She has started to attend day care full time since she was 1 year old and although there was a large offering of multilingual creches here in Basel, it was my decision to put her in a Swiss one. She will have time to learn English and all the other languages that she might like.
The only think that worries me is that her first language is German for sure. She constructs the sentence in Italian as if she was speaking German (verb at the end, inversion, etc.) and she has a strong German accent whilst speaking Italian.
We participated to the study that Uni Basel is conducting on multi-lingual children and a researcher will come at home to assess her German knowledge. On the first meeting, when the project was presented, I asked her about this issue of German grammar rules applied to Italian and she said that it's completely normal and issues can be identified only when she will be 6 or older.
I must admit that I struggled a lot (and I still do) with German and I really think that you can reach a certain level of ability in speaking it only if it is infused in your brain at young age.
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Old 08.06.2011, 23:51
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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You've touched on something interesting here. If it happens naturally, with a bit of effort and encouragement + common sense- it is fantastic. Just don't know how to say this as my aim is not to upset, but sometimes I feel that the multilingual parents are the knew ballet or football mums/dads - you used the word prodigy- and in some cases, I feel it might be what is aimed at. Kids are not circus monkeys - I feel that maybe some parents are a bit too pushy - not sure if anybody will relate to this. Sorry. Kids need time to climb trees and graze knees, in whatever language.
In matter of fact, it never occurred to both parents to be that they will fall in love with each other. Truly beautiful romantic story that I witnessed with my own eyes and the episodes. They neither planned having any children so soon, nor considered any options to relocate. It's just a life and proverbial way the cookie crumbles. Luckily things turned out working fine and they happily settled in one place.

Often times parents painstakingly plan the future, when child must be conceived and entire life of the child in advance. From young age they push their little ones to excel in everything, education, multiple languages, sports, social life. Such prearranged scheme may lead to stress and psychological disorder in a child. Such reasoning may backfire later in he future.
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  #135  
Old 09.06.2011, 00:54
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I do dislike eager beavers who push kids into anything, who make their kids parade themselves and recite/perform/show off, it is usually quite sad, them making up for some issues their parents haven't dealt with.

On the other hand, let's not assume that all parents who want to stimulate kids in some ways, be it languages, or push for sports, or that dance or piano 45min since who can afford here more, they all are over achieving over ambitious folks? Hardly.

Kids will always find ways to scrape their knees and go through their own experience, even if parents do take them once a week to a piano/gymnastics, or if they decide to talk to them in mother tongue that happens to be different than the local lingo here.

I don't mind kids being stimulated a lot, why should it be better or worse than running outside, I think kids do run outside a lot anyways, things are not so dramatic. What I mind are parents bragging about this stuff. As if the street cred they score with other parents, some snobby prestige was the reason they pushed their poor offsprings into all these extra curricurals.

I had both of the worlds, music/danse/activities, family included and the wild knees scraping, climbing trees and shooting, it's a good combo. Sensibly cultivate child's soul is part of parenting, though. And it does not have to have anything to do with cash, prestige, etc. One can easily teach some interesting stuff or share activities without driving them to some over priced tutor place.
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  #136  
Old 09.06.2011, 10:07
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

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My 2.5 years old is surprising us with english she learned in pre-school in Basel. They did a wonderful job and I was amazed of what she came up with... Things she never heard from us like:

-Naughty Baba!
-schtop!

And one day she began to count to 10 in english... Plus in my language and her dad's... I was very surprise of what she could learn.

I am a bit concern because she will go to a local pre-school in september and it won't have any english anymore, only Spanish and Catalan. And with the french, turkish and english she already has at home, I am concerned of what will happen. She doesn't speak as well as a monolingual child of her age, she is not easy to understand for others because she talks with the 3 languages mixed in one.

She associates a word with one language. Banana can be in french, apple in english and milk in Turkish. She understand them all and can say them too but she stick to the same ones when she talks. So for other people who don't speak our home languages, they can't understand what she is talking about while it is clear for us.

I am concerned about this issue...
Don't worry at all!

She will sort her little "language drawers". And she will do most of it all by herself. And a little with your help.

When Starfish Junior was smaller, he merrily mixed English, French, Spanish and a little Arabic.
One day I showed him his drawers in his room. We looked in each one and he told me what was inside. I asked him if he had one drawer where everything was mixed up. The answer was NO.
So, I asked him to do the same with his languages:
Label 4 drawers in his head.
Sort the languages.
Fill each drawer with words from the same language.

This seemed to work for him.
And whenever he chose a word in another language and realized it, he shouted: "Oups, wrong drawer!"

The only thing YOU will have to do: Sort some drawers previously, otherwise it won't work ...
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  #137  
Old 09.06.2011, 10:40
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Just a couple of thoughts.
Having a toddler who, at toddler level, is bi/tri/whatever-lingual doesn't mean that said toddler will be able to keep up with all these languages in all the varying vocabulary and understanding areas in child, teenager, young adult, adult life.
Whatever the books say, whatever the experts say, whatever other parents in 'similar' situations say, each toddler/child adult is unique - and so are the parents and the situation. Two children in very similar situations may react differently. Two children in the same family may react differently.

Some children cope wonderfully and manage to 'extend' several languages to a very high level in all of them. Others are confused by just two, mix them, have poor grammar in both of them. And it is not necessarily the fault of the parents, the school, or the child.

Certainly, having two or more languages can be a big plus and encouraging the child to use them is great but it is simply not true to say 'if you, as parents, do this, this is then what your children will do'.
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Last edited by Longbyt; 09.06.2011 at 13:16.
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Old 09.06.2011, 14:27
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

Multilinguism can happen but I don't subscribe to today's view that toddlers/children have to learn languages for the sake of it. I know cases where the mother tongue of one or both parents was not spoken/tought to children just because it is better if they learn English instead. The result is that these children cannot interact with close relatives because of the language barrier.
I have read a few books on bilinguism and I think that the main issue is not only which languages he/she is capable of speaking but which culture will he/she consider him-herself belonging to. And cultural identity is a big thing that most of us give for granted because we have grown up in a "national" environment whereas our multilingual children will have to build.
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Old 09.06.2011, 15:29
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

I really agree with the fact that multilingual anybody does not have to necessarily have to remain multilingual, or keep the quality of all languages the same. It's like with any other skills, we either practice them, or we don't.

I never really experienced an environment more conducive to language learning than here and general public more ready to assist. So, the only way is pretty much get on with it, if kids do, then we have to, as well.

Besides, don't forget, learning languages makes one age way slower.
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Old 09.06.2011, 15:38
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Re: Multilingual Toddlers

How good is your and Oh's Spanish Nil? Will she be taught both in Catalan and Castillan?
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