Quadlingual - any suggestions on doing it better or any experiences? - Mothering Forums

Quadlingual - any suggestions on doing it better or any experiences?

Amy@STL's Avatar Amy@STL (TS)
01:38 PM Liked: 18
#1 of 10
01-11-2012 | Posts: 310
Joined: Jan 2010
My 21 month old DS is growing up with four languages. I dont know any other kid with similar exposure. Some people wtih expertise in speech, language study said its a good thing. I and my hubby are trilingual ourselves. But I thought I will post here since so many moms here seem so smart:)

I speak a native language and am at home with him so he understands that most. He can follow directions, understand small discussions directed at him. My hubby speaks his own language which my DS understands least since hubby is home only three hours( while we are awake). The third language is what hubby and I use to communicate, since our natives are different. I know DS understands that language a bit too. For eg, if we are talking about offering him water, he would go and fetch his cup. The fourth language is english since we are in US. DS vocabulary consists majority of english words. I read him book in english, we hear english toddler songs while driving, other kids speak to him during playgroups etc. Unfortunately he has very less one to one kids interactions. I try taking him to pllaygroups but thats about it. We afe in a new city for just a year, so we dont have close friends or family.

He doesnt speak two word sentences. Started saying Mama finally at 18 mo. Still does a lot of pointing and gesturing. He can speak clearly though. He is not silent, he keeps yapping away all day, half of it in his own language.

I guess I wanted to know of anyone has any kind of input. I am not worried to be honest. DH was a late talker( growing up in a single language household) and still speaks much lesser than average. But, if anyone has any sugestions on doing this in a better way, please let me know!
Ragana's Avatar Ragana
09:15 AM Liked: 777
#2 of 10
01-12-2012 | Posts: 1,984
Joined: Oct 2002

Honestly, it sounds like you are doing everything right! At 21 mos. I wouldn't be worried about not having many words/sentences. And with 4 languages, I think it would be too much to expect to have all 4 be at an equal level of proficiency. I have 3 & my strengths are different in each one depending on whether I use it mostly at home, mostly at work or both. Congratulations on giving your DS such a great start!

Amy@STL's Avatar Amy@STL (TS)
01:02 PM Liked: 18
#3 of 10
01-13-2012 | Posts: 310
Joined: Jan 2010
Ragana, thats so nice of you. Thanks for reassuring me! redface.gif
Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl
09:33 AM Liked: 23
#4 of 10
01-18-2012 | Posts: 457
Joined: May 2007

OMG! My son didn't talk until he was 2 1/2! I did have one child who put sentences together at 20 months in both languages but I considered this way ahead of the game. She's linguistically very strong. My son's fine now. Your son has good comprehension so that means he's on his way to speaking! 


I would not try to teach him all three languages. Just concentrate on each parents' language. I'm sure he'll learn whatever language you two use together but interact with him in just your own languages. This will make it easier on him. A child who is fluent in two languages will learn others more easily (are these languages at all related?) 


Don't make any effort to teach him English if you're living in the U.S. He'll learn that really well on the outside to the point that he might try using it at home. Just be firm about sticking to your own languages. 


It's a good set-up. Don't worry if the languages are not all equal. They rarely are but you do want him to master and use both the home languages. 


Can you understand each others' languages at all? If not, you soon will! My dh now understands almost everything we say in English at home. Now he's into watching English language T.V. etc. 


Good luck and keep it up! 

Geist's Avatar Geist
11:09 AM Liked: 22
#5 of 10
01-27-2012 | Posts: 154
Joined: Jan 2010

yep, he'll get there. With so many languages, it will probably take him more time to figure everything out. I like to look at multilingualism like this with children:

A monolingual child is like a child who has one ball to play with. They can quickly familiarize themselves with the ball and learn how to throw it, bounce it, catch it, etc.

A bilingual child has two balls to play with, but one of the balls is an american football, so its characteristics are fundamentally different, so he has to not only learn how to handle two balls at once but also how to manage the different characteristics of each ball, but he can still do it.

A trilingual (or more!) child has three balls, all with different shapes and characteristics but still only 2 hands to handle them with, so he has to learn how to juggle them and how to handle each of them individually.

It's quite the task! But he'll manage it. Add into that the fact that every child learns how to handle their "balls" (languages) at a different rate and it makes it even more difficult for us to tell if they're delayed or progressing or what is going on with their minds. But in all likelihood, they're fine. Their minds are just very, very busy.


My son is almost 3 and a half and I spent (okay, still spend!) a lot of time worrying about his language development because I don't know anyone else in real life who is raising their child trilngually. But now he does speak in all three languages and you can really see his gears turn when he encounters a new situation and has to figure out which language is the appropriate language. One of the funny thing he likes to do is use me as a translator so he can speak to me in German and then have me ask everyone else the question in English :P But I've caught on and now when he asks me at a playgroupd if he can have some more chips, I tell him to ask the adult with chips "Can I have more chips, please?" in English and he does. His pronunciation is still pretty bad in all three languages, but from what I heard that's normal.

Amy@STL's Avatar Amy@STL (TS)
09:48 PM Liked: 18
#6 of 10
02-11-2012 | Posts: 310
Joined: Jan 2010
Sorry for the very late reply. Thanks so much for the positive responses. He has started saying two words since I wrote this. Its funny because he speaks mainly english words. I think its because he loves books and all the books I read are in english. But he doesnt understand spoken english yet:)
I agree teaching him english and the our third common language is not my job.

I loved the analogy of the balls...really useful trying to explain to relatives when they express concern.
beijimei's Avatar beijimei
03:01 AM Liked: 0
#7 of 10
09-10-2012 | Posts: 1
Joined: Feb 2010

Hey, there. I stumbled upon your thread and wanted to let you know that my kids grow up with four languages as well. 

I talk to them in my native languange, my husband in french (which is also the main language where we live, my husband and I communicate in english and the grandparents (live in the same house) talk in their language to the kids. I have noticed that they are only open to a new language when they are ready for it. so i think it's important that they aren't forced to. when they are ready they will learn. to help them i think they need to see a purpose into learning this language. 

further i believe that there should be one language (preferably the one they speak in school) that is dominant. If they have a solid base in one language, learning another language is not that hard for them.

all the best to you!

Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl
05:15 AM Liked: 23
#8 of 10
09-10-2012 | Posts: 457
Joined: May 2007

further i believe that there should be one language (preferably the one they speak in school) that is dominant. 


Not necessarily true but that usually happens anyway. It's not necessary to "make" one language dominant. If one language dominates too much, this could inhibit the child learning other languages.


My kids are dominate in French, by far, but we know a lot of very even bilingual children. For example, we know children whose have an English and a French parent, go to an English speaking school (with French as a subject) and then live here in France. It would be a tough call to say which language is dominate and they certainly at NO disadvantage! They speak English better than mine do but my children also speak German. Something has to give! I figure long run, better to be a bit weak in English and know a third language but not everyone would agree... 


What's interesting is that children can be dominate in different languages in different areas. This often happens when the school language is different from the home language, or with a home vs. community language situation. I know children who can talk about emotional things, play games, etc. better in one but are academically stronger in another. Sometimes they can relax and goof around in one language but simply have more words in the other, with no slang and can't really joke in it.  

Amy@STL's Avatar Amy@STL (TS)
03:27 PM Liked: 18
#9 of 10
12-09-2012 | Posts: 310
Joined: Jan 2010
Originally Posted by Eclipsepearl View Post

Don't make any effort to teach him English if you're living in the U.S. He'll learn that really well on the outside to the point that he might try using it at home. Just be firm about sticking to your own languages. 
I know I am late in replying, but do you have more tips on this?
Eclipsepearl's Avatar Eclipsepearl
02:42 AM Liked: 23
#10 of 10
01-21-2013 | Posts: 457
Joined: May 2007

Take them to the park. Invite friends over. Expose the children to English but it's not necessary to speak it yourselves to them. 


Children learn from other children really well! They also play together without the language barrier. I saw my child mixing with a Catalon/Spanish speaking girl and another German girl. They couldn't speak together but played for hours well. It was cute to watch!


Not sure if this is in the cards but preschool might be a good idea. If not, or in addition to, they can take kiddie classes of some sort. Make sure the teachers/moderators are cued in that they might have to repeat but sports, art classes, dance, etc. are good ways to get your child used to English while maintaining the other two languages at home. 


Also, babysitters who speak only English could help. Later on though, you'll be looking for sitters who speak one of the minority languages! 

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