Join Date: May 2005
Location: I've been in the lowlands too long
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I know a few families here who are in this situation, though I'm not in it myself. I live in Holland and I know a few families with one Dutch partner, one partner from somewhere else, and they speak English together.
In the case of the family I'm closest to, the mom is French the Dad is Dutch, and they speak English together. Unfortunately, both their girls have had a *really* tough time in all three languages. It could be the girls themselves, and it certainly could be something they grow out of, but, thus far, it's been problematic for them. The girls are 4.5 and nearly 6.
The girls don't speak English at all. They understand it passively, but don't speak at all. Their Dutch is their strongest language (not surprisingly, since they live in Holland, their dad is Dutch and speaks to them only in Dutch, and they go to Dutch school). However, they are behind in Dutch compared to the other kids, even bilingual kids like my son, and have to go to speech therapy. It also impacts their formation of friendships, because they can't communicate as well with the other kids in school.
Their French, though, is the biggest problem. They understand it all, but their speaking ability is at least two years behind their actual ages, and their French grandparents have a really hard time communicating with them. Their mom has actually recently signed them up for French classes to help them along.
I don't want to be negative or discouraging based only on my close-hand observation of one family, but I think all tri-lingual families should really be prepared for language to be a challenge. I've even had that with bilingual DS, thinking one parent, one language would be fine. Actually, though, DS' English is weak and we constantly have to work on it. That's exacerbated with the tri-lingual situation.
In the end, though, as my friend (the mom I've just described) says, her kids will have *three* languages under their belts. Their English may be passive till they start learning it in school, but they'll still be way ahead of other kids who are just being exposed to it. So it's a wonderful gift to their kids. It's just a more of a challenge than expected.