Admittedly, it was quite an effort and felt a bit “weird” in the beginning for me to speak Chinese with the little ones in the presence of DH but I soon got used to it. DH never got used to speaking Greek with the little ones, so he speaks to them in our common language (English). My in-laws however, always speak to the little ones in Greek.
It all feels pretty “natural” for us, as a multi-cultural family, to bring up multi-lingual children but the questions that I often ask myself are: What is best for the children ? Are 3 languages too many for them ? Shall we just stick to 2 languages, so they wont get too confused ? Will it affect their overall speech-development, having to learn 3 languages at the same time ?
I have read a few articles and also discussed this issue in several forums and found that there are quite a few opinions and views in this issue but here are a few common recommendations:
- Try to stick to the OPOL (One Person One Language) method, to minimize your child’s confusion.
- Try to meet other people that speak the minority language(s). Minority language is the language that is not spoken in the country that you live in. Children learn through listening, so the more exposure, the more they will learn.
- Only speak your native language with your children, otherwise they will learn to make the same mistake as you make in the that language.
- A child generally only speaks a language proficiently, if the exposure is at least 30%. So try and find a good balance between the languages you want your child to learn.
- Do what feels natural to your family. If it does not feel natural and right, then it is unlikely that you will stick to it anyway.
- Try to discourage your child to use different language then “your” language with you by gently asking him/her to repeat it in “your” language, in order for him/her to get used to expressing themselves equally in the different languages.
- Do not punish your child if he uses “the wrong” language. Instead, try encouraging him/her to use “the right” one. Make sure your child doesn’t make negative associations with speaking a certain language.
- Children learn through listening and hearing words being used in different situations, so read books to your children in the different languages. This will also increase their vocabulary, which is essential for mastering any languages.
Some research has shown that multi-lingual children’s speech development may be somewhat delayed, compared to their mono-lingual peers and same/similar research has also shown that multi-lingual children may experience future learning difficulties. Shall I be concerned ?
If they do for some reason experience some kind of delayed speech development or learning difficulties, how am I to know that it is because of their multi-lingual background and not because they are twins, as research has also shown that twins may have these problems !
By the way, for those that think that I may be worrying too much, I am not. I just find this subject very interesting. So, if you have any interesting info, please do leave me a comment !
To find out more, read these articles about general points, practical recommendations and common mistakes, and join a group/forum about raising multi-cultural children.