Even before I was pregnant I knew my kid will speak at least 4 languages. To be honest I was a bit scared of this and didn’t know how to approach it, but due to my family situation there was not much I could do.
I am Ukrainian, who speaks Russian, my husband is Slovenian, we speak English between each other and we live in Slovakia. I wanted my child to know both parents’ languages to be able to communicate with the family members in our countries. Besides, I also wanted him to learn Slovak, since he is living in Bratislava and needs to feel at ease with the people around. Initially English wasn’t in my plan for his early years, but very soon we’ve noticed that our son is picking up English from us naturally.
Luckily I knew many international couples, whose kids were speaking at least 2 languages. It encouraged me. I’ve studied a lot of materials about bilingualism and multilingualism, different approaches, methods, etc. But in the end, I was just doing what felt natural for me and my son. And I must say so far I am very happy with the results.
Now my son is 2,4 years and he speaks Russian to me and Slovenian to his father. Both languages are on a good level for his age. Of course, there are still mistakes and he doesn’t pronounce all the sounds correctly yet, but I am not worried for the moment.
What’s important for me is that he distinguishes the languages and does not mix them, except if he doesn’t know a word in one of the languages. He also has a good understanding of Slovak and English and he knows fairly a lot of words in those languages too.
Many people worry that multilingualism will result in speech delay or have a negative effect on learning a community language if it’s different. It’s been already proven that there is no correlation between multilingualism and those facts. All children develop on their own pace and start to speak in different times. My son started to talk around 1,5 year and he could say the same things in both languages, Russian and Slovenian.
There are many studies proving that bilingualism or multilingualism is good for brain development, generally people who speak more than one languages are smarter and easier adopting to the changes, they are also more creative and flexible. Besides, it’s a great asset for the future career.
So, my advice is if you have a possibility to raise you kid bi- or multilingual, do so!
Here are some tips which can help you with it:
♥ First, don’t worry that it’ll be difficult for your child to learn many languages in the same time.
I know, for many adults it’s hard and overwhelming to learn a foreign language, but you need to know that it’s different for children. They have a natural ability to learn languages easily till the age of 5. Later this ability decreases, so earlier you start, better for you child. Just think that multilingual environment is the only reality your child knows, so he/she will naturally adopt to it. From my personal experience, I must say that child’s brain is as a sponge indeed, they suck the languages very fast!
♥ Follow one person-one language approach.
This was natural for our family and worked perfectly. From the first day, I spoke with my son Russian and his father spoke Slovenian. The child connects the person and the language and starts to use a language with that person and other languages with others. Don’t worry if you speak a third language with your partner or other people. The most important is to speak always one particular language to your child.
♥ Create a full language experience for a child.
Use different materials to support a language, e.g. books, cartoons, songs, poems. Later encourage your children to read in different languages. Involve other people who speaks your language, e.g. family members, friends.
♥ Remember, the key is to speak to your child as much as you can.
Use different words, synonyms, express yourself clearly. Try to avoid childish talk, communicate with a child as with an adult person, explain, gently correct the language mistakes. Children understand much more that we think sometimes.
♥ Don’t worry if your child is mixing the languages, making mistakes or does not speak some language yet.
This is a normal stage. First the child starts to understand the language; this is a passive stage of using languages. Once (s)he feels comfortable with it, (s)he tries to speak, first with mistakes. It’s important to encourage the child to speak and express himself!
When my son started to go to nursery where they spoke mostly Slovak, he didn’t understand anything. But already in a few months he understood almost everything and in another month started to speak simple phrases.
I hope my story will encourage and help you and your children. I am just in the beginning of multilingual journey for my son, but I already enjoy a lot seeing him speaking different languages. I hope I will share with you some other ideas on it in the future.