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How I’m teaching my 3 year old a second language

| 69 comments | Category: learning languages

Today’s guest post is from surfer-single-traveller Marília who writes at Tripping Mom.

Coming from a bilingual family it’s easy for me to see how manageable and beneficial it is to speak two languages at home. My dad would always speak to us in Italian and my mother in Portuguese while we lived in Brazil.

Much of our interpretation of the things around us come from our vocabulary and our understanding of the world is trapped by our language. If you speak more than one language, your perception of things actually grows wider. Anyone who speaks two or more languages can relate to this statement.

With this in mind and with my background, I decided that since I’m fluent in English (I’m actually Brazilian), I should teach my daughter the language myself.

My method was simple: use as much English in our routine as possible. This meant: reading, singing, playing, speaking and watching videos. Studies has shown that pre-schoolers learn faster, so I know now is the best time for Luísa to really learn it.

Reading

I started reading to her when she was a tiny baby, reading my own books in English aloud while rocking her to sleep or breastfeeding.

When she was around two, I strted to read children’s books too. Almost all in English.

Singing Songs

We sing songs in English all the time. She also quickly learns the ones I’m playing by myself on the guitar.

Playing Games

Sometimes we play with dolls and I speak for my doll only in English. She seems to understand everything as she answers everything my character asks.

As we ride our bike through town, we might say the color of the cars in English, or count the steps down to the beach.

Speaking

I keep at it several times during the day without a strict schedule, rather than all the time. I try to do ordinary daily activities, while speaking in English, like calling her to brush her teeth or put her shoes on. Motion talking works great too, like raising the juice jar and asking in English if she wants juice.

Like in many bilingual homes, sometimes we mix the languages like this:

“Luísa, põe o seu maiô and let’s go to the beach.” (Luísa, put your swimming suit on and let’s go to the beach.)

“O que você está fazendo, let me see.” (What are you doing, let me see.)

“Olha lá! A horse!” (Look over there! A horse!)

I know this must look a bit freaky to a regular passerby, but for us inside the multilingual world, it’s completely normal.

Some days I focus on introducing just one new word and use it in the middle of our normal chatting in Portuguese.

Watching Videos

Since she turned two I started to put videos on for her to watch entirely in English (on my laptop, since we don’t have a TV). Sometimes I watch them with her and repeat some words or phrases and she might repeat them as well.

I also ask questions about the video in English. Most of the times, she ignores me and keeps watching, but sometimes she does answer (in Portuguese).

Is trying to sneak in a third language too much?

Sometimes, I speak in Spanish to Luísa too. Especially after we spent two months in in Chile in 2009 (on different occasions). The second time she was going to a kindergarten there and had finished our trip having learned many Spanish words.

She made me really proud at a park in Santiago one day when I saw her saying “Permiso” (Excuse me), politely playing in Spanish with another kid!

I don’t know how mixed up this all can be (Portuguese + English + Spanish taught by the same person – I’m pretty sure regular parenting books don’t recommend this), but I can tell you that she understands both English and Spanish (and speaks Portuguese, obviously).

However, to simplify things a bit, I decided to take a break from Spanish for a while, except for a couple of songs we like to sing, and focus on English. Spanish will wait for Costa Rica next month, where she will learn the best way, the way Benny here learns all his languages too: by speaking and connecting with natives :).

These past few months we were practicing in a more structured way, almost like a lesson. I was going to her kindergarten three times a week to read stories and sing songs in English to the kids. And since I practice the songs on my guitar at home, Luísa can already sing big chunks of them.

Of course, to apply this method I have been using, one needs to be fluent in that second language. But I really believe in the power of music and movies in the learning process.

What if I couldn’t speak another language, would I still do it?

Well, it’s hard to see myself as not speaking any other language (as far as family and personal interests are involved), but what I did for three months, starting in April, was start a self teaching course in French.

I would listen to a CD and repeat the phrases for 15 to 20 minutes a day, five days a week. This was not only teaching me another language, but was making Luísa see me studying and eventually she would repeat some things as well. (I dropped the French lessons after I finished this basic course and I forgot most of it already).

So, I guess that if I happened to not know another language, I would try to learn and teach at the same time. Like keep my French course for a whole year and start looking for French speakers in my town to converse with.

I know from experience that it’s much easier to have parents speaking different languages, but not having a foreign husband (or daily access to a native) is not keeping me from doing it. The bottom line here is: YOU CAN DO IT TOO.

It’s hard to keep focused and speak to my daughter in English, it doesn’t come out naturally, but I make myself do it and because of this, some days it does come out more naturally. It’s a matter of practice. When I realize we haven’t been practicing our English at home in a few days I just push myself back into it.

One thing that is crucial for success in teaching a child anything is HAVING FUN with it. Reading, speaking, singing and watching movies together is really fun, why not do it all in another language as well?

Are you teaching your child a foreign language too? Have any other suggestions? Please let us know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out my blog for information about relevant education for children, and ways to stay sane around your child! :)

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  • http://twitter.com/navets12 stevAHn

    Good job Marília! I’m very impressed. Even though I’m only 17, you’re quite an inspiration because I’d love to do this when I’m married and have kids (but that’s a really long time from now)!

    My mom came from a bilingual household as well. The way my grandparents tried to teach her both languages was by having one parent speak completely in English, and the other speak completely in a dialect of Italian. I’m not sure if this is how experts advise parents to teach their kids two languages, but it worked well! To this day, my mom still speaks English with her father, and Calabrese dialect with her mother.

    Keep up the good work!

  • http://twitter.com/navets12 stevAHn

    Good job Marília! I’m very impressed. Even though I’m only 17, you’re quite an inspiration because I’d love to do this when I’m married and have kids (but that’s a really long time from now)!

    My mom came from a bilingual household as well. The way my grandparents tried to teach her both languages was by having one parent speak completely in English, and the other speak completely in a dialect of Italian. I’m not sure if this is how experts advise parents to teach their kids two languages, but it worked well! To this day, my mom still speaks English with her father, and Calabrese dialect with her mother.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Marilia

      Thanks stevAHn, it’s really nice to hear that this story can inspire you.

      Your mother learned two languages the same way I did. I guess that’s the easiest way to do it and I’m sure this made it much easier for me to learn two other languages later on. That’s why I’m so focused on teaching my girl other languages while she is little, it will make it so easy for her to learn any language she desires later in life.

  • http://brewdocinhaiti.blogspot.com brianfrommaine

    I totally agree about mixing up languages with your kids!

    We do it all the time.

    In addition to mixing up the sentences in the two languages, we’ll play a game where we’ll see a horse and say ” do remember how to say horse in Spanish?” etc etc etc…

    They seem to have fun with it!

    • Marilia

      Cool to know you do it too. We have fun too and sometimes it pissed my daughter off and she will say: “Speak straight!” Meaning speak Portuguese. I obey, the last thing I want is for her to have a bad time with it :)

      • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

        “Fala direito!!” :P
        Great choice! The last thing you want to do is make it a chore for her!

  • http://howlearnspanish.com/ Andrew

    Mixing in multiple languages like that won’t hurt them at all, the belief that it would is just some old-school nonsense, you’re doing your kids a HUGE favor by teaching them multiple languages, keep it up!

    Cheers,
    Andrew

    • Marilia

      Yes, Andrew, the “old-school nonsense” is in all educational issues. Parents need to test the common assumptions all the time. Thank you for the support.

    • John H McReedy

      “Old-school nonsense”? I think not. It’s a really well studied area of linguistics and it’s well established that without clear contextual boundaries between languages, kids will increasingly tend to fall back to their strongest language.

      There’s bucketloads of evidence from bucketloads of studies, including from people who really wanted to prove the opposite.

      What *is* old-school nonsense is the idea that multilingualism in general is bad for kids — this is not true.
      However, mixed-up languages, without rhyme or reason, is no way to achieve lasting multilingualism.

  • Anonymous

    You have made me jealous.

    Traveling the world is making me realize how deficient language education is in US public schools.

    Since both of my parents only speak English, I never got the opportunity to learn another language young. I agree with you – the younger you are when you learn a language the easier it will be to learn.

    Trying to learn French at 22 is nearly impossible! :)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Trying to learn French at 2 is impossible with the wrong approach and attitude too ;)

      I learned French at 23 fine. While toddlers might have some slight advantage, that’s no excuse for the rest of us to not give it our best! ;)

    • Marilia

      Benny has written on this blog a lot about having the right attitude to learn. I agree that French is hard, but maybe it´s better to see it as difficult rather than “nearly impossible”.
      You´ll feel so proud if you keep trying until you are fluent though, it will make you feel like there´s nothing you can´t learn!

      • Anonymous

        You’re both totally right. I’ll put on my big boy pants!

        I can learn French!

        • AFrench

          You can begin by knowing that “connard” (in your username) means “asshole” or “bastard” in French!

  • http://twitter.com/ukuleleface Dean

    I saw this post on the main page and thought Benny had kept his fatherhood secret up until now. :D

    Great post though. I have a little sister who’s three and I’m hoping to teach her at least a little bit of a foreign language as she grows. Just not sure which one…

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      I’ve got lots of secrets, but fathering children across the planet is not among them ;) :P

  • http://traverselife.blogspot.com Sue

    Fantastic post. I have friends whose work takes them to many countries. One parent is English speaking, the other speaks 3 languages fluently (incl English). Their preschool child adapts quickly in each new country, and picks up words and phrases quickly enough to converse with children happily, AND help his parents out. He rarely gets confused, and seems to slip into the local language seamlessly.

    Do you think there’s an upper age to learn a new language (I only speak English – fie on our Education system)

  • http://traverselife.blogspot.com Sue

    Fantastic post. I have friends whose work takes them to many countries. One parent is English speaking, the other speaks 3 languages fluently (incl English). Their preschool child adapts quickly in each new country, and picks up words and phrases quickly enough to converse with children happily, AND help his parents out. He rarely gets confused, and seems to slip into the local language seamlessly.

    Do you think there’s an upper age to learn a new language (I only speak English – fie on our Education system)

    • http://www.fluentin3months.com/ Benny the language hacker

      Upper age to learn a language; maybe 170 years old? Even then I doubt it. Oldest age still acceptable to yeach your child a language? SAME. Starting earlier is better, but “better” does not mean you’re screwed if you start later.

  • Stacey

    Does your daughter ever speak English back to you? I have friends who can understand their mother’s language (why is it always women?! :) ), but swear they can’t actually speak the language, which I thought was always weird ‘cuz it’s like you understand but can’t speak it … okay… Anyway, I thought I would throw that out there to make sure she can speak in English, which she probably can…

    • Marilia

      My daughter doesn´t really speak English back at me, but she replies to simple questions I make or does the action I ask. For instance, I say in English: “Put your shoes on” and that´s what she does (I help her understanding by saying it before we leave the house, so it´s pretty obvious).

      I guess she doesn´t need to speak back at me, maybe she never will (I will never force her, my dad would make me and my siblings speak only in Italian to him and very often we chose to not speak at all). But whenever she has the necessity to actually speak it, it should come fast.

      • Luflapy

        I did the same. I never answered in English because I was afraid to make a mistake. But when I moved o the US and saw I had to speak it or I would just have to stay home the whole day, I realized it was ok to make mistakes, and when I tried speaking English, I “magically” knew it, even without really speaking for all those years. So for all those years till I was 11,( when I moved to ny) my brain had been absorbing the language, so I got here and had no problems, and my accent wasn’t that heavy.
        So you can be sure you are doing the right thing.
        Lucas W.
        12 years old, Ny

      • Luflapy

        I did the same. I never answered in English because I was afraid to make a mistake. But when I moved o the US and saw I had to speak it or I would just have to stay home the whole day, I realized it was ok to make mistakes, and when I tried speaking English, I “magically” knew it, even without really speaking for all those years. So for all those years till I was 11,( when I moved to ny) my brain had been absorbing the language, so I got here and had no problems, and my accent wasn’t that heavy.
        So you can be sure you are doing the right thing.
        Lucas W.
        12 years old, Ny

      • Luflapy

        I did the same. I never answered in English because I was afraid to make a mistake. But when I moved o the US and saw I had to speak it or I would just have to stay home the whole day, I realized it was ok to make mistakes, and when I tried speaking English, I “magically” knew it, even without really speaking for all those years. So for all those years till I was 11,( when I moved to ny) my brain had been absorbing the language, so I got here and had no problems, and my accent wasn’t that heavy.
        So you can be sure you are doing the right thing.
        Lucas W.
        12 years old, Ny

  • Jane

    Hi Marilia! This is very exciting! I’m so happy to see that you’re making the task of learning a new language fun! I love that you’re integrating it into daily activities that both you and Luisa enjoy. I can just see you both riding your bikes through town, talking about the things you see. You’re a beautiful role model for so many women!
    Keep up the great writing! I’m really proud of you!
    Sending hugs,
    Jane

    • Marilia

      Thank you very much, Jane. I do want to inspire other parents with this story and many others to help our children to develop to their full potentials.

  • http://www.towerofconfusion.com Edwin

    I agree that reading and singing songs are great ideas to expose the language to the child. I think introducing them to the speakers of the language is also very important.

    I live in Ontario, Canada, where most Francophones are ‘hidden’. In the past summer, I bought my daughter all the way to Quebec to show her there are really people out there who speak French. I believe meeting those people in person creates a great impact to the kid.

    • Marilia

      I agree with you Edwin. The times my daughter sees people speaking different languages she looks at them with a puzzled face.

  • http://twitter.com/umitb Ümit Orhan

    i wish i had a mum like that :D

  • Tricia

    We switched our boys’ video game systems to Spanish–it’s amazing the cool language they learn from Mario & co.

  • Anonymous

    I think we can teach ourselves this way as well by just saying stuff to ourselves in our target language as much as possible. Thanks!

  • Dridri

    Good Work!!!!
    I’m Trying to teach Italian to my child, as much as I can too…. And some times we sing in English and she answer or sing whit me the right words and she have only 2 years old.!!!!!

    • Marilia

      Right on! Nice to see another mother switching languages like that.

  • Dridri

    Good Work!!!!
    I’m Trying to teach Italian to my child, as much as I can too…. And some times we sing in English and she answer or sing whit me the right words and she have only 2 years old.!!!!!

  • Jostefani

    I love this post. I’m actually wondering though (mainly for my own benefit, because I intend on doing this someday), how “safe” is it to speak to your child entirely in a language in which you’re fluent in but yet have a slight accent?

    • Marilia

      I guess your child gets your accent too, but that´s not a bad thing. I mean, you will be teaching him or her a second language after all. Your child will thank you for this.

  • http://twitter.com/Liudmila Liudmila

    The world of languages is fashinating, yes, and is a nice game for you. But you maybe have to think about these aspects:
    1 -the native language is not only a language, it’s something much more bigger, a karma. A little child has to absorb this karma in the first years of his/ her life, first. And not to be filled with a mix of everything you know. Every fruit has own season. From other side, this mix is a stress for a child. Unfortunatelly, the too diligent parents do not think that the children have a tiny nervous system, and they began to scratch the head when the child begins to show signs of depression etc. That is very difficult to cure.

    2 I had an other problem with too diligent parents: the child learns a language with me. He makes grave mistakes. I do everything possible to correct the error in his head, it seems to me, he understands but the next time we have the same problem. After some time I discover that is the mother that ruins all my work. So, I had to work with the mother and than with the son to have the results, at the end.

    In any case, for a child is important that the mother shows to him/ her how much she loves him/ her. Only the love of the mother counts for them.

    • Marilia

      That´s a relevant point you add here, Liudmila. I suppose in some homes the children might get confused and show some chalenging behavior. That´s to be watched closely by each family. And the mother has to be really aware of what´s going on.

      Luckly, I think that Luísa is not having any problems with the languages. I do speak to her most of the time in Portuguese anyway.

  • BD

    I’m 17 and come from an English-speaking household. I began to learn Spanish pretty much on my own, and a foreign language without much background experience is difficult to learn! I’m proud of you and parents like you, who value the perspective that multilingualism brings – your daughter will be very thankful for it later on as she gets out into the world. Similarly, every time I encounter another language (Spanish, French, German, Chinese, etc.) I strongly wish my family was at least bilingual. Muchisimo gracias y Dios le bendiga y su obra!

    • Marilia

      Muchas gracias a ti :)

  • Luflapy

    Wow Marilia! A maioria das coisas que voce falou nesse post aconteceram na minha casa. Eu tambem cresci em uma casa bilingue, (mesmo os meus pais sendo brasileiros) eles so falavam ingles com a gente. Eles eram fluentes porque os dois tinham morado em nova iorque por cerca de 10 anos. Entao eu e os meus irmaos aprendemos ingles e quando nos mudamos para os estados unidos a 9 meses, nem tivemos dificuldade na escola.
    Eu nunca gostei de responder em ingles, mas eu entedia tudo o que os meus pais falavam, e assistindo filmes e lendo livros me ajudaram muito. Entao continue fazendo isso, que a sua filha vai te agradecer muito no futuro.
    Sinceramente,

    Lucas w.
    12 anos, NY

    • Marilia

      Adorei ser encorajada por você que tem só 12 anos, Lucas! Muito bom também saber que na sua casa funcionou assim e deu certo, obrigada.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Marila, Thanks for sharing your techniques. Do you ever find that your daughter speaks to others with a mix of language? Does she get confused by the mix of languages you use? Thinking of your example of going to the beach and using 2 languages in the phrase…. Thanks!

    • Marilia

      No, she doesn´t mix up the languages, she only speaks Portuguese. The only phrase she uses in Spanish is “Salut” if I sneeze. And if she sneezes, I say “Salut” and she says “Gracias”. I son´t require her to speak English, I think it´s good enough that she understands.

      Sometimes I ask her to repeat some words when we are watching a movie, she seems to like it. Or I repeat the phrase they said in the movie and she repeats it as well.

  • Omorodion_p

    Tnx for the tips I gained from your writting. I am a from Nigeria and I want to want to teach English in schools. God bless for your encouragement.

    • Marilia

      Thanks a lot!

  • http://mooncountry.wordpress.com/ mooncountry

    Marília,
    Very interesting post. I was wondering why you chose to speak English to your daughter and not Italian since that was your second language. Is it because your English is nowmore fluent?
    I like your technique, it will surely work in the longer term especially since English is a global language and there are lots of opportunities for her to use it later.
    As regards the question of how many languages is too much. Well, from what I have read, the research in this area generally points to the need to be exposed to a language about 30% to be achieve full fluency. My three daughters go to Dutch speaking school, their mother speaks to them only in Polish and I speak to them only in English. We have television, books and DVDs in all three languages. For the older two (5 & 6 years) Dutch is already the strongest language but their Polish is nearly the same as monolingual Polish children and their English understanding is perfect but they make grammatical errors, using Dutch word order and the wrong form of the past tense. Those things all get better with time. At school they perform at the same level as Dutch peers so having three languages is no issue there.
    In the same way you are introducing English and Spanish in a fun way I try to use some Irish words every day like “oíche mhaith” (good night), “fiacla” (teeth) and “leaba” (bed). Unfortunately though Irish is a minority language so there is not much chance that they will ever be in an Irish speaking environment. For that reason we are going to introduce Spanish as the fourth language in the next couple of years.

    • Marilia

      Wow, and I was thinking I was diligently stretching my language powers…

      Yes, I´m much more fluent in English. I speak Italian, but I never studied the grammar, so I can barelly write it. My family back in Italy certainly doesn´t like my choice… But even if I was as fluent in Italian, I´d still have chosen English, for it´s the world´s language and because it has a different root. I think once she learns it, other languages will come much more easier.

      I also chose Spanish for it being more used in the world and once she learns it, Italian will be so easy. When I learned Spanish in Chile, it took me 2 months living with the natives and following songs with the lyrics in hand. It was super easy knowing Portuguese and Italian. It looks like these three languages are a mix of each other. For a while, my Italian was gone, being replaced by Spanish. Now it´s back, but since I don´t use it that much, I´m more fluent in Spanish (I´m sorry, family, I still love you :)).

  • http://twitter.com/LiveUrLove Brankica U

    Oh, I loved this post. I am married to an American and we live in USA. My kid will never have the opportunity to learn my language here (Serbian) and this is definitely the way I am going to do it.
    I know little kids learn languages much faster and you just gave me big hope that it can be done easy :)

    • Marilia

      That´s awesome, thanks for letting me know.

  • http://twitter.com/Jiseri Jiseri

    I grew up learning 3 languages in my household.
    My parents are both Brazilian.
    My dad only spoke to us kids in English, my mother only in Portuguese, and I went to school hearing Polish.
    (We lived in Poland at the time).
    I think it’s great for at least 2, but I was very mixed up as a kid with 3.
    My sentences were jumbled up with the languages and only my family or other multilingual speakers understood me.
    I was always very frustrated, and avoided talking.
    I always fell back to English because that was my strongest
    (watching and reading in English as a kid).
    I now speak English, Portuguese, and Japanese.
    When I have a kid I’m only going to teach them two and then if they want to learn a third then of course I’ll encourage them.

    • Marilia

      Thanks for your comment Jiseri, it’s a good reminder that things can get confusing for my daughter as well. I’ll sure be watching any sign of stress on her part and if so, I’ll drop the desire to teach too much. I still think it’s possible and that we are doing ok, but will adjust as we go.

  • http://dol-de-bretagne.blogspot.com/ Leon de Dol

    Very nice stuff! My daughter is 4 year old and is speacking french / english / japanese, we didn’t teach her, I only speack to her in french, my wife in japanese and in house “official” language is english. We all understand all 3 languages and in house medias are also in all languages. We don’t mix them, it is like listening to Classic, then Rock, then hip hop music, they are all 3 clear different languages that we all use at different situation and time of the day.

    • Marilia

      Nice to read your story Leon, and I really liked your comparison to listening to different music, it makes a lot of sense.

  • Marilia

    Thanks Ana Paula, it’s great to see a sucessful story on this. Thank you also for your advice, it makes a lot of sense.

  • Marilia

    Sweet Hlilyan, thanks for your advice too. I never thought about changing one of her movies to Spanish once she knows them almost by heart. It surelly can be of great help.

  • http://www.southamerica.me Rob W.

    We have been fortunate to be able to create a bilingual environment at home. From day 1 (for both of our boys) I would speak to them only in English (I’m from New Zealand) and my wife, from Chile, only in Spanish. Since we live in Chile and have more contact with Spanish, we make sure to have the kiddies tv programmes on in English as much as possible. And, it’s amazing just how much they pick up from tv too. Occasionally one of the boys will come out with a word that I KNOW I haven’t ever said to them. Where did they get it? From tv. Now that the eldest is only 5, it is good to see how they understand (almost) all instructions and things we say in both languages.
    Saludos

  • Edmund Yong

    languages mixed in conversation ? . I’m a Malaysian Chinese and nearly all of us knows Chinese , English and Malay (3 MUST in school) plus some Chinese dialect –Cantonese , Taiwanese , Hakka and…We  mixed at least 3 languages and some times up to 5.There’s a huge advantage of knowing so many.When we forget a word in Chinese ,we just  say it in another language and others will understand well (even feel normal ). So if you happen to learning Chinese or Cantonese and travel to Malaysia, don’t be surprised to hear a Chinese+English+Cantonese conversation. This is normal for us since we live in a multilingual country and forced to learn 3 languages (not include dialect) when we are still in Kindergarten. 

  • Cecile

    What an inspiring article! :) My kids (6 and 3 years old) are fluent in only English. And now that my daughter is going to a school where they have two subjects taught in Filipino, I find myself in a panic daily, scrambling for ways to painlessly teach her Filipino at home. So far, our sessions have resulted in migraines for me and frustration for my daughter. Reading what you wrote has opened new doors for me (and consequently, my kids). I will try it your way. i once talked to a language teacher and she told me that kids’ brains are most ripe for learning languages when they’re around 6 years old – this is when they are able to master another language without losing their grip on the language/s they already know.

    Thanks for writing what you did. Subscribing to your blog now.

    • Sara Cadeco

      I think it the teacher meant that 6 years old is the top threshold. A linguist told me that you can only be 100% fluent at a language if you learn it BEFORE you are 6 (you can be very close to 100% but not quite, if you learn it as an adult or an older child).

  • disqus_MeWZUStD5X

    I grew up learning 3 languages. Living in Canada we were speaking English and learning French as a second language and at home both my parents were speaking to us in Greek. Both parents are from Greece. I am now living in Greece and with both my children, being more strict with my second, I spoke and speak to them in English. My second speaks almost quite fluently but from the moment he was born I only spoke English where as my first it was more half and half.

  • Meiko

    Oh man, I wish I was this lucky. My father’s first language is Spanish and he has a fullfledged accent. But I don’t know a dime of Spanish and this is frustrating when my grandparents come to visit espically when my Grandmother speaks NO English and my Dad’s brother speaks English but it is harder for him and his wife (my aunt) understand english but can only say simple words as coming from a predominate Spanish speaking country. I wish I knew two languages but I know only basics of several languages.

  • Aye Mya Hmway

    Thanks, Marilia! I have a 2years old niece and I found your article really helpful. English is not my first language. So, even if I can speak it to adults, I find it hard for me to speak english to her.Like you said, it doesn’t come out naturally.But I’ll try coz you said we could.Thz, again !

  • marianne

    I totally see our own experience while reading your article. It is true that most of the articles I came accross since our son is born recommend each parent to stick with ONE language. In my case, I spent my childhood in Vietnam, moved to France at 14 years old and now living in Canada … Being trilingual is part of my normal day-to-day and even though I tried to, I can’t control speaking all 3 languages to my son since he is born. Now is he 3.5 years old and I am amazed to see how he switches from French to English without any accent, unlike his mommy :). When he speaks French and notices the person does not understand, he repeats the same thing but in english … I am so proud !!!!! About languages that parents can’t speak …true too. He is just watching Diego (and Dora too :) and learn spanish … So I have no choice but downloading an apps and learn Spanish with him too … It is truly a journey and I am learning to be a mom and getting better every days …thanks for sharing. I am glad to read that I am not alone to try with what I believe best for my little man :)

  • Sara Cadeco

    Hello, found this article today and really enjoyed it. I have a question for you though: I am Portuguese, and I live in the UK. I’ve lived here for 5 years now and my fiance is British. He doesn’t speak any portuguese (I’ve been trying to teach him but he is not very patient). What should we do when we have kids? I want them to learn Portuguese but if I talk to my child in Portuguese only, my fiance won’t understand a thing… Any ideas?

    • Sara Cadeco

      And any ideas on how to teach an adult?

  • Sukanya Suki Buaban

    I speaks Thai, Lao, English ( Thai and Lao are pretty similar ) I have a 3 and a half yrs daughter we came to visit my mom in Thailand ( we lives in U.S.A.) for the past 7 months now she mixed up all 3 languages together in the same tensense, is that something I should be worry? Would she forget English if we stay here too long and no one using english with her?? Please comment
    Thank you.

  • Elena

    Wow thanks! your story was really helpful and cute! Me and my fiancee also speak daily 3 languages (we mix like crazy words as we are both from different nationalities) and we were actually wondering how hard it is going to be when we will have our own kids. It is reassuring to know that others go through this too and are doing so well. I will definetly follow your blog. Chapeau!

  • Kiley Chamberlain

    I’m am trying to teach my kids spanish- I am native in English- but I am still not all the way fluent- I know I say lots of things wrong all the time- with my sentence structure. I worry about teaching my kids bad language. What would you suggest? Should I refrain from saying things that are not grammatically correct- when I don’t know exactly how to say it the right way- or should I just teach them everything I know even if it’s not all the way correct?