Raising a Trilingual Child
Would you like to know how my wife and I are raising a trilingual child because this might be useful for you if as parents you speak a different language at home, and maybe live in a country that doesn't speak your native language.
Today I came across a post on Steemit, which was interesting: Bilingual Children - Development
I commented on the post and this inspired me to share my experience because this can be useful to some parents on Steemit, or parents who will search this topic on Google.
Raising a Trilingual Child
Raising a bilingual child is already a difficult task, but raising a trilingual child is even more challenging.
Even before my daughter was born, I researched the topic and there are lots of books about raising bilingual children, but not so much for trilingual children.
I read two books that were very useful, which I don't remember the title as I have given them to a friend, and many other articles, and we decided to go for the one parent one language method.
My wife is Thai and I am French, so each of us speaks to our daughter in our own native language. My wife speaks in Thai to her and I speak in French to her, even though I could speak in Thai as well as in English.
My wife and I communicate in Thai at home and English is the added language.
There are two different periods, before the child goes to school and after.
Before 4 years old, before school.
Before 4 years old, my daughter didn't go to school and we started on day one the one parent one language method. So from birth to 4 years old she had listened to the two languages and learned that Daddy speaks this beautiful language and Mommy this musical and fascinating language.
So how came the English into this?
My wife and I never talked to her in English, except when it was for educational purpose, like flash cards, books, toys with words, English alphabets and apps.
From birth she listened to songs both in English and French, never in Thai. Later, cartoons were in French mainly, then English, but Thai was a no-no. We used a lot of educational applications for the iPad in English, which she enjoyed playing with. When in the car, there were always children songs in English or French.
With all this language input, our daughter was still not speaking any of these 3 languages at 4 years old. She knew the alphabet and numbers and some words, but wasn't speaking.
There is some research saying that bilingual or trilingual children do not experience language delay and others that say they do. I believe it all depends on the child because each child learn things at different speeds.
In addition, our daughter was diagnosed with autism at two and a half years old that we corrected with frequent occupational therapy and Applied Behavioral Analysis sessions, and her language delay was probably due to the autism, not the multiple languages. She was never medicated by the way, and that was our choice.
You may want to read:
- My name is Christina, I am Three!
- Christina and speech therapy for toddlers
- Second visit to the speech and language therapist
That's what I wrote in this last post when she was 3 years old.
If I had to summarize what she can say now at 34 months, it would be:
– Thai: ไป (go), ขอ (ask for) and เอา (get/have)
>> Input from Mother, Grandmother & Grandfather, and environment.
>> Ipad: Songs
– French: Oui oui, 1 to 10, alphabet (partially)
>> Input from Father
>> Ipad/Com/TV: French cartoons and songs, Ipad applications
– English: Star, Circle, 1 to 10, alphabet (near perfection)
>> Input from Mother & Father in study situations (books, boards…)
>> Ipad/Com: English educational songs and Ipad applications
In my opinion, speech therapy is good to identify where the child is in language development, but when the child is not ready to speak, it's just a waste of money. We just had a few sessions and that was it.
At that time, we still were worried and wondered when she would speak, questioning our one parent one language method.
After 4 years old, going to school.
That's when she started school and we enrolled her in an international* school for pre-KG and KG1 where English was the language taught. Then, we moved her in a Thai school with an English program for KG2 and KG3 she just finished. She will be in Grade 1 in the same school, in May this year.
We continued the one parent one language method and the same inputs from other media. Our daughter started to speak at five years old and this was very late. At six she started to understand that 3 languages were involved and what they were. She also perfectly understood that Thai was for Mom and French was for Dad.
Our daughter is 7 years old now and her main language is English, she has a perfect pronunciation with no accent. She is catching up with the Thai language and has lost her foreign accent when speaking Thai. Even though her mother tongue is Thai, living in Thailand, she didn't sound like a native Thai.
Unfortunately, French is behind because there is only one of me. The environment is mainly Thai and English, and even though I speak only in French to her, it is not enough. That's why we have started this year French lessons at the Alliance Française in Bangkok, and this has helped a lot, especially in her motivation to learn more French because she realized other people speak French too.
She can't stop talking and singing now, and I am saying this because from a child saying nothing, it is quite an improvement. This is for parents who are worried: "Be patient!"
So, even if we did not see results immediately, we planted the seeds early on. It is just now a matter of learning more vocabulary and practicing all three languages.
When she plays alone she will use the 3 languages, do translations. She knows I can understand Thai, so she would talk to me in Thai when she can't say it in French and I will always respond in French in words she can understand. I will teach her new French words, tell her the equivalent in English.
Basically, around the table, at home, you will hear 3 languages. My wife and I speak in Thai, our daughter and I speak in French, and our daughter and her Mom speak in Thai. We have a clear separation of the languages depending to whom you are talking to.
This is the experience we have in our family about language development and I hope this post is useful for you if you want to raise a child with multiple languages.
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