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Raising children bilingual, trilingual (or more)

post #1 of 103
Thread Starter 
Are any of you raising children in several languages at once? Post anecdotes, tips, advice, etc.
post #2 of 103
My son is enrolled in the French immersion program here in BC:
http://www.bced.gov.bc.ca/policy/pol..._immersion.htm

He started grade 1 yesterday and his schooling at this time is completely in French, as it was in kindergarten.

My wife went through this program to grade 12 and is effectively bilingual. She also picks up other languages quickly and easily.

We have decided to give him extra tutoring in English reading because her brother did not take to the French program and returned to English several years behind his peers. If our son does not prosper in French we will put him in an English class.

My French would embarrass a schoolboy. We don't regularly speak French at home although we do encourage him as much as possible. We will often read his bedtime story en Francais. We spent three weeks in France this summer and he did try to use his French although he was painfully shy.
post #3 of 103
Great topic Fabienne. This is something my wife and I discuss on a regular basis. We are both francophone from Montreal but now live in Toronto. We decided before our first child was born to speak to him, and amongst ourselves at home, strictly in French. I know far too many French speakers whose children, though they can understand it, can barely speak it and I feel it's a shame given how easily certain kids can learn multiple languages. Now that he's four, Noam is fluently bilingual but probably has a more extensive vocabulary in French. He speaks English with his nanny and playground friends...

English is a relatively easy language to pick up and one that will be learned simply by virtue of living in North America. Other languages OTOH cannot be learned without a sustained, conscious effort when living in a predominantly anglophone environment. It's a struggle and I know many families where only one parent speaks another language and after a while the children simply stick with English all the time. One of the things we have done in addition to the French at home policy is to show all DVDs in French (in Canada, they all come with both language options) and sending him to French school (he's starting preschool tomorrow ).

Before the age of 5-7, children have an amazing ability to learn different languages that then deteriorates over time according to some theories. That said, some kids (just like adults) are better at learning languages than others. Noam is remarkably adept at articulating very different sounds and words. I read books in Hebrew to him and he's learned quite a few words. He also has Spanish books and videos and has learned a few words there too. I hope he will speak at least three, if not four, languages by the time he reaches adulthood. My daughter Annaleah (20 months now) is not quite as verbal as her brother.

My advice is to be persistent and consistent in only speaking to the child in French or other. When he was smaller, Noam would translate into French what his nanny would say to us in English because in his world, we speak French and his nanny English - it was very cute. Now he understands and sees me speaking English to people outside but will still speak to me in French. I hope it continues... we're trying our best.
post #4 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmac
My wife went through this program to grade 12 and is effectively bilingual. She also picks up other languages quickly and easily.

I think that's the key. We considered French immersion because there are some excellent schools in our neighborhood with those programs. My experience from other kids I knew growing up and from what the schools themselves say is that at the end of French immersion, students will be functionally, or effectively, bilingual, rather than truly fluent in French. That's certainly better than no French but it falls short for those who are Francophone and want their kids to be fluent. At recess, the kids all speak English and French becomes associated with school, homework, chores....
post #5 of 103
I only speak English, but I'm making The Gifted Child take four years of French in high school.

Everyone said to take Spanish, claiming it to be more relevent to job prospects, but I'm glad it's French instead.
post #6 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
I only speak English, but I'm making The Gifted Child take four years of French in high school.
Speaking from experience Checks, that is the absolute minumum your child will require to have any kind of functional French. It's what I have - 4 years of a modern language is university entrance requirement in Scotland - and my French is awful.

Unless you are able to expose your child to a concentrated French speaking environment - school, vacations, etc - it will be very difficult for them to gain any kind of fluency.

There are French ecoles here but those are for genuine Francophones rather than Anglophones who like small classes and want their kids to do well academically, as well as the language skills.
post #7 of 103
I will say this, french immersion is a poor substitute for a completely french school. My father was british and my mother was capable of speaking french (her mother was french canadian), but didn't. The way I did it, and I'm fluent in both, was all english at home, but then I got sent to a french school from grades 1-3. I then went to a private english school for 4-6, french for 7-9, english for the rest. I basically repeated grade 9 in english because i switched provinces, was switching from french to english and the math/science curriculum was different.

I did mostly private schools and even at the english ones I took first-language french and was able to compete fine with the real first language french speakers. I haven't used my french that much in recent years but unlike a lot of immersion kids, I'll never lose it and it always comes back super-fast. The biggest thing that suffers is my vocab but that's not a huge deal since i'm still highly functional.

Obviously intelligence has something to do with it and i picked-up french very easily, but I think the all french environment really helped. Immersion just isn't the same and i expect it's even worse today. Since all the kids are basically english, they all speak english in class and to other students, despite what the teachers say.

My brother and sister both went to french immersion elementary school, but they didn't learn it properly until we got moved to quebec and they were forced in to french schools where they not only had to speak to the teachers in french, but to their friends as well.I on the other hand was, pretty comfortable with it by grade 3.

My brother also learned spanish as an adult by spending 3 months in Peru. It would have taken him much longer to learn the same amount if he was just taking ti in class and then speaking english the rest of the time. On that note, my salsa dancing has motivated me to learn spanish since I'll have lots of people to practice it with.

I think languages are best learned when you're completely immersed in it.
post #8 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek
I will say this, french immersion is a poor substitute for a completely french school.

Its not supposed to be a substitute for a French school. I'd be pretty confident in my wife's French against anyone other than a genuine Francophone.
post #9 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmac
Speaking from experience Checks, that is the absolute minumum your child will require to have any kind of functional French. It's what I have - 4 years of a modern language is university entrance requirement in Scotland - and my French is awful.

Unless you are able to expose your child to a concentrated French speaking environment - school, vacations, etc - it will be very difficult for them to gain any kind of fluency.

There are French ecoles here but those are for genuine Francophones rather than Anglophones who like small classes and want their kids to do well academically, as well as the language skills.

The only option for us would be intensive summer study in preparation for the AP exam as a senior, which is a possibility.
post #10 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmac
Its not supposed to be a substitute for a French school. I'd be pretty confident in my wife's French against anyone other than a genuine Francophone.

Perhaps, but i know a lot of people that went through french immersion programs that finished with pretty useless french that was quickly forgotten. Although I suppoes the effectiveness of the program depends par

Since Fabienne is french (and can help with reading and homework), if I were her, and I'm not a parent or anything, but if I was and I wanted my kid to be tri-lingual, I'd nail two languages in to their heads as quickly as possible by tossing them in to an all-french environment. Now whether or not that's advisable depends on the individual child. I'm sure some kids would get totally stressed out. There are too many variables for anyone to make decisions for her. My commonsense approach would be to get a good foundation in two languages and then add a third like spanish, which will naturally come quite easily after learning french.

Anyway, I'm sure there are people far more qualified than us here on SF when it comes to the best way to raise a child that speaks multiple languages. Fab, I'm sure there are good books in this area if you do some research.
post #11 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
The only option for us would be intensive summer study in preparation for the AP exam as a senior, which is a possibility.

You might consider a student exchange program to France/Quebec if good second language skills are important to you and your child.

My missus spent a couple of summers in France speaking exclusively French.

I was at a wedding in Burgundy a few years ago, Parisian family whose daughter was getting married at their country place outside Macon. At the pre-wedding reception I was mortified when, as soon as people realized I didn't speak decent French, the entire conversation switched to flawless English for my benefit.
post #12 of 103
Thread Starter 
Background on my situation: My son turned 4 last week, and is fluent in French and English, with perhaps slightly better vocabulary in French. We live in the US and I am almost exclusively the only person speaking French to him; my husband speaks English to our son. Two weeks ago, he started within the French immersion program of a private international school. There are two other little boys who have one Francophone parent in the class, and the teacher says they all speak French to one another in class.

Given the fact that he seems equally at ease in both languages, I decided to enroll him in German classes on Saturday mornings. The fun kind, games, songs, etc., taught by a native German former elementary school teacher. I speak German, but not being native, I have not emphasized that language beyond reading books to him, speaking it when German-speaking friends are visiting, or watching German TV (and interpreting at times for him into French).

I just hope I did the right thing, enrolling him in that German class.

PS: if he stays at that school, he'll get Spanish classes starting at age 11.
post #13 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Checks
I only speak English, but I'm making The Gifted Child take four years of French in high school.

Everyone said to take Spanish, claiming it to be more relevent to job prospects, but I'm glad it's French instead.

And how did The Gifted Child react to being forced to learn French?
post #14 of 103
Quote:
Originally Posted by Fabienne
Background on my situation: My son turned 4 last week, and is fluent in French and English, with perhaps slightly better vocabulary in French. We live in the US and I am almost exclusively the only person speaking French to him; my husband speaks English to our son. Two weeks ago, he started within the French immersion program of a private international school. There are two other little boys who have one Francophone parent in the class, and the teacher says they all speak French to one another in class.

Given the fact that he seems equally at ease in both languages, I decided to enroll him in German classes on Saturday mornings. The fun kind, games, songs, etc., taught by a native German former elementary school teacher. I speak German, but not being native, I have not emphasized that language beyond reading books to him, speaking it when German-speaking friends are visiting, or watching German TV (and interpreting at times for him into French).

I just hope I did the right thing, enrolling him in that German class.

PS: if he stays at that school, he'll get Spanish classes starting at age 11.

Does it have an IB program later on? Anyway, it sounds like you've got it figured out if the kid is already comfortable in both languages. In my experience a lot of people are shy about speaking their second language because they're not as comfortable with it. Your child doesn't seem to have that problem.
post #15 of 103
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GQgeek
Does it have an IB program later on? Anyway, it sounds like you've got it figured out if the kid is already comfortable in both languages. In my experience a lot of people are shy about speaking their second language because they're not as comfortable with it. Your child doesn't seem to have that problem.

International Baccalaureate? Yes. I'm wondering about the usefulness of such a degree. Any input?

Oh, he's not shy about anything, he'll talk to anyone in any language at his disposal, when we travel.
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