If your LO is bi/multilingual — The Bump
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If your LO is bi/multilingual

which language they start reading in first? We are doing the One Parent One Language approach and my DD who's 5 and will start Kindergarten this fall seems more interested and can read some (basic stuff) in Spanish (my language) vs in English where she is sounding out words but gets frustrated and wants her dad to read to her. This is also happening with writing. The Kindergarten is in the States and will be in English with one hour of Spanish a day. She did a year of Kindergarten in Germany but it was all in German plus they don't teach reading and writing there until later. So what she knows in English and Spanish is what my DH and I have worked with her on. I stay at home so I know that is one reason that I have more time to work with her than my husband does. I just concerned that she will be behind when she starts school in a couple weeks.

Re: If your LO is bi/multilingual

  • PP is correct. Studies show that they do appear to be slower at first, but quickly catch up and then are above their peers. We are a bilingual family-Spanish/English.  My DH is from ARG and even though I have requested that he speaks to her in Spanish, he rarely does.  He did not come into our lives until she was 3 so the only exposure she had to Spanish was through me (my native language is English).  Also, she has a hard time understanding his accent, whereas if I speak to her, she can much better understand me.

    Anyhow, my LO learned to read English first, but this summer I started teaching her to read Spanish. She is opposite of your LO--she tries to sound out the Spanish words as they would sound in English. But as I have worked more with her, she is learning.

    You will find that young children are not like adults, they are able to soak things up like sponges. Your LO will quickly pick up English if she is exposed to it every day, I promise!


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  • This is extremely interesting. We're technically going to have to be trilingual. English/Danish/Icelandic. I'm America, DH is Danish, but LO will be growing up in Iceland. I worry about the Icelandic since neither of us are natural speakers, but, s/he will need it to succeed in school. Any advice??
    BabyFruit Ticker mean_girls_35345
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  • How is she doing? My ds is 5 and just started k. We do opol. He is about equal in chinese and English. If I would have to pick one that is less of a challenge it is English only because he is at school 5 days a week and as his mom I tend to use more words with him and work on the skill more. We do have apps/games that help with identifying chinese words and that has been benifial to him. He loves games and it is just one more tool we use to help him learn the Language as well as having a stock of books in both languages. My son also likes leap pad for English games. I think your daughter will do fine. My son gets frustrated all the time with reading. It takes a lot of effort. Take baby steps. You just have to judge how much she can take w/o getting too frustrated. Our k has children from all levels some read some can't.
  • We spoke English and Dutch from day one.
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  • I have no idea how we are going to do all of our languages.
    I speak English and Welsh
    FH is a bit of a polyglot - His 3 main languages are English, Zulu and Afrikaans. But he also speaks Sesotho and Tsonga. 

    So god knows how we are going to attempt that


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  • My friend's nieces are quadrilingual; Italian, English, German and Romanian. I believe what her BR and SIL did was spoke one language only for 1.5 days a week (like, they had Italian on Mondays and Friday mornings, English on Tuesdays and Friday afternoons, ect) and spoke a mix of the four on Sundays, which seemed to work really well for them, except, since the girls are twins, they ended up speaking a mix of the four a lot when they first started Nursery, which nobody else understood. 

    But yeah, multilingual kids do seem behind at first, but they catch up quickly, and then then end up being able to do everything in two+ languages, which is great.

    Personally, when I have I child, I'm going to try and teach it Icelandic as well, though we will probably be living in the UK, and English is my mother tongue. I speak Icelandic fluently, and the UK government are really pushing to get more kids multilingual

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  • I'm not surprised your child can read more easily in Spanish than in English. Learning to read in Spanish occurs at a developmentally earlier age than in English because Spanish is much more phonetic than English in its spelling. Just give your child time, and remember (as per PP) that she is learning twice as much vocabulary.
    [Deleted User]
  • I had friends in Mexico that she was Dominican, he was Finish and school taught English. So mom took 2 and Dad took 2; with English overlapping. They'd try to leave out the English as much as possible at home and at 2 and 6, those kids were great. The 6 yo was absolutely fluent; she was trying to teach ME Finish! The 2 to would garble something out and I could tell what language it was, but mum and dad could.


    I'm hoping to atleast have a "Spanish day" or I like the idea of meals or set activities to practice once LO comes around. Would be good for me too. We're both native English, but I've had 18 yrs of Spanish and lived in Mexico and Chile. Hoping I can teach right.......
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    BabyFruit Ticker
  • We are trying One Parent One Language approach. DH speaks to him in Swedish & I speak to him in English but we use English as a family language. My LO is 18 months & not really saying more than mama. But I was at his 18 month check-up and they told me that talking will take a little longer since he gets 2 languages at home. He just started daycare and they do language training so I think his Swedish will develop faster now than his English (my native language). He goes to a multi-cultural daycare so I'd guess that about 75% of the kids are coming from a 2 language household so he's in good company!
  • kimey1kimey1 member
    I'm so fascinated to read this post. After having lost my baby to a missed miscarriage I was seeking comfort here since I'm a multilingual having lived in multiple places. So thanks babymamas all over the world!

    I spoke my mother tongue fluently till I got too the states and had to learn English. I had an odd pattern of ignoring my native language and absorbing English entirely. My parents enforced speaking Korean at home so I wouldn't forget but I rebeled by fasting and my dad gave up. While in the states my mother had my aunt send me math and korean grammar books for my grade level each year and she taught me. As time passed reading Korean became so difficult it would take me an hour to read half a page, and I had no idea what it meant. Had my dad been more persistent and I listened to him, I would've returned to Korea a perfect bilingual. Instead, when we returned to Korea I pretty much relearned Korean.

    In cases like mine, children have a strong foundation of another language to base their learning of the second language. This is also why one may not speak that well if their knowledge and usage oft heir native language is not up to par.

    Since your little ones will have to learn the same words in two or more languages at once, it will take more time at first. But, once they pick up both or more, they'll pick up the rest swiftly. It's fascinating to read about each experience as children. I'm a language major that studied with a many cosmopolitan multilinguals and each person's experience of learning their second or third language can be so different :)

    Fun fact: multilingual people tend to learn quickly and get bored of things easily!
  • Anwar learned to speak English and Arabic at the same time and will learn to read English first
  • I have a friend who grew up with English (mom) & French (dad) and he said he's never had a good relationship with his dad and he thinks the language barrier was the problem because he grew up in the US and was more comfortable with English. Not saying that it's not possible to make work, it certainly is, but just make sure to be a little flexible because the parent speaking the language that isn't local to where you're living can end up separating him/herself from the child.

    DD will be going to a Spanish language school when we move, DH will speak decent Spanish by then and I'll be working to learn it along with DD. The plan is to speak as much Spanish together as possible.
  • Hassan is just starting to speak and uses both Arabic and English....he understands both as well...the problem is that I think he doesn't differentiate between the two yet ... When I ask in English what is that (Apple) he says apple tufaha. It's funny and cute but I hope he will learn to separate them!
    kimey1yasandson
  • My LO is 15 months old and understands both arabic and english. We speak with both with her and she can take direction using both languages.
    kimey1
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