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We are a spanish couple living in London and we have a 2 months old daughter.Although we both speak good English (albeit heavily accented)outside home we speak Spanish to each other and read/listen Spanish often.
We have been reading about all the advantages of multilingualism and are determined to do everything we can to help our daughter to learn languages.

After reading in this site we think the best method for us is ML@H since we believe she will eventually learn English,
My first question is: do you think this is the best approach?

My second question is:
Our plan is to move to France in a few years and we have both just started to study French to be able to get by in the country, we would like our daughter to speak French if possible, do you think adding French to Spanish and English is realistic?

London being a multicultural city, the idea is to find a bilingual French/English school for her and also participate in playgroups, language inmersion,get her to watch and listen to French at home,etc but we are also concerned it could be too much for her and we don’t want to fall on the “Super Baby Trap”

Thanks in advance.
Erik K

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My answer to question 1:

Yes, that is a good approach. I don’t know if it’s actually the very best possible way, but I can’t think of anything better.

However, there is one issue: You must make sure that somebody is speaking English to your daughter. Letting her listen to English on television will not be enough. Don’t wait for preschool, and don’t wait until she is old enough to play with other children. Even if nobody else will do this, you can speak to her, and read stories to her, in English when you are outside the home.

My answer to question 2:

Yes, adding French is realistic. It will not be too much for her. Many people handle three languages easily, especially if they start at your daughter’s age.

This has the same issue as English: Somebody should speak French to her, starting NOW.

I don’t know how old your daughter must be before she can join a playgroup. But there is one thing you could do today: find a native French parent who reads stories to his/her own child, and ask if your daughter can listen too. Actually, you could also do this with an English parent reading English stories.

Can you devote some time now to learning how to pronounce French words? You will have to do that someday, so maybe you should learn that now. After learning pronunciation, one of you two could read French children’s stories to your daughter, perhaps when you are not at home. I think this is OK even if you don’t yet understand all of the words.


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What worked in our family (English speakers living in a Latin American country) was to speak only English at home all the time.  Her father who was bilingual never spoke Spanish to my daughter.  She picked Spanish up when she first started nursery school at 16 months.  Within a year she spoke both languages very well.  Now at 7 1/2 years she’s fluent in both English and Spanish.

It’s a process but well worth it.  The main thing is to be consistant.

Good luck

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I agree with Jen, you should both be speaking only your native language to her at home – in your case Spanish. Dont mix the languages – let her know, that Mamma and Papa speak Spanish. If possible get her into an English playgroup – every village church has one – or nursery, and she’ll pick up English easily.

However I dont agree with Erik, that you should be teaching your daughter French. You are not native speakers, only learning yourself, and she has no reason so far to learn. You say you’ll be moving to France “in a few years” so I assume your daughter will be no older than 3-5 y.o. then. If she’s already bilingual by then, and you move to France, I guarantee you she’ll learn the language within a year. You and your spouse can study and prepare French for the next few years, your daughter will catch you up within her first year living there 🙂 If I were you, I’d concentrate on English and Spanish right now.

It’s my experience that young children will learn any number of words in any language you expose them too, but they will not speak the language properly untill they have a reason to do so – ex. family, friends, everyday contact.


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Thank you both for your answers.

Erik K, thanks for your suggestions, we are almost convinced to try for 3 languages. Your ideas about getting someone to read/speak in English and French make perfect sense, we need to try to find the way to do it.

Any more suggestions/ideas to keep the third language (and not forget the second) will be welcomed.
Is there anyone here, parents of same nationality leaving in another country and adding a 3rd language to the mix?

Jen, thanks for sharing your experience, we are convinced that she will learn English and Spanish. The 3rd language will be the difficult one I believe.

Thank you.

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Hi Caroline, thanks for your response as well, I didn´t ignore you on my last reply,it seems like we posted at the same time.
As I said we were almost convinced to try 3 languages but your point about her not speaking it until she has a reason it´s making me rethink this.
Quite confused at the moment actually, any more pros and cons will really help us make a decision.

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Hi Peri,

I think you’re doing great. Speaking your native language is best and introducing French is also a great option. But as others mentioned, until your child feels the need and desire to speak French, she probably won’t. I have seen this with my kids learning French and Arabic. My 5 year old refuses to speak Arabic but one day she desperately wanted to watch Tom and Jerry and so she spontaneously asked our hosts in Arabic where the movie was and if she could watch it.

In terms of English, I honestly would not worry about it. If you are living in London, your child will learn English. There is a magnetic pull towards English. Even infants and toddlers are sensitive to social dynamics and they realize that English is the “cool” or prestigious language in London. Once you get to France, you may need to nurture English a bit more. Some experts recommend the “hot house” method in which you limit exposure to the majority, prestigious language (in your case, English) for the first few years of life, in order to nurture the minority language. Really, if you are living in London, do not worry about English, except for 20 minutes of reading a day, as mentioned below.

Reading is one of the most important things you can do with your kids. You should read 20 minutes a day in Spanish. The vocabulary and other benefits in the first language will carry over to additional languages. You can also add English if you feel comfortable. If not, hire a babysitter to read 20 minutes in English as part of her duties, or listen to books on tape with your child (but you have to be present and cuddling up with your child. Technology itself will not teach your child). You should also ask someone to read 20 minutes a day in French, or use books on tape. If that seems like a lot, you can alternate days.

I read to my kids in English (our mother-tongue) for half an hour to forty-five minutes every night, and am going to start adding one French book to that time, now that they are at French preschool. I am also trying to find someone to read to them in Arabic, but so far the language helpers/babysitters I have found do not feel comfortable reading out loud in Arabic. There is also a lack of good, simple children’s books in Arabic. But I believe it is important and so I am going to keep trying. My reading in Arabic is much too laboured to be entertaining to the children!

I would also caution against relying too much on television. Research has shown that it is not effective in teaching either a first or second language to children under the age of 2 and many doctors say that television in any language can be damaging to children under 2. When they get to preschool age, they will benefit from limited, age appropriate tv or dvd viewing in either language if you sit and watch it with them and interact with them about what is going on on the screen.

An excellent book I would recommend is “The Bilingual Edge” by Kendall and King. They highlight recent research and make it accessible to parents.

Best wishes!


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Wow Anna,thanks for your extended reply.You certainly seem to have studied this field in depth.

Thanks for the advises, it really helps deciding what we need to do.
Cn I ask another question,our daughter was born 2 months prematurely and she is now 2 and a half months, is it too early to start the language plan (in this case introducing French)? I’m asking this because for other physical and mental development tables and guidelines it’s recommended to look at the corrected age (taking 40 weeks as a full term), she has a corrected age of 2 weeks only.

Regarding kids not speaking a language until they feel the need of desire I was thinking there must be some things that can be done to help with this, playgroups, make friends with other French kids,etc. In fact if there is anyone with kids being raised in French living in London interested in some language exchange we could think of a method to exchange French and Spanish.

As you mention you read to your kids in English, can I ask you were you live?
what method are you using? if you’re living outside an English speaking country, are you reading in English as it is the minority language and also try to intruduce Arabic (French?)?

Thanks again for your replies.


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We have almost decided to go ahead with teaching our daughter French, as per the posts above.We will both study french at the same time as we try her to learn it.

Thinking of resources that can help us I was wondering if someone could tell us what is the best way to get French TV channels in the UK, I know TV5 broadcast on Virgin Media but I´m not sure is the best channel for a baby to learn I was hoping to be able to get children channels to make it easier and more enjoyable for the baby.

Does it have to be using an aerial dish? can anyone tell me if TV5 have any programs for babies/children?

… and following on from my last post, if someone is interested in a French playgroup or a language interchange Spanish-French please reply to this post or send me a private message.


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