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I am an American, live here, and have all my life. No one in my family is an immigrant, and we don’t take pride in our heritage at all, so none of us have had to learn a foreign language except at school and some have even managed to get out of that. I’m the only one in my family who knows another language, French, and that’s just from school.

My significant other is Romanian, born and bred in Transylvania his whole life and still lives there. Due to circumstances before he was born, his parents don’t know any English, and neither does anyone in his family from what I know. Some may speak a little Russian from what I remember, but they wouldn’t remember much if they did because they haven’t used it. While I took French, he learned German.

We’re both fluent in English because we’re learned it since kindergarten and America has a worldwide media presence, so he was exposed to it a lot growing up. Meanwhile, in Romania, apparently French, German, and Italian are the most common foreign languages next to English and, in places like his hometown especially, sometimes Hungarian is pretty present.

Now, say we married and I moved to Romania to be with him. I became a French teacher. We would both fluently know English and Romanian, I would know French and him German.

How would we go about teaching our children all 4 languages at least, maybe with another (such as aforementioned Russian or Hungarian) as well? I’ve always heard the OPOL approach, and if there’s a different language spoken in the community or at school, they’ll pick those up like that but, since we would both be trilingual, most likely speaking English at home, Romanian outside, and French at school (for me; he understands German but doesn’t use it all too often), would it work if we spoke in Romanian outside the home and when around his family, English at home from me, German at home from him, and me teaching French like I would at school, possibly with another language as we heard it while out and about or our children asked what certain words meant in, say, Hungarian when they saw them on signs?

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Hi my name is Tetsu, and I raised my kids in 5 languages (Mandarin, Japanese, English, French, Spanish). My oldest is 5 and he’s got all 5 languages down solid ( I am a firm believer of OPOL, as I was raised that way, and I am replicating the exact same thing for my kids. I do Mandarin, my wife does Japanese, they go to day care in French, and I have a Mexican au pair. I also had an au pair for English for a while.

One advice from me would be to NOT switch around with your languages when speaking to your children. I speak the above-mentioned 5 languages fluently and another 5 to intermediate levels, but I stick to Mandarin and NEVER switch around with my kids. Yes, they know that I speak other languages as they see me speak to others. But the point is to create a habit for them to speak 1 specific language with you. Get it to a point where it would be weird to do otherwise. I think that if you switch around, then very soon, they will pick the one that they are most comfortable with and refuse to speak the other ones.

I will give a talk at LangFest Montreal ( this Aug 25-27, 2017. If anyone is in Montreal, I hope to see you there! By the way, Bella Devyatkina, the little 5 year-old Russian girl who speaks 8 languages will also be there. Her mother will be speaking about how she went about raising Bella.

Good luck with everything.


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