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Heidi Moser

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I want to ask if someone as any advice, suggestions. my family has rather a unique situation. I live in Italy, but the German-speaking part (South Tyrol), so my first language is German, but of course I am fluent in Italian too. My mother is English so I guess I can say I have to first languages: German and English. My husband is from Zimbabwe so his first language is English too, but his parents were originally from Slovakia, so he speaks Slovak too (but English is his first language). Now at the same time we live in a unique area in Italy (Val Gardena) where three languages are spoken: German, Italian and Ladin (and to make matters even more complicated the German we speak is a dialect). We have chosen to both speak English to our girls (aged 3 and 18 months). The older one has just started kindergarden. There they speak in a different language every week. One week German, one week Italian and one week Ladin. Gradually when they learn more German in kindergarden /school I will probably start speaking more and more German with them too ( this is how my parents did it with me), Ladin is spoken mainly by the community and Italian will be continued in school. However they never hear Slovak. My parents-in-law (they see them twice a year) speak English to them as of course otherwise they wouldn’t understand them. I would like them to learn at least enough Slovak to be able to understand and make themselves understood. Any suggestions how I can go about that? I let them watch Slovak DVD s but am not a great TV fan. Is a fifth language tooo much? Thanks for your ideas.
Heidi Moser


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Wow, that’s a lot of languages!

The obvious suggestion would be for you to adopt OPOL, with your husband always speaking Slovak and you speaking English.  Presumably your girls will pick up all of the German, Italian, and Ladin they need from their environment.  If you become concerned they are falling behind (esp. in German, which sounds like it will be the language of their peers), one of you can start speaking more German to them.

I’m jealous my daughter is only learning two languages, not five!  (We’re doing Portuguese and English, modified OPOL.)  Perhaps I’ll find an excuse to move to Switzerland someday.


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Ciao Heidi, what a complex yet fascinating lingustic arrangement you have!
I can relate to your desire for the girls to learn Slovack too. Apart from frequent trips to Slovakia (or wherever the grandparents reside), you might want to find out if there are any other Slovak speaking families in your area and hook up; also, something silly as a webcam and regular (weekly) /video/phonecalls with the grandparents may do wonders to strenghten the emotional link and, therefore, the girls’ desire to be able to communicate with them. I agree TV is not necessarily the preferred source, but music CDs ?
I think the 5th language (at least vebrally) could be feasable but you have to set up a strategy and be very consistent in providing them with enough, regular exposure.
I am fascinated by the kindegarden weekly rotation, could you email me more about that system? Best of luck to you!


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that’s a great question (and a complex situation!). If it’s ok with you, I wrote about it on my (brand new!) blog: We’re raising our kid bilingually (I guess 2 languages is easy!), and I’d love to be in touch with more parents
S. Svensson

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Our daughters are 4 and I speak English to them when we are alone, my husband only French, the nanny Italian, and in school they have German (we live in Germany). However, my family is Swedish and we only speak Swedish when we are there. To enhance their comprehension of Swedish, we have only Swedish tv and DVDs. When we are out and about, I speak whatever language is necessary and they know I can translate between all the them. Recently they heard me speaking Spanish and it was very interesting to see their reaction, I guess they thought they knew all the languages I spoke! So far everything is fine. But sometimes my husband gets frustrated when they speak German to each other and him and I am not there to translate. They are very good at translating between all the languages and even are remarking now how many words in common German and Swedish have.

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