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Hello all,

We’re raising our 4.5 year old daughter with 4 languages, I speak Slovakian to her, her mother German, my wife and I speak English to each other and we live in France. Our daughter is born in France, went to the daycare and is now schooled in the public school system in French.

She seems to understand very well everything in all languages (even English a bit), but her communication skills are poor. She speaks in Slovakian, German, and French, but she doesn’t pronounce well many sounds in any of the languages. In German the structure of the phrases is OK, but in Slovakian and French she doesn’t have any structure in the phrases and she mixes languages. Her vocabulaire in Slovakian and French is very limited. Although everything is the best in her mother tongue (German), her level is still comparable to that of a two-year old German child.

At school the other kids don’t understand her in French. The teacher does understand her and tells us that she has improved considerably in the last 6 months, but nevertheless she recommended that we see a language specialist. This language specialist strongly recommended us that we speak daily in French to her (30 minutes per day), but we’re not convinced.

We were wondering whether others have a similar experience, and in particular whether the difficulties are common, and will be fixed before she turns 6 or needs particular attention.

Any advice will be appreciated.


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I am not an expert, so this is not so much advice, but rather a thought from a multilingual parent. I appreciate your comments here. This is a very special situation. 

I began English at age 3 and my parents not being English speakers were concerned whether I would make it in school. Everyone learns language at a different pace and some are more talented than others. However, even for the children who started English later than me (even up to age 10) were just fine after extended exposure to the language only at school. 

Your question regarding whether things will “fixed” by age 6 is impossible to answer, but the only thing that we can take control of in the situation is regarding the level of regret you as a parent will feel depending on which way our child may take you. Whether the corrections happen to your satisfaction or not. 

In order to avoid unnecessary regret, my parents limited exposure to 4 dominant languages surrounding me at the time to 2 (one from my parents and the other in school). I understand you have relatives involved, so that would need to be taken into consideration also, but I am sure arrangements can be made. The 2 language focus has helped me become proficient in the two at a higher level than the average “bilingual” individual in these two languages. However, there is no way to know whether my proficiency is due to the limitations posed on me, or whether I would have also been excellent at 4 if we had simply maintained exposure to them in higher and equal frequency. 

I hope that your family can decide on what the least “regretful” outcome can be, first starting with the plans you choose to implement. 

Let me know your thoughts. 

Hayato Nakamura
Los Angeles, US

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