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Hello, hope someone can help with advice
Me and my husband are expecting a baby in few months and I’m wondering how to deal with languages.
I’m native Croatian (fluent English and poor French), my husband is bilingual- Arabic and French (fluent in English).
First year we will live in Croatia, but then around baby’s first year we will move to France.
Husband and I speak to eachother in English. I will speak in Croatian and he will speak in Arabic to the baby.
My ‘problem’ is that I don’t understand Arabic at all, so I’m worried how will I understand the baby if he/she starts using Arabic? And where to put French since we will live there?


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this answer is based on our experience, and does not represent an official response from the multingual children’s association.
French will come and be the language outside your home, but your son/daughter will speak to you in the language she/he learnt with you: in your case Croatian, and in the case of your husband, Arabic.
He/she will switch depending on with whom she/he is speaking.

The key for the kids to learn a language is systematic exposure to the language(s) during the “window” of opportunity, where learning languages is easy, which goes until about 10 years…then still remains open, but more effort is necessary, and progress is slow..

So, you have to create clear “environments” or situations where he/she is exposed to the languages regularly…
For instance, when speaking to your husband, Arabic… when speaking to you, Croatian.
At school, it will be French…

If you want him/her to learn English as well, one solution would be having a English speaking nanny or babysitter coming at least 3-4 times/week, for a couple of hours, to speak exclusively English…
If there is no exposition, there will be no learning!

The good thing is that you can complement the human-human learning with videos, books, interactive software, comics, books, movies, so there is enough exposition and need to learn the languages.

Having said that, be realistic and do expect some language(s) to be the predominant… However, raise your son/daughter multilingual is an advantage, because when in need, in the future, the catch up for the language will be easier

Remember that you need to maintain the exposition to the languages for several years, until he/she is about 10 years old…

One good option for the 4 languages would be:

You speak Croatian, your husband Arabic, choose a bilingual school French/English, so at school there will be exposition to 2 languages (I am talking about true bilingual schools, not English as an unit). In France, private schools are very affordable, although most of them are catholic (but you do not need to be catholic to attend them).

Hope those tips helped.


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Forgot to add that the situation would be more complex when you, your husband and the baby are together… in that case which language will the family speak?

You mentioned that you communicate with your husband in English… this could work with your baby as well: when all together, English, and separately you can speak in Croatian and Arabic.

Note that I am mentioning SPOKEN languages… the writing will be learnt at school, and my advice would be to attend a bilingual school French and English, for example (English is a good language to learn, since will help at work).

So, if you want to keep 4 languages, English could be the language the family speaks when all are together… It will be also a main language at school if you send your kid to a bilingual French/English school.

If you do not care about the English too much, then you can send you kid to another bilingual school French/Arabic or Croatian (these options much more difficult to find, I guess, but depending where you live in France, it could be an option), or just send your kid to the French school.

In the latter case, French will be learnt spoken and in writing, and will be the dominant language outside home… Living in France, it is not a bad idea that you and your husband improve your French too.

But definitely, you can (and would be good if you do it) to expose your kid to Croatian and Arabic as *mother* or *home* tongues… and English as the family language at home…
The best would be: define a plan and stick to it, but monitor how things evolve… there will be times where some words are mixed up, but this will pass… there will be some struggle in writing if attending a bilingual school, but this also will be overcome later… Over all, do not miss the opportunity to give your kid the chance to be multilingual!!! this is a good present that last for life…

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I have provided my personal opinion, and suggested some ideas in my two previous responses. I think that I overlooked the fact that your husband is bilingual Arabic/French.

But I have a better suggestion for you. I found that in this site, there is a section that address the situation you describe. You find this section under:
TIPS & TOOLS–>10 tips for Boosting Languages, and click on : Useful How To’s–> *What Language do You Speak Around Others?*

They describe the dilemma RTDTL

Please read it. I think it covers the topics you are interested in much better that the ideas I mentioned in my previous posts.

Best regards,


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