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Joan Makarova

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Hello there.  I am due to have a baby in 8 weeks.  My husband and I live in Los Angeles, California.  I am Korean-American and my husband is Russian.  I speak English and Korean fluently, while my husband speaks English with an accent, and Russian fluently.  We have a dog who we trained in Russian.  The reason I mention this is because I have noticed, when I am not giving her commands in Russian, I am having a conversation with her in Korean.  With babies, I tend to express myself in Korean too, perhaps because it is my first language.  I am most fluent in English but find myself thinking in Korean quite frequently. Despite being born and raised in America, I still feel a strong connection with my native roots.  My husband, on the other hand, came to the states when he was 17 years old.  He thinks in Russian most of the time and in English some of the time.  I want my baby to learn all 3 languages together.  We are thinking to use this strategy:  I will speak to her in Korean and English only, while my husband will speak to her in Russian and English only.  I have been picking up Russian for the past 3 years.  I can understand some of it and say basic things, but I still need more practice. I am hoping to learn together with my daughter as she grows up. Can anyone comment on this?  I want to know if this would be the best way to incorporate our three cultures…THANKS!  

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Hi Joan

Personally I think that if you’ll talk to your child in two languages, it will only confuse her and slow down her language development. I think you should stick to the OPOL system where each person talks to the baby only in one language. Since you live in the US your child will learn to speak English anyway, so I wouldn’t waste my time on that. Once your child will realize that everyone speaks English she will probably try and only talk in that language and abandon the other languages, so in order for you to have any chance with your minority languages (Korean & Russian) I would suggest you put the main effort in those languages from the start.

I recommend you have a look at this book which has a very similar situation to yours: Growing Up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven

Our child is growing with 3 languages as well: Hebrew, Icelandic & English. I speak to my child only in Hebrew, my wife only in Icelandic and we live in the UK so at the moment the child is talking English only to his nanny. When we’ll feel that he knows our two languages well enough we will then put him in the local English kindergarten. He is now 2 years & 2 months old and has made a lot of progress with his 2 minority languages recently. He knows how to differentiate between them (so he speaks in Hebrew when addressing me and Icelandic when talking to my wife) and he can do 3 word sentences. His English is way behind at the moment but he’ll definitely pick it up once he’ll go to the nursery.

All the best in the path you are going to choose. Our path was very frustrating for the first 2 years, to the point that we thought that maybe we are doing something wrong, but now we are very happy and content with our child’s progress.

Best wishes,



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