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I’ve read your answers about multilinguism, but I would like to receive clarification on a specific case.

My husband and I are Italian and living in London. We speak only Italian to our one year-old daughter, but we read and sing to her also in English. We are now planning to send her to an English/French bilingual school at the age of 4. English is the language of the environment she lives in, but French will be a language she will learn at school and maybe practice with some friends. My husband and I understand the language but can’t speak it or write it properly. So we will not be able to assist our daughter in her French studies. Will this create problems in her studies and mastering of the language?

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We also have a similar situation and questions. DH is Italian, I am Russian and we live in English Canada. DD Nikita (3.5) and I speak all 3 languages, DH speaks Italian to Nikita and English outside home.

Nikita started French at her Montessori school and she loves it. There is a French Immersion school nearby for when she is 5-6 and I wonder… We do not speak French, but many French resources are availlable in Canada, as it is our seconf official language. It is just that we, parents, will not be able to help her with them.

On the other hand, I learnt English as a child and my parents did not speak it – it did not stop me from becoming fluent on my own at age 13. And patriotism aside, French is much more useful in Canada.

Also I worry about Italian. French will be her forth language. Unfortunately, only DD is a native Italian speaker. Not a lot of interactive Italian resources are available. We do have books, videos and songs.. Nikita goes to a Saturday Italian school, but the other children there are not native speakers as she is, and she will be bored there very soon.

I can put her into a French Saturday school for now intead of Italian, but I worry about compromising her Italian input, even if it is as poor as this Italian school.

Any advice or similar experiences?
Chiara Levrini

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What a coincidence, I’m Italian but I speak also English and Russian. However I’ve decided against speaking any Russian to my child because I’m not a native speaker. Obviously in your case teaching French has a purpose since you live in Canada where most areas are bilingual. I suppose there will be French TV channels and books and lots of French speakers. Here in London is not the case, unless she becomes friend with other French speakers.

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My advice to you is to only speak to your daughter in your own mother-tongue language/s.

I am afraid that speaking to her in a language which you do not master fluently may actually harm more then help.

I have two children, and since we and the other come from another country and communicate with each other in English. Our children which are born here in Norway speak to each other in Norwegian, they are exposed to English (but we NEVER speak English to them! as its not our native language!), and their father and mother tongues. So far so well, our two 2 years old daughter speak all 3 languages fluently, while she only listens to and understand English too…

Good luck!


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