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I have read the full discussion list, and I am mainly adding our info, so that others looking into the questions of multilingual development might have a larger database, though I do have a general info question at the end. (Sorry for the length, I wanted to put all the info and issues into a single post.)

I am Serbian, my husband is Italian, and we currently live in England (before that we were in the US). Our daughter will be 3 yrs old in 2 weeks. We have used OPOL since she was been born, which mainly meant Serbian and Italian until she was 29 months and started going to a ‘nursery’ (=daycare) first part time, and for the last month full-time. I speak all three languages, my husband speaks English and Italian, and has learned some (very few) basics in Serbian since she was born.

Currently, our daughter speaks very little understandable language. I made a list 6 months ago, and there were ~40 words on it, evenly split between the three languages and ‘her own language’ (words derived from other languages that we have figured out and therefore use ourselves; e.g. ‘la-la’= ice cream (from Serbian ‘sladoled’), ‘pie’=bread (from Italian ‘pane’) etc. She started adding many new words 3 months ago, all in English, then we left for a vacation in Italy, and it all stopped. She understands both Italian and Serbian, and we are told also English (though don’t know to what extent). She chatters a lot, with full prosody and gestures. Occasionally, from an understandable word here and there, we sort of understand what she is saying (esp. if one of us can additionally explain). She is also very social, and ‘talks’ to other kids, though more so in smaller groups when I have been around than at nursery (from what I have seen, which is not a lot). Emotionally and motorically she is completely on track, and possibly a bit ahead of average.

My husband and I are both research psychologists, so we are completely aware of the problem of small numbers of multilingual kids, differences in details of development, and therefore resulting enormous variability (on top of an already enormous variability in monolingual children) of these children. We would not be worried about it (well, most of the time) were it not for the fact that children here start some formal instruction shortly after their 3rd birthday (our daughter will be  3yrs/4mo) and are evaluated on it. Even if she starts saying more by then she definitely won’t be at the level of other children who will be ‘in school’ with her.

For what it’s worth, I think I have noticed major language improvements when she is an environment where everyone speaks the same language. So I wonder what is the “cost” of switching between the very rules by which a language is acquired (switching tasks generally slows down cognitive performance). Our speech-development colleague says the issue of timing of language onset in multilinguals remains unresolved.

I would love to have our daughter evaluated by a speech pathologist, but it seems those dealing with multilinguals are only in London (and we are not). If anyone has additional info on school issues and speech therapy in England, we’d love to hear about it.

Also, while I do see a larger number of posts here on speech delay, I wonder whether this is a sampling issue. Those parents whose multilingual kids start speaking on time don’t go around searching for other late-speakers.

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Hi,  I would like to respond about multilingual children at pre-schools etc and the assessment thing.  My child is learning another language but did not start until he was nearly 2.5 years and I didn’t really know what to expect with regards to delayed speech etc I have just been finding out things and I go along.  I am not a native speaker of the language I am learning either which does complicate issues a bit especially with the so-called experts in child care.  My child was assessed at 3.5 almost 4yrs and until that time I was not really worried about his speech.  They “suggested” he go to a speech therapist because “they” could not understand him.  The reason for this I worked out later on after all the stress they caused me, was because he was still mixing the 2 languages.  About 2 months after his assessment he began to separate his english and his french very well and now speaks clearly enough in both without mixing them.  I still think he is a bit behind some of the other kids but he is my 3rd child and really doesnt need to say too much to get what he wants.  This was our main problem because from the beginning he could understand us completely but just didn’t need to speak all that much.  He has come ahead in leaps and bounds in the last 3 months (he is now 4yrs).  So what I would like to say is that you just have to keep going along and be consistent because if everything else is normal the speech will come and 3 languages is a lot, one day your child will really surprise you and that will probably be when you stop worrying about it which is what happened to me.  Thanks Kathy
Kristina Vintersten

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Hi Kathy,

I am in a similar situation as you, and would like to send you some encouraging words. My husband and I are both Hungarian, and I was brought up in Sweden so I speak Swedish as well. We live in Canada with our son (Daniel) who is 2.5 years and our daughter (Emily) who is just 2 months old.

We both speak Hungarian to the kids when we are all at home. Dad is traveling a lot, and when I am alone with the kids, I only speak Swedish with them. Daniel have been going to daycare since he was 1.5 years old, where they speak English.

Until Daniel was 18 months, he only spoke one single word. The following 6 months he did very slow progress. We started to be worried, and it turned out that he had been left with a hearing loss after several ear infections. After he got tubes placed in his eardrums at 27 months, his speech suddenly boomed. Now he speaks English so well that his pre-school teachers understand him most of the time. Although he prefers to speak English also at home, he does understand both other languages.

I am not sure how much his ear-problems held him back, but in any case this shows that even if they make slow process that shows outwards, they are accumulating their skills internally to one day show it off – one day when they are ready!


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Hi everyone,

I am living with a fear that my daughter is not developing fast enough.

I am Russian, my husband is Canadian (bilingual French/English) and we live in Canada, Quebec (French-speaking environment). My daughter is 3.5 years old. Since she was born I always spoke Russian to her, my husband – French and to each other we speak in English. So we had 3 languages flying around all the time. Everything was fine, she was picking up 3 languages mixing and matching them. I wasn’t really worried that she couldn’t express herself as clear as other kids of her age as I knew it wasn’t easy to be exposed to 3 different languages. ONLY lately I started noticing that she became an outcast of the group at the daycare. And I believe that her speaking skills are the problem. Kids do not want to play with her (or she doesn’t want to play with them, I couldn’t say) because they find it difficult to communicate with each other. Plus, she started to correct me all the time: when I say something in Russian she repeats the same thing in French. Some phrases she says only in English and doesn’t want to change that.

A week ago I decided to speak only French to her and I noticed immediately that her vocabulary had improved!

That was an experiment, but now I don’t really know what to do. I don’t want her to loose my Russian, her dad comes home pretty late, so she doesn’t get enough of French vocabulary from him… and I want her to be able to integrate into different groups. She is building her character right now and I am afraid she will become too timid because of the language barrier.

What do you think: should I switch to French and re-introduce Russian later, or should I stick to speaking Russian?

Thank you in advance for your comments.



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Hi, i am exactly in the same situation..i know this post is very old..because that i am very interested in to know how are your kid now…my Son is exposed to 3 language and have a important speech delay. thanks


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