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Dear parents,

I have the following dilemma and would appreciate any suggestions you have.

I am bilingual Russian/Greek and my husband is American. Our home language is English as my husband does not speak either of my mother tongues. We live in Belgium.

I have started speaking Russian to our baby son as this is what came naturally but I am very keen that he learns Greek as well since my entire family live in Cyprus and many vacations will be spent there.

How can I ensure that our son learns both Russian and Greek? (Given that it is not so easy to get exposure to Greek in Belgium on a regular basis or to get a Greek speaking baby sitter)

Is it possible for one parent to speak two languages to a child? If so how do you ensure he separates them, while he also has a third home language (and potentially a fourth community language to master??

If exposure to Greek takes place only during holidays a couple of times a year would that be sufficient for the child to pick up the language?

thank you for any suggestions


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I have a similar question: I need to speak to our son two languages, and am not quite sure what system I should use. My husband is Portuguese, I am from Tunisia, and we live in Germany. Our son needs to learn four languages. Arabic as my mother tongue, Portuguese my husband’s; German in the kindergarten; and most importantly English which is the language my husband and I use since we met. I speak Arabic and English to my son; but all mixed up. now that I came across your website I realized that I need to have a system or otherwise he will be all mixed up. appreciate your advise/comments.

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Anna and Besma,

I am truly interested in what decisions you took in the language instruction of your children. I see that you posted this thread about two years ago and am wondering what strategies you used (in speaking the two languages to your kid) and how effective they were. I am in a similar situation and could use your advice. Thank you!



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Hi Elitza,

our sone is now 3.5 years old, and speaks english, german and portuguese very well, arabic is more of a passive language. he understands everything but responds in other languages to me since he know i understand all other languages.

the system we used was the following:

– german at kindergarten –> works fine

– english with papa and when we are all three together –> works fine (even after moving to portugal, my husband continued to talk english to our son, and we left portuguese to come from other sources)

– portuguese with the maid and other family members since we moved to portugal –> works perfect. he is almost fluent in portuguese after only one year.

– arabic is the problem: i am the only one who speaks arabic to our son (except when we are visting my family), but i do mix up other languages and he grew up knowing that i understand everything else, so never had to make an effort to speak it actively. i relaize that i made a mistake there. i´m trying to correct it and only talk arabic to him, but is difficult as i speak 6 languages myself, and was always used to speaking whatever comes to mind first.

so my advise to you is not to make my mistake. I recommend you use your mother tongue to speak to your child (or the language that you feel most natural speaking to him), and try to arrange another person to speak to him the second language on a regular basis. maids are a good option here if you are not close to your family that speaks the language.

I hope this helps.


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