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I need some advice! I have a 5 1/2 month old baby. We live in English-speaking Canada. My husband is Bulgarian and speaks to the child in Bulgarian only. I am Serbian (though born in Canada) and fighting hard to speak to the child in Serbian only. However, I also speak French, Spanish, and English. I’m not concerned about English as it’s the community language, and my husband and I speak some English at home, though we are trying to stick to Bulgarian/Serbian even to each other, but I’m wondering how and when to introduce French and Spanish. I’m conflicted because I read all about how the earlier the better when introducing languages, but at the same time, this wouldn’t be OPOL, so how would I organize myself? Lastly, she’s 5.5. months old, will all this confuse her? She’s super ahead developmentally except for babbling — no consonants yet, which is just slightly delayed. So, now I’m wondering how to organize myself and where to go from here. Should I stick with just Serbian for now?
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I have trilingual children (4, 6 and 8 year olds) and have the same problem with how to introduce the fourth and fifth language into their life. I speak one language with the children, their father speaks another one and then we have the community language. The children speak all three languages quite well, although they are perhaps a little bit weaker in one or two of those languages than their monolingual peers. Introducing the fourth language has been a bit more challenging because of the options that are available here. Because you live in Canada, there are probably many options available for French. My older children do take part in some fourth language activities, but aren’t close to fluent in either understanding or speaking.
I don’t think you need to worry all that much about Serbian, Bulgarian and English, if you do consistently speak your native languages with them and they have enough exposure in English from their environment (although when they get older it may be especially important to stranghten their Serbian and Bulgarian skills, for example by visits to those countries or frequent interactions with family/frinds that speak those languages). In my opinion, it would be ideal if you could introduce the fourth language (French) to your child through a native speaker. For example, in Canada you could probably find a French-speaking babysitter or nanny. Perhaps play groups in French? Play music and watch TV in French when the child gets older. Bilingual schools and daycare? I would suggest that you do stick to speaking only Serbian with your child and fins other ways of exposing him or her to French.