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I’m really glad I found this website and will most definitely be recommending it to my friends. My partner is Spanish and speaks English, German, French, Italian and is half way through learning Russian. I’m American and truly amazed by anyone who can speak more than one language. Here in Marbella, Spain its quite normal for kids to speak 2 or 3 languages. We want our new baby son to have the command of 3 languages as a minimum. I speak English, his mother speaks German to him and we speak English between us. We figure that he will speak Spanish by default anyway. Since his mother has a talent for learning languages, a side of me wants him to also learn Chinese, but after reading what Christina Bosemark (Founder & List Moderator) says that a child needs 30% exposure during waking hours to be proficient, perhaps this is me imposing my beliefs that he’ll be better prepared for the changing world which will include China being an economic superpower 20 yrs from now.

My Question: I’m now wondering if we should forget about Spanish and get a native Chinese speaker a few hours a week?

Any comments or suggestions welcomed.

Randal, Araceli & Nicolas
Marbella, Spain


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This is a great forum, though we seem to raise more questions than answers. Unfortunately, I can only add to the questions myself. We are due in three months and plan to raise our baby quadrilingual, my husband speaking German, myself Finnish, the live-in nanny Spanish, with English as the common language between the nuclear family at home. The community language will be German for the first three years, but will fluctuate; always having an English element, as we are in the diplomatic community. While this resembles a pure OPOL system, we would like to ensure that she is a native English speaker. Will it be extremely confusing for her if I (as the native Finnish and English speaker) speak to her in both languages? My idea was to restrict our one-on-one time to Finnish, while using English when we are all together. However, I would also love to read to her in English and probably feel more “natural” speaking the language that I use the majority of time myself. Eventually, the plan is to enroll her through the American International School system to ensure consistency with all the rest of the changes. Thanks for your input and any personal experiences.

OPOL + (English, German, Finnish, Spanish)
Week 27



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I’ve been reading your comments on teaching several languages to babies and toddlers.  Research shows that the younger children are exposed to foreign language the better they learn and retain it.  So, the more exposure the better.  There is a high quality new DVD program available called Little Pim that teaches babies and toddlers through an animated Panda that narrates fully in the language, while real children play and do daily activities that illustrate the words. (There is also a subtitle option, for parents who don’t speak the language). It’s very well done.  So far it’s available in Spanish, French, and Chinese.  Can be ordered through Amazon or 

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Thank you for this insightful, encouraging and informative discussion!   We are raising our daughter trilingually (Japanese, Spanish, and English) in the United States.  Our 2&1/2 year-old speaks Japanese and Spanish quite well.   My husband and I speak to each other in English.   Our daughter seems to understand quite a bit, though her spoken abilities are still limited in English.  We have applied the OPOL system where my husband speaks only in Spanish to her and I speak only in Japanese.   She goes to a wonderful Japanese preschool.  There are also schools approved by the Japanese Education Ministry (that fulfills compulsory education requirements) that we will probably send our daughter on the weekends.   Our extended family members provide added Spanish language support for our daughter.

If you would’ve asked me a year ago about raising a child QUADLINGUALLY I would’ve thought that was far too ambitious and crazy! Christina’s empirically sound post on the importance of a child being regularly exposed at least 30% of his/her time in order to acquire/learn language makes so much sense.   On the face of  it,  four languages seem nearly impossible.    We are still a bit reluctant, but have started thinking along the lines of raising our daughter with four languages, although I do think one of the three languages will probably get pushed to the side at some point, especially if she is only able to be
formally educated in three of the four languages.

We are hoping to send our daughter to an international school.  Our first choice was a Spanish-English international school.  Most bilingual Spanish-English programs, however, appear to have as its end-goal English language proficiency, NOT bilingual proficiency.   We found French-English and German-English schools that give degrees in both languages that would meet U.S. and European standards.   So, we are considering possibly a bilingual French-English International School.

Raising children trilingually with native (or near-native) fluency is very “do-able”  practically (and even mathematically). I’ve been meeting many multilingual families like the ones here on this discussion where families speak four and five languages combined (among the parents, children, nannies, neighbors, extended families, etc.)     However, I would love to hear from all of you who are quadlingual or are raising your children quadlingually.   How is that coming along???  When –after exposure to how many languages & at what levels– does multilingualism become confusing (or does it)?

I’m a firm believer that if a person is highly skilled & literate in at least one of his/her languages, he/she possesses the linguistic basis to become highly skilled & literate generally-speaking in all of his/her languages. 

And yes, I do agree that in many of our families’ situation, multilingualism isn’t about living through our children since we are already multilingual ourselves.  It’s about honoring our families’ heritages and practically-speaking, allowing our children to connect with their/our extended families!


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My son is almost 2 years old and we are raising him in an environment with 4 languages.

Without a doubt, 3 of the 4 are his main languages- which he speaks in. However he understands the 4th and I think he will speak in it later. The 4th is a language he is taught in school so the exposure is at most 30 mins a day.

Do let me know if you have any specific questions.


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Hi everybody!!
I’ve got an experience to share with you although I don’t have answer for our question. I’m Brasilian, my husband is Spanish and we live in the South of France, where is spoken 2 languages, French and Basque. I’ve got 2 kids. one of 2 and other of 46months. I speak to my kids in Portuguese, my husband in Spanish and the 46 months boy goes to a basque/ French school. The girl is not going to school yet. From my experience the boy is doing pretty well in all the languages although he doesn’t have the same fluency that other kids have in his age.He still mixes languages, but he mixes Portuguese and Spanish only.It’s a very hard job to bring up a multilingual kid . I try to expose my kids to Basque and French all the time, beucase neither myself nor my husband speak those languages. So, I take my kids to the theatre, park, cinema and so on.And at home we don’t mix languages. Of course, sometimes I wonder if we are doing the right thing. Sometimes I feel that the society look at us as if we were forcing our kids doing something that is unreachable for them or may be forcing them to grow up quicker than the other kids.I’m not trying to live my kids lives, because I’m multilingual myself and I feel really glad that I can speak 4 languages. It has always been very helpful to speak foreigner languages and because for me it has been a great experience I want to give this opportunity to our kids. I think that we are parents and we know how precious are our kids for us and we don’t want to submit them to any kind of experiment and we know when we have to stop in case we see that what we want is very difficulto for our little ones to achieve.At the end of the day if everything works well they will be very thankful to us. Let’s be positive!!

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I don’t know if this thread is still active but, just in case it is, I’d like to share our experience. Our daughter is 15mths old so too early to tell how well it is working.

My husband and I are raising our child with three main languages (English, Spanish, French) but with the hope that she will pick up a fourth family language (German) passively. Both of us are multilingual and we’ve had to drop one of our languages. I use English only and my husband uses only Spanish. I was brought up speaking German but English became my dominant language in my teenage years so I hope that my daughter will still pick up some German from my parents even if I myself stick to OPOL.

My main concern is that we may not be able to give our daughter enough exposure to the family languages for her to become proficient. German is a particular worry because we have very little contact with German speakers in our social environment and our daughter sees the grandparents only occasionally.

Any advice or similar experiences? I know that in Brussels this is a very common story so I was wondering what the success rate is in this kind of super-multilingual environment.

How do parents cope with justifying the ‘dropping’ of one of the family languages or accepting that even if it is taught it may never be fully acquired or accepted?
Yvonne Tse Crepaldi

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Another book that I know of “Growing up with Three Languages”:
Research on Trilinguals or Multilinguals: Charlotte Hoffmann, Suzanne Quay, Sarah Chevalier, Byers-Heinlein, Simona Montanari, Jean Marc Dewaele, Anita Pavlenko
Research about qualdrilingual is really rare – if you are interested to be my subject, let me know 🙂

Your case is really challenging.
Native Support is important. You see the other replies are usually from cross-cultural couples or couples who live overseas and have the community language different from their native. I suppose your plan is okay to a certain age. Perhaps if you relocate to another country it will be easier for you to make your daughter at least fluent in 2 ++. Otherwise, you must travel to one/two of those countries every year. Also peer influence is important – but kids growing up in the US/UK (sorry not where you’re) will probably become English dominant bilingual, so playdates don’t work too well in long term.

We are raising our children in 4 languages too (Italian from father, English from school and community, Singapore; Mandarin and Cantonese from me and community). Well I am going to offer freelance language consultancy services to families. If any one is interested, feel free to contact me. (I am finishing my PhD, specialized in caregiver-child interaction, Conversation Analysis, and multilingualism)

Best luck,

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Hi everyone, 

Is this thread active still in May 2017? 

We have a 1 year old and 3 year old. I am a fluent English/Japanese speaker and wife is English only. The 3 year old attends a Japanese speaking preschool. 

I have just come on this thread to find a variety of opinions, but my main concern is not so much about “what to be doing now,” but rather about “what I should be careful for going forward.” 

If the thread is being viewed by any, I would appreciate any advice. Have a great one! 

Hayato Nakamura
Los Angeles, US

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I would like to ask you your opinion about our son. He is 3.5 years old now. He is raise as a trilingual child since he was born. I’m french, my husband is greek and we are living in UK. We speak greek with my husband but I always speak to my son in French.

At this point our son understand very well the three languages. The problem is more on expressing himself. The French language looks to be the dominant language for him. He is just starting now to do small and simple sentences French. But then in English and Greek is more putting words together but not really connecting them together to make sentences.

He never mix the languages. He knows exactly to who speak what. So anyway our question is if you think we should start to be worried that he can’t still not do proper sentences in each languages being already 3.5.? What ages your child started talking properly? 

Thank you very much 
Renee van Ginkel

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dear admin,
do I understand from your reply that a fourth language learning would be at the expense of the other three. this is important to know. and if so. just to eliminate exposure to that fourth language or let it be but dont give extra attention to it. 

a child needs to hear a language about 30% of its waking hours to become proficient. 
More than one family that wanted to raise their child with four languages ended up with a strong community language, and the rest as passive languages. Just understanding another three languages is wonderful, of course, but not what most of these families had in mind. So, the pragmatic approach is to focus on three languages that you can easily maintain, and allow the fourth language to remain in the background for the time being.  That way you ensure the best possible chance for the first three, and you can simply gauge if the fourth language takes root or not.”

renee van ginkel
Rosh Pina, Israel
dutch hebrew english ,possibly arabic
ruby mae 1.5 year old


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Hey, i am writing it to ask you how it worked with your child with four different langages? As we are in the same situation now! Just instead of spanish, put french and instead of china, Germany. 🙂 our baby is three months old. Give me some « nasihat » please as a profi 🙂

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This is a very interesting topic for me as we are actually trying to raise our children with five languages. I am a Swedish-speaking Finn born in Germany and my husband is an English-speaking American of Hispanic descent, so all five of these languages are very important to us. We currently live in Finland with our three children (3, 5 and 7 years old). I speak Swedish with the children and my husband speaks English with them so they are completely fluent in these two languages. Finnish is the main language where we live, but our children attend daycare and school in Swedish. They do get exposure to Finnish in the community through friends, hobbies and television. Finnish is their third strongest language because of this. Addirionally, the oldest child attends a Finnish/German after school program, where all the other children are native Finnish speakers. There she learns actually mostly Finnish, but also some German from the German-speaking teachers. Other exposure to German comes mainly from television. Spanish the children gwt from television, infrequent visits with their grandfather, and from a one week summer camp each summer. The oldest child has also taken some Spanish lessons on italki. I really wonder whether it is at all possible to teach them all these languages this way, but on the other hand I already speak all of them (four of them at an advanced level and one at an intermediate level), so why would my children nit be able to do the same? The options for German and Spanish for children where we live are quite limited, so I am mot sure how to increase the exposure either. Maybe we should choose between German and Spanish, but on the other hand there is no after school program in Spanish here and no summer camp in German… I do fully expect our children to be fluent in Swedish, Englush and Finnish, but I am not so sure about German and Spanish. These are more likely to be passive languages unless we move to another country, where their Finnish most likely would deteriorate.

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Hi Everyone ,

Has anyone with older children (10+) been successful at having their children speak 4 languages ? And more difficultly read and write fluently ? If not what what is the maximum number of language fluency can a child have ?

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