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  Reply with quote  #1 
Hello everyone, I really appreciate if someone can help me with this matter:

My name is Zara and I live in UK. Me and my husband we are both native Persian speakers. I used to live for a long time in Italy and I speak fluently Italian. Therefore, I mainly speak Italian to my son since he was born and my husband speaks solely Farsi to him. He is 2 years and 8 months old now and he attends the nursery school whereby he is exposed to English. At this stage he speaks just a bit of all three languages and he also distinguishes what language to speak to whom/where. But my concern is that he is still mixing up the sentences and his pronunciation seems a bit not right! I mean sometimes it is not very clear what he says and he struggles explaining himself. I am trying really hard to stick to the OLOP rule specially when I am alone with him but when I am with Persian friends I tend to speak Farsi to him, with Italians I speak Italian to him and clearly with my husband I speak Farsi. Another big concern is that my son does not really interact with other kids, he is absolutely shy and it seems that he does not enjoy playing with them and even sometimes he cries hysterically. At the nursery they told me that he is fine, starting to interact a bit with other kids but he mainly wants to observe their play rather than participate and they think that he is just a shy and quiet kid. But I am very preoccupied that this behaviour is the result of non consistent language system. Can any one tell me what to do? I am really worried about this situation. Shall I stop speaking Italian to him?

Many thanks!
  Reply with quote  #2 
You are doing the exact right thing. Don’t stop the Italian. Be PATIENT! Three languages are a lot for the child, and they need many years to learn. Give him a chance.

The shyness is very unlikely to be language related. Most kids have a hard time adopting to school. Depending on how many days he attends, allow for one semester to get used to the language and another one to get socially integrated. Full time at the school is best in order for shy children to get integrated and feel comfortable in a new environment, so if it is less than that, be generous and give it time.

Founder MCA

  Reply with quote  #3 
Dear Zara,

I absolutely agree with Christina. I have two trilingual kids (English, German and Italian) at home, one is 9 and the other 7. I really think that shyness is part of your son character and it is not connected at all with the languages he ears and speak.. I won’t worry if I were you.

Just be patient, he is very young as well.


  Reply with quote  #4 
Dear Christina, Francesca,

Thank you very much for your useful advices. I guess you are absolutely right. The key thing here is to be a bit more patient and also to bear in mind that he has a vey shy boy too.

Francesca may I ask you how is going for you the trilinigual situation? Did you always stick to the OLOP system? Do your kids at this stage speak fluently all three languages? I’d appreciate if you could share your experiences with me. Many thanks.

Kind regards

  Reply with quote  #5 
Dear Zara,

we still stick to the OPOL system even now. The kids speak all threes language very well, let’s say, pretty much at the level of native speakers. Speaking with them for extended periods, however, native speakers living in Italy or English speaking countries notice some interesting or strange little things that come out in those languages. For example:
– Especially in Italian, they clearly use the rhythm and cadence of the local German Rhineland dialect of Cologne.
– Their accents are somehow “off” to native speakers. There is nothing wrong with how they pronounce any given word, usually, but their accent overall is somehow different. We are expecting this to wear off over time.
– They effectively only speak English and Italian with adults. There are some exceptions to this, but these have never really been “play languages” for them. Some people might be surprised at their command of grammar or other concepts for their age, and then be even more surprised at certain gaps in what is assumed to be common knowledge for children.

I will keep you posted about the evolution 🙂


  Reply with quote  #6 

I recognize my own problems in what is being said here. I have French/British dual nationality, my wife is Peruvian and we live in Holland (How’s that for a mix). I only speak French to my 3 yr old son and my wife speaks Spanish. He’s coming along fine in both languages but partly due to the fact that he is very shy outside the home it’s very difficult to get him to speak Dutch. Even with me he needs extra prompting. An example form this afternoon: I showed him my house keys and asked him in French: for Papa what are these? he answered without hesitation and went on spontaneously to say the word he uses in Spanish with his mother. I then asked him how he would say the word key at school or to Dutch friends of ours: no reply and I really had to prompt him to say the word (he knew it for sure because when I pronounced the first syllable he went on to complete the word). I’m strongly in favor for OPOL but I’m thinking of playing a daily game with my son and pretending to be Dutch (with his permission of course).

I feel that you have to be very patient especially if the child is shy and above all learning languages should always be fun.



  Reply with quote  #7 
I would like to hear some opinions on raising a bilingual child as we are struggling with our boy. I am Italian and my husband English. We live in the south of Italy where very few people speak a foreign language and we have little chance of exposing our 3 year old son to different languages. For this reason we have decided to speak to him in English since the day of his birth and he watches dvd’s and reads book mostly in English. We always address him in English even when we are in public but he listens to us interacting in Italian with my family and friends and he goes to nursery where he learns Italian. Although our son understands both languages he has a very limited vocabulary in English and has only a few words of Italian. I appreaciate the fact that children have different develpomental path but I am wondering if there is something more that we can do to improve the situation. I speak French too and I would have liked to introduce our son to this language  but I feel a bit discouraged now.
  Reply with quote  #8 
Hi, I am interested that many of these children are boys, and around 2-3 yrs old…

My son hardly spoke any intelligible words in any language til 3 yrs old: lots of “ma” “meh” “nah”… We used a lot of sign language ( dvds) to help me understand him. He was adopted from China at 22 mos, but definitely spoke “baby babble” and not chinese. Interestingly enough, now at 3.5 yrs old, he has had a language explosion, but having had many many adult men come up to me to say “I didn’t speak til I was 3”, I realise that a lot may have not been multiple languages, but just being a boy and developmental rate.

My son is NOT at ALL shy. He goes up to kids and adults all the time, and has always been very vocal, but just not a lot of intelligible sounds. But understood perfectly English, French and some mandarin.

We went to a series of 6 speech therapy sessions, and the teacher does think some delay speaking may have been changing from mandarin milieu to French and English bilingual milieu (I am native anglophone, but fluent in french now, french neighborhood and daycare) but thinks that bilingual or trilingual is no problem: that speech pathology comes about with one language or three, or speech is fluent in one language or more. I do know of kids (mostly girls) who were speaking clear English or French within two weeks of being adopted from China, not a year like my son! He is still a bit “lazy” and will say “I want wawa. No, not wawa, waTer” to correct himself! lol!

But I think that worrying about a really young child having shyness to speak a language, or having an accent or missing vocabulary is jumping the gun on worrying. Sometimes we totally forget that the range of normal is large even for monolingual kids and adults. Most little kids will speak their native language with mispronunciations, standard grammar problems (“no like milk” before they start to say “I don’t like milk”), putting “baby” words instead of real words “Please pour the wawa into the bottle” (water). Sometimes we worry too much that it is second and third language creating problems.

And yes, I think this child just sounds like a shy introverted kid! My kid is so extroverted and he also had a very limited vocabulary at 3. Now it grows daily and surprises me. Lucia, it has been over a year since your post: I am very interested to hear how the languages are going now he is 4!

French Canada
native English, fluent French, learning Mandarin
single parent: no particular language method
one son 3.5 yrs old

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