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Dear M.C.A.,

thank you for giving me the opportunity to expose the following doubts.

We (me and my wife) have a daughter, 2 years and half old

My wife is french native speaker, and she speaks french to our daugther.
I am an italian native but i speak english to my daughter

Our daugther learns, hears and speaks italian with my parents and at school.

So she is actually trilingual.
She has a very rich vocabulary in each language, obviously italian is a little bit predominant (because she spends lot of time at school and with grannies), then comes french and italian (i’m only few hours per day with my daugther).
Our daugther is actually in the process of forming sentences.

Since the end of last summer (Sept. 2011) she started stuttering.
At the beginning it was just a soft thing, repeating of some syllables like
“ma-ma-mamma” or ” i wa-wa-want” …..

We did not give much importance on it, but now it seems to get worse.

She sometime stutter very badly, pushing syllables much over ..not only two or three stutters (sorry for this descriprion i hope you all will understand what i mean) but many more… “ma-ma-ma-ma-ma-mamma” or ” I-I-I-I-I-I…want”

We’re quite worried now

Sometime she seems to search for the right word (but not for the right language to be honest….she quite never mixes two languages….)

We have a doubt:
There are certain moments in which she is exposed to three languages at the same time. It is when we are all togheter at home. We keep on with OPOL but me and my wife speak italian to each other too.
In theese moments she must continuosly switch among three languages…in these moments she seems to struggle (and stutter) a little bit more than usual.

We are thinking about leaving the OPOL when we are all together at home, and speak only italian, mantaining the OPOL system only when one parent is alone with her.

So our new system would be:

ITALIAN at home (or maybe italian + one more language…maybe french as my wife is mothertounge and for her is really difficult to talk italian to our daughter…i could stop talking english if necessary)

ENGLISH when me and my daughter are alone

FRENCH when my wife and my daughter are alone

Unfortunately in this area there are no doctors specialized in multilingual children, and we are afraid about some one with no experience about it would tell us to stop multilinguism methods…..

Last things: our daughter is a very sensible baby (was told by her teachers and we can see it effectively) and she’s scared by many things like house’s bell ringing, people in the streets and so on…and now she seems to start understanding about her stuttering…..

I would aprpeciate any kind of advice and opinion

Thank you very much



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it is really a pity to find not support through this forum

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I don’t have any personal experience with this, but if you google the Stuttering Foundation of America (, you will find a starting point for reading and finding information, links and resources, and perhaps you can contact and speak with someone, as well.  I agree, if you were to see a monolingual doctor, he or she might very well (in my measly opinion) suggest you give up a language or two. Follow your heart, and it will lead you. Good luck!

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Stop the english completely this is not OPOL, but you speeks english and italian in front of her. French will be her minority language. You can reintroduce english at a latter state as a language game.

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sorry Marco, why are you sayin it is not OPOL system?
i do not speak italian directly to her, she hears italian because me and my wife speak italian each other, no one do it directly to her.

Let me recap please:
1) me to my daughter—> english
2) my wife to our daughter—>french
3) me to my wife and viceversa—>italian

i think 1 and 2 are part of an OPOL system
but sometime she’s is exposed to italian at home as well (3), continiously switching among 1, 2 and 3

So Marco, why should i stop english? just because english is not my mothertongue?
Let me understand, i’m curious and you seem quite sure about your advice

Mybe Marco will not check this board again, so i do the samequestion to you people out there….

Thanks in advance for any help and suggestion

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I don’t think stuttering is necessarily connected to multilingualism – plenty of monolingual people stutter! I am trilingual and only stutter in 2 of my 3 languages (and worse in one than in the other). I do wish my parents had taken me to a speech therapist to try and get to the root of the stutter when I was a kid. I don’t think doctors are the right professionals to turn to for this issue.

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Ciao Enrico!
I’m Italian, living in London and raising two trilingual children. I only speak Italian to them, my husband, who is Iranian, only speaks Farsi and they are learning English from school/nursery/friends/neighbors…

My husband and I speak English to each other, and if we are with Iranian friends I speak Farsi (still working on that!). Typically though, I’ll still speak in Italian when I’m addressing the children, and only rarely if we are in school and I feel the need for other people to understand what I’m saying, I might speak to them in English. However, I would never ever mix any of the languages.

Although my children don’t stutter, my youngest tends to make noises such as ‘ummm, aaaa’ and a whole variety of other sounds for quite some time, as she searches for a word in one of her minority languages. I’ve never heard her doing that when speaking English.

I know quite a few multilingual children and all seem to have developed their speech in a different way. My kids (age 4 and 6) hit all the speech development milestones. My friend’s daughter who is bilingual, at the age of 4 still cannot speak clearly and without mum’s help I don’t always get what she’s telling me. But interestingly, her cousin who is monolingual had a similar problem and was taken to see a speech therapist.

At 2.5, your daughter is very young, and she might be going through a normal stage. But if you are concerned, you should seek a professional opinion. The British Stummering Association has a page dedicated to stammering/stuttering in under 5s ( and they also discuss stummering in the bilingual child (

Hope some of this helps.


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