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Hi, I’m so glad this website exists and with such a vibrant community. Here is my situation:
We will have a baby next year and would like him to know Swahili, Spanish, and English. We live in the USA (where I was born and raised w/ English) and my husband from Kenya where he was born and raised with Swahili and English. I have studied Spanish my entire life and spent quite some time abroad so I feel my Spanish is near perfect, but I’m not a native of the language. Here is my plan. Dad will speak in Swahili only and I will speak in Spanish only. To each other we will speak in English and his relatives (all of whom live close by will speak in Swahili to the baby). As for Spanish exposure, we will likely hire a Spanish-speaking nanny and as he gets older he will attend a Spanish immersion school. So he should get Swahili from dad and relatives, Spanish from me, nanny, and school, and English from the community… Is this a good idea? We really want him to know Swahili most importantly, but Spanish will be more useful while we are here in the USA living in such a diverse neighborhood. Will this work? Have other families made it work? Especially with me not being a native of the language, but desiring to speak it to the child given my strong educational/social background in the language including on my job and in high school and college.
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We are french and we live in Tokyo. My son (15 months) hears french at home, japanese at the nursery and english (we have many english friends). He feels very at ease with all these languages. I think for a very small baby it’s quiete natural and it’s very easy to learn many languages at the same time.
I have heard that a child hearing many languages will speak latter, we ‘ll see for our son.
So don’t be affraid, a baby has tremendous ablilities.
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This is just a gorgeous site! I spent weeks and weeks during my pregnancy with searching sites for multilingualism. Particularly, because I was warned by some friends that using both my native and non-native (picked up in late childhood) language with my baby would create problems in his emotional development, or, what is even worse, in his affection for me. Despite of continuous discouragement I decided to use English with him starting from my early preg days and sometimes I talked, but especially in Hungarian. He seemed to appreciate it sang And what is more,we live in Italy and my son was born here. My husband speaks native Hungarian and a perfect Italian with a native pronunciation. I am proficient in both Hungarian and English (and I have MA in both) and my Italian is fluent, too, however, with mistakes. Earlier we lived and got married in England where my family lives, so my husband’s English is more or less like my Italian. First, I tried to use both English and Hungarian in turns with my son: one day English, another Hungarian.But I did not work for the very reason that I was too tired not to mix up the days )) Later it developed on its own, i.e. English started to function as a “secret” language between us two 7/24, and the Hungarian was in use when there were other Hungarian speakers, natives or non-natives As regards my husband, in the beginning he spoke only Hungarian to him, then on a lovely visit to our pediatrician we were told off for not introducing Italian to the baby (“… ma dai, carissimi, siamo in Italia!!!” = …come on, my dears, we are in Italy!) So my husband talks to him now in Italian, and rarely in Hungarian, however we still keep using it privately between us (husband-wife). Our son will be one year old in 3 weeks, and I observed many interesting things in connection with his attitude: -he prefers English in general (+songs, nursery rhymes, cartoons) -he seems to understand only English commands, rarely Italian ones, too -in spite of Italian native speakers (our friends) and an Italian background, the Hungarian is coming as a 2nd language (songs, cartoons) -he can pronounce both English and Hungarian consonants well, but the same is no true for vowels (for example, the Hungarian low “A” is missing) -he can distinguish well who speaks which language (from me he does not accept Italian, only English and Hungarian) – his first word was “daddy” It could have happened because I always prefer addressing myself as “I” and not “Mummy” to him -his emotional development seems also OK since language is important but only a segment in a relationship. I would be happy to hear about your experience Have a lovely day. Adrey