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I am going to have a baby in less than a month and I have been trying to figure out what language system to use by browsing the various questions in this site. (unsuccessfully so far!)

Here’s my situation: I am trilingual English/ Greek/ Italian and live in Italy with my Italian husband with whom we only speak italian.(his english is rather elementary, greek even worse) My family live in Greece and I want to speak Greek to the baby since we will all be spending time in Greece during summers and other holidays. What should I do about the English? I do have a couple of English friends that I occasionally see but the amount of exposure time needed for the child to learn the language is much more than the time I spend with them. I have noticed that most parents agree that the opol system works best so I’ve been thinking of using means other than myself to take care of the English. Tv, Cds, Computer in english. This however means the child should spend considerable time watching TV something I am totally against. So It occured to me to speak Greek most of the time but only read fairytales and bedtime stories in English. Another idea would be to speak greek at home and english whenever we go out so the baby can associate a language with a place. I have not mentioned italian so far because my husband and the environment we live in will take care of it.

Any ideas? Thank you.

Rafaela Saruk

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Hi Katerina,

I don’t have an answer for you, but I am in a very similar situation.
I grew up with Swedish and Spanish. (Colombian mother, Swedish father)
My husband is American, we live in Sweden and are about to have a baby.
I want the children to learn all three languages, the Swedish and English wont be problem, but not sure how to get the Spanish in there.
My mother is moving back to Colombia so lots of time will be spent there, but I think that the baby will need to hear it more often than that to pick it up.
Curious to see what replies you get.



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Congrats on motherhood etc. But lets not get too crazy, too soon. There isn’t anything to worry about or fret over.

You need to check your community and see what sort of English language resources are available. Start looking for English language nannies and play groups. (You wont need them for atleast a year anyway).

Your baby will learn to understand a langauge long before he/she can speak it anyway, so why are you worrying? I know multilingualism is a gift and even a part of your identity but dont get too worried. Advertise in your area that you are looking for an English speaking babysitter, I’m sure something will turn up.

I think you should use whichever language is convienient for you early on, English and Greek, as much of it as you like and let baby get used to hearing. Get books in both. By the time baby begins to babble purposefully, you should have found an English speaker who can care for your child a few hours every now and then. (Hint: Go to a University or Highschool and find youth who speak good English, hire one to babysit the baby for you or spend time with them)

If you time it just right, you can have Baby know several vocabulary in English and Greek so when the English Babysitter enters the picture, Baby will quickly assimilate vocab. Have specific tasks and games for the babysitter to play with the baby. So that when they say. “Come to me, BabyNAME” Baby will come, or “Let me see your hands, good BOYorGIRL!” “Hand me that cup, please, thank you.” You baby will quickly be able to figure out what they mean.

@Rafaele. I dont see what your problem is at all. You LIVE in Sweden, let the community speak Swedish to your baby, let your MAIN language with the baby be Spanish, your husband can do English.

Does this mean you can NEVER use Swedish with the baby? I should think not, just focus more on Spanish, because its not already in the kids environment. OPOL, should work like a charm for you.

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Katerina — I agree with Siya’s suggestion about the English-speaking nanny idea, that would work perfectly for you.  Another way to think about it is if you already know you will be spending extended periods of time in Greece every year with the baby, let the baby’s grandparents be the ones to teach Greek.  Then you speak only English, your husband speak only Italian, and, though you may have to engage in some Greek tutoring as the child gets older, it will come.  My parents have been virtually the only English my 3-year-old child has been exposed to so far, and we see them maybe once every 2 months, and I have been amazed at how much English my son can speak already.  You’ll be surprised how fast they can learn, and how much they can retain!

Rafaela — I agree 100% with Siya on this — what’s the concern?  Seems like all three languages are covered between yourself (Spanish), your husband (English), and the country in which you live (Swedish)…. Yes, it will take time for it all three languages to sink in, but again, I think you will be amazed at how quickly kids learn.  ALSO — (I almost made this mistake) — don’t let fear of a child doing poorly in school because he doesn’t speak the host-country’s language keep you from speaking only foreign languages at home!!  He/she WILL adapt, I promise. 

Good luck to you both!

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