I don’t yet have kids but hope to soon and have been revisiting this question of bilingual/multilingualism. I would love your advice on how to pass on the languages I speak non-natively to my kids.
Just by way of background, I grew up spending a lot of time with my grandparents when I was little, who along with my dad and his siblings spoke a mix of Haitian Creole and French among themselves. They never spoke to my generation in Creole or French in any intentional way, beyond the occasional “ma cherie,” “ma petite,” or nursery song.
I *always* wanted to know what the adults were saying and I think that early exposure + that feeling of never again wanting to be left out of the loop led me to acquire several languages as a teenager and young adult.
I am strongest in Mandarin (owing to having studied and intensively in college and lived in China for a few years), followed closely by French and bit more distantly, Spanish. I would love for my children to learn all three languages, but we live in the US and my husband only speaks English.
My instinct is that I need to choose one language to speak with my kids and will have to fight pretty hard even for that one language given that my husband and all of our extended family will speak the majority language. At this point, I am leaning toward French, just because it feels culturally the most familiar and a language in which I could express myself emotionally more naturally than the other two.
But given that I’d like to share the other Chinese and Spanish as well, I wonder what my options are? Would even occasional story time (at home), at the library, or in groups of people who speak these other languages be useful? I would not expect my kids to pick up Spanish and Chinese that way, but the exposure might help them with better accents or an inclination toward them when they are older? (Perhaps?)
There is a really great Chinese/English bilingual school in my area that starts with Mommy & Me classes at 12 months and goes all the way through to 6th grade (and is 100% Chinese the first few years). Perhaps I focus on French, let the school take care of Chinese, and forget the Spanish?
And if we threw a nanny into the mix, which language should they speak? French to reinforce French at home? Spanish, just because I’m ambitious like that?