Site Feedback

Children's language in multinational families !

Let's suppose that there are wife and husband who have different nationalities and different languages, They had have got a baby and they don't know how could they deal with him from perspective of the language. They don't know if they should talk to him in his mother's language or his father's or the language of the country where they live!!
They are afraid of causing a confusion or interference in his way of thinking or learning the language.
Actually, I found this subject very interesting, I don't know how could such a family deal with that issue. especially if there were some kind of jealousy from parents on each one's culture or nationality.

So, do you think that children can learn more than 2 languages and speak them fluently?
Have you had this experience before as a parent or a child?
And what is the best solution of such a situation in your opinion?



Absolutely, I see no reason why a child, or an adult for that matter, wouldn't be able to speak more than two languages fluently. Especially babies suck up language like a sponge.

In my opinion it would be best to teach the child(ren) both of the languages. The more languages you know, the better.

Hi! Really interesting your idea and I feel a bit identified because my boyfriend is from another country and he speaks also another language. However, we don't have a baby yet! But I have to say that my future idea is that my child will learn as many languages as possible!! I don't think it'll be confussing for children to acquire more than one language. Quite the contrary!! Childhood is the best age to learn as many things as possible. I'd like to give my child all oportunities I didn't have 'cause my parents just taught me my mother tongue and no more 'cause they just speak one language and that's quite normal. I assure you that if it's my power my child will speak at least three languages. Languages are very important as well as enriching. 


Not at all, I have friend who have grown up bi- or multilingually and their brains seem just fine.  They usually communicate with one parent in one language and another with the other parent.  This isn't always the case but you get the idea. They are able to use both when the situation calls for it or when they want to switch languages. 


*friends not friend.

@Azahara Good thinking, I have been reading about this subject, and some sociologist said that those kids may take more time to begin talking than the others. and they may do some mixing between the two languages' vocabularies. but they will be good eventually. And of course this process could take much efforts from parents to be able to balance between the two languages.

@Søren: Well, But what about the Culture factor? I mean how do they - Your friends - think when they just switch from one language to the other, i mean do they think in both languages they speak? or they just think in one language and translate their thoughts to to the other language?


from what I have read, language system does not form thought. At least there is a theory from Sapir, Whorf, adn Vygotsky stating that language is essential for thought. However there are some inadequancies regarding to that theory, one of the objections is the case about persons who are proficient in more than one languages where the languages had been learned in childhood. Imagine if the different languages form the different thoughts (let's suppose that the theory is true), then such the people would have formed more than one systems of thought. They would not be able to think coherently since they already have thoughts separated by their different language system. Those different system would come up with the different ideas and those people would have difficulties in using the knowledge they gained from different languages if it said that thought is supposed to be language specific. 

In fact, from the previous comments, We notice there are lots of example about this case where the children can learn more than two languages in childhood. there seems no difference between those multilinguals and monolinguals in terms of beliefs, values, personality or the way they perceive world and nature.

@Sri Lestari: You have addressed an interesting point that created a sensation between scientists. The relation between Language and Thought is a very complicated relation, and sometimes it makes me nervous, because somehow i can't understand it. For me, I believe that language is like a mirror reflecting our thoughts, You can use more than one mirror but the picture is gonna be different from one to another. but combining these mirrors together will make a wider image of thinking.
I really wish a contribute of someone who is bilingual in this discussion, To clarify this issue depending on his/her experience.

Children definitely can speak fluently both language, but it doesn't come for "free". It very depends how much efforts put parents to keep the language. The thing is that some language will be dominant at the end. Let's think about some immirants family with child born in new country. Even if both parents speaking same language in home, the kid is still exposed to another language outside: in kindergaden, in the school and so on. In this case you'll get a child that can speak fluently on parent's language, but his preffered language will be language that he is using outside. The reason for this is pretty obvious - "mother's" lang is used only with couple of peoples and may be some relatives, while "new language" is used to communicate with rest of your "world".

Children learn languages effortlessly, because they start acquiring their mother language by simply mimicing the sentences they hear. My German teacher speaks only German with her son, and her husband, who's Egyptian, speaks only Arabic with him, and at school, he learns English. He's fluent in those three languages and doesn't seem to have any trouble with them. I heard that children are able to learn up to five languages simultaneously. It's better to start as early a possible.


I might offer my own comments and insight on this issue. Whilst I was born in Jakarta, my father is from Hong Kong and my mother comes from a small Indonesian island called Bangka, where they speak another language. At home she would speak to me freely in Indonesian and Bangka, two languages I remember up till today. My father would offer me lots of Cantonese ndarin material to watch/learn/play with, and I would have learnt that language as a mother tongue had he actually been at home (he is rarely at home and so I didn't get much exposure to Cantonese).


At the age of 3, I moved to Malaysia, where everyone speaks Mandarin, English and Malay. I had to learn those two at a very young age. I ended up speaking all of them, and I now speak English as though it were my mother tongue (having learnt it at the age of 3, it might as well have been!). 


Did I ever get mixed up between so many languages? No, not in the very least. In fact, from infancy I was already able to distinguish between all the different languages and use them at appropriate times. And I'm no baby genius either - my brother got it right too!

Add a comment