Multilingual Household

Hello, so me and my fiancé are discussing about having kids in the future. I am half [name_u]French[/name_u] and half Greek and my fiancé is fully Italian, we live in the UK.

Growing up me and my family lived in the UK and our house worked like this: our mum would talk to us in Greek and we would talk to our mum in Greek, our father spoke to us in [name_u]French[/name_u] and we spoke to him in [name_u]French[/name_u] however, when we went out or were at school we spoke [name_f]English[/name_f].

My fiancé grew up in [name_f]Italy[/name_f] and they spoke Italian.

He wants to raise our kids in a bilingual house, him speaking Italian and I speaking [name_f]English[/name_f] but the thing is, I feel like I want my kids to speak Greek or [name_u]French[/name_u] with me, after a long discussion we decided on doing it like him speaking Italian and I speaking Greek as my Greek is better then my [name_u]French[/name_u]. Now, we were facetiming my parents and this came up in conversation because I asked my parents how they raised us trilingual and my father says that he wants to primarily speak to his grandchildren in [name_u]French[/name_u], I didn’t say anything because my father is very strict and adamant about things however, I feel like four languages is a lot for a child and will be confusing but then I thought about it and in the UK, [name_u]French[/name_u] is often taught in schools. I am really confused and overwhelmed about what is best (we plan on having children next year/after we marry) and my fiancé is just saying he is still speaking Italian so it is my decision what to do (which I understand and agree with). I don’t know if I should speak [name_f]English[/name_f], Greek or [name_u]French[/name_u] and I feel a bit trapped.
What are your experiences in raising a multilingual house? [name_f]Do[/name_f] you have any advice? TIA x

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I’m not a parent myself, but I was raised in a multilingual house. [name_f]My[/name_f] mum always spoke [name_u]French[/name_u] with us, but [name_f]English[/name_f] (and sometimes German) with my dad.

I agree that 4 languages would be hard for a child. Kind of confusing. Maybe you can teach them [name_u]French[/name_u] when they’re a bit older?

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I don’t have experiences in a multilingual household, but I do have a suggestion- if your father knows that your Greek is better than your [name_u]French[/name_u], maybe tell him that you want to improve your own [name_u]French[/name_u] before teaching it to your children? That way, your future kids might be a bit older when you introduce a fourth language to them, and it might appease your father that the kids will eventually speak [name_u]French[/name_u], but you want to make sure you are more confident when teaching them.

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Thank you. In the school I went to they taught [name_u]French[/name_u] when we were 7/8 then again at 11/12 and I think this is normal at UK schools because I work in a different school and they do the same so they will have to learn [name_u]French[/name_u] at one point, I am much better at speaking Greek so I think it would be best if I spoke Greek with them. [name_f]My[/name_f] father told me that he wants to primarily speak [name_u]French[/name_u] with his grandchildren and I don’t know how I can gently tell him it would be confusing for the children or if I should let him or if I should suggest that when they learn [name_u]French[/name_u] at School he could tutor them on the side as he as a Frenchman would know [name_u]French[/name_u] best and he could tell them about growing up in [name_f]France[/name_f] etc

I’m raising my kids multilingual. Both my husband and I grew up monolingual [name_f]English[/name_f] speakers, but we really wanted to pass other languages on to our children.

4 languages is not too much or too confusing for your child. It may, however, be too cumbersome on you, as parents, to logistically split your time and you will likely need to have different expectations for different languages.

I’d suggest starting out with making just a list of the languages you’d like to pass on and then ranking them according to how emotionally important each of them is to each of you. Then decide how much of it you’d ideally want your kids to be able to speak (passive multilingual, fully functioning, literacy might matter more to you for some languages than others… for instance it may be much more important to prioritize your children learning to read and write in Greek than it would be for them to learn to read and write in [name_u]French[/name_u], Italian, and [name_f]English[/name_f], so you might want to concentrate on literacy in JUST Greek and one other latin-based alphabet language… etc. etc.)

Beyond that, although the most research has been put into OPOL methods (one-parent-one-language), that is NOT the only way to raise a fully multilingual child. In our household, we practice a modified version of OPOL mixing it with the “time-and-place” method of learning.

We alternate weeks back and forth. Week 1 I speak [name_u]French[/name_u] exclusively with my kids, while my husband speaks [name_f]English[/name_f] with them. Week 2 I speak Japanese exclusively with them, while my husband attempts to speak as much Japanese as possible. However, we almost always speak [name_f]English[/name_f] between us adults. I ALWAYS speak to my children in the target language du jour, but I know plenty of families who use the community language outside the home. There are SO MANY ways of doing exactly what you’re talking about, so please don’t feel discouraged!

And one of the best ways to really raise multilingual kids is to have your parents each pick the language they want to pass on and tell them to stick with it no matter what, exclusively.

The “Bilingual Avenue” podcast has been an incredibly helpful resource for me. I highly recommend checking it out and bingeing a bunch of episodes to get a feel for it.

Good luck!

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Thank you. They will have to learn [name_u]French[/name_u] in school anyway as I think most UK schools teach [name_u]French[/name_u]. He is really adamant about speaking [name_u]French[/name_u] to them though and I don’t know how to bring it up again and I thought of suggesting that when my children learn [name_u]French[/name_u] at school he could tutor them on the side, tell them about growing up in [name_f]France[/name_f], maybe taking them on trips to [name_f]France[/name_f], etc I think I might be able to if I butter him up a bit and telling him that he knows best as a Frenchman but he still might bring up the fact that he speaks [name_u]French[/name_u] to his other grandchildren/my nieces and nephews.

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Children can pick up languages really easy when they’re young and it becomes harder to learn as they age. [name_u]Four[/name_u] languages seems like a lot for a child to learn but may not be impossible. I was raised semi-bilingual with my mum speaking to me in [name_f]English[/name_f] and my dad switching between between Welsh and [name_f]English[/name_f]. I didn’t have much of an interest in speaking Welsh when I was younger, mostly because I had no one to talk to in Welsh other than my dad and my sister. The problem with teaching your children lots of languages is that they may have no interest in learning if its only to talk to family who can also speak another language that they prefer. I would recommend trying to teach them all four languages though and if they seem to not be picking up [name_u]French[/name_u] or only tend to use it when spoken to in [name_u]French[/name_u], maybe only focus on the other three instead. At least that way they’ll at least have the basics for when they reach high school and have [name_u]French[/name_u] lessons. I hope this helps you decide, although I the feeling you’ve already made you’re decision anyway

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Thank you so much for your reply, it is really helpful. I think for me and my fiancé it is most important that they speak Italian, Greek and [name_f]English[/name_f] but to my father he wants to speak [name_u]French[/name_u] with them and to him, that is most important as his other grandchildren do. It is easier though for his other grandchildren to do as my sisters mostly married British men and two of my sisters married Frenchmen.

Thank you. I am leaning towards the house being Italian and Greek then when going out/at school, [name_f]English[/name_f], but my father does want to speak [name_u]French[/name_u] with them fully. I am thinking of telling him that when my children have [name_u]French[/name_u] at school then he could tutor them and it could be a great bonding thing where he could show him his and their [name_u]French[/name_u] heritage but I don’t know how he will respond. However it also may be hard for my children because my nieces and nephews speak [name_u]French[/name_u] with my father.

Since you have lots of relatives that speak [name_u]French[/name_u] anyways, they may end up picking it up from them if they’re spending time around them. And I suppose there’s nothing stopping your father speaking [name_u]French[/name_u] with them if he wants and you’re ok with that

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I do think [name_u]French[/name_u] is widely taught in schools, but not as much as it used to be. In my school, I had to learn [name_u]French[/name_u] in year 7 & 8 and I also did it in year 9 which was optional. Due to lack of interest it wasn’t offered at GCSE and my year were the last to learn it at all. Spanish is becoming a lot more popular and is taught in my school now. If you do want to teach your kids 3 languages though, I think [name_u]French[/name_u] would be easier because it’s similar to Italian & [name_f]English[/name_f] whereas Greek is quite different from what I know.

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Thank you

If your relatives tried to teach your kids [name_u]French[/name_u] and talk to them in [name_u]French[/name_u], they might pick it up but I personally did not pick up Vietnamese even though my mom’s 7 siblings and their parents all lived in the same city as us and they liked to watch Vietnamese dubbed Chinese Dramas. [name_m]Even[/name_m] though they always talk to each other in Vietnamese, they only spoke to me in [name_f]English[/name_f] and they never proactively taught me what anything meant other than 1 sentence/phrase that my mom taught me so I could respectfully greet my grandmother. Your grandfather sounds adamant enough that he will probably only speak to them in [name_u]French[/name_u] unlike my family so that will help them learn [name_u]French[/name_u]. This way, they should at least understand [name_u]French[/name_u] even if they don’t speak it very well like my cousins

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As much as grandparents give useful and important input, I would say that you should feel confident with the plan you and your partner came up with. Your father will have to deal with his thoughts and emotions, and hopefully be patient about it.

In our family the choice was really simple, on account of me being monolingual, and the heavy duty multilingual education fell on my husband and his family. [name_f]My[/name_f] husband’s main language is Creole from [name_f]Louisiana[/name_f], but he also speaks standard [name_u]French[/name_u] and [name_f]Louisiana[/name_f] [name_u]French[/name_u].

His priority is to get the children to speak in Creole, an endangered language that not very many young people speak in [name_f]Louisiana[/name_f], let alone elsewhere. However, he debated the usefulness of it. His decision, which I fully supported, was to start speaking standard [name_u]French[/name_u] and slowly introduce them to Creole. It was much easier than he thought, since he speaks Creole with my in-laws and the children were able to follow conversations at a speed that amazed us both.

As for myself, my Creole is kind of hopeless though I try my best, and the children have surpassed me in both Creole and standard [name_u]French[/name_u] already.

Our new brother in law is a native Spanish speaker, and we’re very excited by the possibility of him introducing the language to our regular family interactions.

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Thank you, this was really helpful

Thank you so much. To me, not only am I better at Greek but they don’t teach Greek in schools unlike [name_u]French[/name_u] and my friends told me that they think Greek is too hard of a language to learn so I feel like it would be easier for my children if I speak to them in Greek. They of course will learn [name_u]French[/name_u] weather that be in school or through my relatives so I am not that worried about it but more about what/how I tell my father as he is a bit querulous, I might have to butter him up or I could speak to my mum as she is great at getting him to listen :woman_shrugging: Thanks again, you were really helpful

I grew up in a multilingual household and I’m raising my own children to be multilingual as well.

My oldest son is trilingual. I speak Icelandic with him, his father speaks [name_f]English[/name_f] when he’s with him (we’re divorced) and his stepfather, my SO speaks [name_m]German[/name_m] with him. Our son speaks [name_m]German[/name_m] in school/kindergarten and practically everywhere else. This works very well for him, he doesn’t get confused and switches between languages very easily.
[name_f]My[/name_f] youngest son (he’s only 10 months old) and our other children will be bilingual, [name_m]German[/name_m] and Icelandic.

When I grew up we spoke Icelandic with our dad, in school etc, but our mother spoke Polish with us. We also learned [name_f]English[/name_f] at a very young age in school.

I don’t know if 4 languages would be too much for a child. I’m inclined to say no, they can handle it just fine, but the question is: can you? Because you don’t just have to speak to them, it does take a bit of teaching as well if you want them to use proper grammar etc. If you don’t feel confident enough teaching your child [name_u]French[/name_u], then I wouldn’t recommend it. It would make things confusing for both you and your child. Have you explained it to your father like this? I can understand where’s he’s coming from, and I definitely understand your reluctance to tell him you disagree. But this will be your child, and even if it’s hard for him to understand, only you and your SO can decide on what’s best for your future children. Like someone suggested above, you can explain to your father that your child will learn to speak [name_u]French[/name_u] later, but that for now he’ll have to communicate with his grandchild in a different language.

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Hmm, I think you might be overthinking it. Have your kids and enjoy them! Your father can speak to them in whatever language he likes. Kids are their own people, they will either pick it up or not.

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Thank you. I knew [name_u]French[/name_u] well when I was a child but my relationship with my father wasn’t great so I never spoke to him unless it was necessary and it meant that I forgot a lot of [name_u]French[/name_u], now if I am spoke to in [name_u]French[/name_u] I can respond quite easily but I can’t freely do it unless I am reminded and it can take a while for me to build the sentences (if that makes sense), that’s why I wouldn’t be comfortable or confident in teaching them. [name_f]My[/name_f] relationship with my father has been better over the last two years so I don’t want to say anything that could break it again. I might speak to my mum as she understands things better and we can talk other things then me and my fiancé can make a plan or something because we want things to be clear before having children so no one is confused.

I was raised in a multilingual household. [name_f]My[/name_f] mother is from [name_u]South[/name_u] [name_f]India[/name_f], and she speaks Tamil, while my dad is from farther north, and speaks Gujarati. They both speak Hindi.

I speak Tamil with my mom and her family, and I have a very close Tamil friend, who I also speak it with. Tamil was also my first language.

I speak Gujarati with both my parents and my dad’s side of the family. [name_f]My[/name_f] mother moved to the same province my father lived in when she was a child, so she can also speak it.

I don’t usually speak Hindi with anyone, but I can understand it, and I do use it on occasion. I know quite a bit, and I also know a couple Bollywood phrases : p

I also speak Mandarin, because we lived in [name_f]China[/name_f], so I sometimes speak it with my mother. She doesn’t know as much as me, so I don’t usually speak it with anyone but my Mandarin teacher.

My family, after knowing what languages I could speak, just speak to me in whatever language they’re most comfortable in. I don’t think I have a “main” language, so to speak. It wasn’t very confusing for me as a child, and I really enjoyed my multilingual childhood.

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