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Is it possible to teach a child three languages?

  1. #1
    Ronaldo is offline Registered User
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    Is it possible to teach a child three languages?

    is it possible to teach a child three languages?
    would it be too hard or complicated for him/her to cope with?
    My Wife is Chinese and i'm Portuguese, we are living in Hong Kong, she speaks Cantonese and Mandarin, and i can speak Portuguese and Spanish, but we communicate with each other in English, or Body language, when we need it,loi.
    We just had a child and we want to teach her Spanish, Cantonese and obviously English, but is it possible for her to learn all three languages?
    All three languages are equally important to us for various reasons, it's nearly impossible to choose one language over the other, although we are pretty sure that English and Cantonese, would be the most correct choices.
    She learned chinese,cantonese as she grew up, the same way i was taught portuguese and spanish as i grew up, we both learned English while at school, so we dont know how possible it is for a baby to learn 3 languages. Any tips, or recommendations???

  2. #2
    Buckeroo is offline Registered User
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    Yes, it IS possible. Children (esp. the younger they are) pick up languages quite easily --MUCH more easily than adults trying to learn a new language. For reference, do check out this book: How Babies Talk: The Magic and Mystery of Language in the First Three Years of Life by Roberta Golinkoff and Kathy Hirsch-Pasek.

    It helps if one of you speaks exclusively in one language to her (i.e., you speak only English with the baby and your wife speaks only Cantonese). Or some people have done it this way: They set aside certain times or specific occasions where they speak a specific language (e.g. evening is Mandarin only time). The key is to expose your child to the language as much as possible by talking to him.

    What has helped for us is using baby sign language to help "bridge" the different languages. For example, you say RED in English and you do the sign for RED; you say "hong se" in Mandarin and you do the same sign for RED. Even without being previously exposed to Mandarin at home, our son was able to pick it up amazingly quickly at school, with the help of using sign language 'connecting' the different languages.

    I'm a certified Baby Signs® instructor and I'd be happy to answer your questions if you PM me.
    Last edited by rani; 11-22-2007 at 01:23 PM. Reason: link added

  3. #3
    joannek is offline Registered User
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    second buckeroo.

    my daughter's classmate (she's 2) - father french, mom spanish, father speaks to her in french/english, mom speaks in spanish/english. she understands & speaks all 3.

  4. #4
    barbwong_130 is offline Registered User
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    Many people teach two languages to a child by the mother speaking one and the father speaking the second. I was told that if you wanted to be the person passing two languages on to the child then one day speak one language and the next day speak the second. This way over two weeks the child is exposed to every day of the week in both the languages.

    From my experience and that of my friends – it is difficult to be the only source of any language to the child. So if there is no one but yourself speaking a particular language to your child try to find others who will also speak that language. A friend of mine was the only source of German to his children and to help his son went to a German playgroup once a week.

  5. #5
    sky123 is offline Registered User
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    I have a friend who is Indonesian and her husband is German and they live in China (ah yi -maid/nanny is Chinese). Their child is fluent in Indonesian, German and Mandarin I guess now that he has started school he will be fluent in English soon.

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