Our Discussions

Tri-lingual Children
1 (a madar)
Thank god I found your web site but unfortunately have not managed to get on to the discussion page to pose my question. I have a 15 month old daughter, and I am an Azari/Iranian and very keen for my daughter to learn Turkish as well as Farsi as well as English. At the moment she is learning two languages, Farsi and Azari and has exposure to English via TV. I am however concerned about her not learning English as much. How do I cope with this situation, if anybody has any experience of this matter, your advise will be gratefully received.
2 (a madar)
Both my daughters speak three languages...English, Spanish, and Farsi. My youngest one who is 5 years old now did not go to school until age three. The babysitter would only talk to her in Spanish and I would talk to her in Farsi. She learnt English thru TV as well unti she went to school. All languages are not as strong now. She speaks English the best, Spanish second, and Farsi third. I believe to expect them to master all languages at the same level is unreasonable. She did not have any problems incorporating English later after age 3. Hope this info helps. Good luck!
3 (a pedar)
Please do not worry about this! I have two daughters: 4 & 7 years old. They speak three languages fluently; Farsi, English and Spanish. They both learnt English last ( primarily in preschool), but with as much ease as the other two languages.
4 (a mother)
Salom, dear madar # 1, As a personal experience, I would say, do not worry at all that your child doesn't get any more English than the TV. When the time comes, when she starts attending school or daycare, she'll just speaks it as clear as other kids.
My two kids, they're 7 and 5 1/2 now, never spoke a word of English at home prior to attending school and daycare when they were 4 and 2 1/5 respectively. My Tehrani husband always spoke Persian to them and I spoke Spanish to them all the time. They weren't expose to English more than the one they watch on TV or the one we, between my husband and I spoke, or our English speaking friends/guests.
They are currently very fluent in English. And actually, they speak English between themselves now, as in their school and daycare they actually speak only only French.
Kids, my dear are like sponges. They will absorb everything you expose them to. And one good advice I got from a book about exposing kids to different languages was that the person that speaks to them in "a" language, has to be a native to that language in order for them to pick up right pronounciation and usage.
I love the fact that my little ones speak to me in the language I grew up speaking, the one in which I know so many games and kids stuff (songs, rimes, etc.) and the one I feel so proud of.
They think is cool! I can tell you that it definetely creates a special bond between the parent and the child. Plus, helps them develop many more academical skills (as is proven and there are studies done on it), such as music, art, mathematics.
English, you don't have to worry about it. Everyone else outside of the house speaks it. I do remember getting them video tapes, cassettes and CD's with kids songs (as singing is seems to be a good activity to encourage the learning of a language). There's a CD, that's called MY FIRST AMAZING DICTIONARY. That CD is great, it reads for the kids that don't read, and therefore, it pronounces each word they choose with the right pronounciation. It also expands they vocabulary and meaning of things. There are nice CD's that teach different things to kids, reading, math, etc. (this is for older kids though).
Another thing I did when they were about your daughter's age was to register for a mother-toddler group that was twice a week. You get to be with other mothers and children the same age as yours. There was a story time too.
I do encourage you to speak to her in your language(s). You will never regret it and by doing so, will open her future to many more opportunities, On the family side, she'll be able to speak with relatives that are still back home (if any or when visit on holidays), keeps a special bond between you and her. On the academical side, helps develop many skills. On the professional side, with all of the globalization of companies and heading to the millenium where being multilingual will help you more, is just great. If there are so many good sides to it, why not to try it?
Kids do not get confused, as so many people think. My quatrilingual children are proof of it. When they're being introduce into French, I helped them by playing children French songs in the car and putting the French channel for them to watch the cartoons.
Our daughter (7 years old) reads, writes and speaks very fluent in English, Spanish and French. She only knows how to write BABA in Persian (as she used to attend Persian school on Saturdays and now my husband from time to time teach her something) but she's fluent in Persian. Our son (5 1/2 years old) reads and writes in Spanish, and is starting to read in English and French. He recognizes the Persian alphabet that we have posted in our fridge and he's good in Persian.
A very, or I should say, extremely good activity we have done with them since they were babies is TO READ TO THEM AT NIGHT. That according to some studies also helps them develop not only the good habit of reading but also creates a special one-to-one time between the parent is doing it. In our case, my husband does it most of the time (as I help them with the homework) because not only is that special time of the day they can get to be only with him but helps them increase their Persian vocabulary. The books we read to them are most of the time English written books that we read in either Persian (if is my husband who's reading) or Spanish (if is me who's reading). Every night they look forward to be with daddy and they favorite time of the day with him (I'm not allowed to interrupt them -and you know what, I love to see them talking to them in Persian in that very special time, which is different from the other times during the day). Now that our daughter knows how to read, she sometimes reads for her brother and herself.
Well, hope by sharing my experience with you, I can help you in any way with your current situation with your little child.
All the best,
5 (a madar)
Dear number 1,
I am in the very same situation. I speak Azeri and definately want my daughter to learn this as well. There are many more opportunities for her to learn the other two. I would not worry about anyone NOT learning English in this country. But if you are interested in hooking up and exchanging idea ... I would be up for it! My message number in madar-pedar is tri-5.
Please send your replies and/or opinions regarding this subject to madar-pedar@surya.eecs.berkeley.edu.

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