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3rd language advice and playgroup query

(7 Posts)
SeriousStuff Wed 21-Aug-13 11:33:15

Hi - I just wondered if anyone out there has any experience of introducing a 3rd language to their child.

Our baby (due in Oct) will get two languages from me and DH (and school) but we really want to introduce a 3rd language as early as possible.

If you have any experience of this...

* At what age did you start to introduce it?
* If it wasn't a language either you or your partner spoke, how did you expose your child to it i.e. playgroups, nanny/babysitter, DVDs?
* What was your overall experience of it?

Also, does anyone know of any Spanish playgroups in the Cardiff or Vale of Glamorgan area?

Thank you!

Smoutebollen Wed 21-Aug-13 23:47:27

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Smoutebollen Wed 28-Aug-13 13:11:21

Hello, (reconfiguring reply without giving away personal details this time!) my child speaks English with us at home and is being taught in two languages at school which is normal where we live.

Our child was first introduced to a second language at approx 15 months through spending a few hours per week at a local creche specifically for that purpose.

They then attended nursery school from 3 yrs to 6 yrs purely in that second language.

Then a third language was introduced once the second language was firmly established at 6 yrs.

Things to be aware of:

- we've been advised that it's best to have the second language firmly established before you introduce a third. And in the submersion method used by our child's school anyway, the subjects and the teachers are divided STRICTLY between languages so the two are not confused ie she has two form teachers, each solely speaking one of the languages. They NEVER switch.

- once there is clarity about which language is spoken where, when and to whom, the dc will adapt and switch languages in an instant according to context

- DVDS, songs and children's telly in the second and third languages help enormously

- be prepared for the fact that it is more work and therefore more pressurised for your child. With two or more languages, there is simply more grammar and learning to get through!

This may sound all a bit too much like hard work but you need to get the correct grounding right in grammar in ALL the languages from the beginning, or you end up like some of the interns we get here, who are conversant in three of four languages but can't write correctly in any of them (even their mother tongue)!

Also be prepared for the fact that the child will always favour one language over another at certain times but progress is never linear and there will be setbacks and improvements in all of them at various unexpected moments! Keep in mind that this is not a sprint but a marathon and all will be well!

Also it can be tough on you as a parent when you are trying to help them with homework in a language in which you are not fully conversant. At the same time though, it teaches your child responsibility/autonomy to have to figure things out for themselves at times and pride in the fact that they are at a higher level than their mother in certain things!

At the same time, I think it is important for parents to set an example by cheerfully studying the language(s) in which they are deficient (without whinging about how hard it is!!) and establish encouraging routines such as "verb of the week" or "today's new word" or labelling items around the house in that language etc etc

The best bit about it is that we have been surprised how enriching (culturally speaking) it has been for all the family to have a third language introduced to us. And we've already put that learning to good use on holiday/when travelling.

The added benefit is that our child can now understand a related fourth language - even though they are not able to reply in it yet.

You are probably aware that research has been done that demonstrates overall improvements in strategic thinking in children who learn more than one language at an early age.

So my advice would be - go for it! And good luck!

Broodzilla Wed 28-Aug-13 13:54:57

Haven't got much to add to the reply above, but wanted to add another "thumbs up" so to speak.

I speak language 1 (one of my "birthlanguages", am bilingual) with our DCs, have done so from birth. DH speaks language 2, has done so from birth. DH and I speak language 2 to each other, so it is our "home language". He's native, I can pass for one...

DS was an early speaker, and had a pretty impressive vocabulary in language 1, very early on... also early with sentences and "proper structure". Language 2, despite it being our home language, took a while, but then DH wasn't exactly taking an active interest and chatting/reading to DS as he found it awkward. DS was 22 months when he started daycare, straight into language 3, which he'd had virtually no exposure to before starting daycare. He found the first month or so hard, but definitely had a passive vocabulary in just a few weeks. Three months in, his active vocabulary was on the same level as the rest of the group.
Language 2 took the longest to "crack", in terms of active vocabulary, but improved very quickly once DH took an active interest. DS is nearly 4 now, and is at native level in all three languages... in fact, I'd go as far as saying he IS native in all three: how could he not be? He lives and speaks all three every day! smile

DD was a bit older than DS when she first spoke, but still relatively early. She did seem to find it harder to differentiate between languages, or something... not sure how to describe it, but I spent quite a while thinking she was "babbling" or talking jibberish until I suddenly realised that she was actually using words in all three languages, but I was only listening out for language 1 and not really picking up what she was trying to say... I'm not really explaining this very well at all, sorry... I guess, a bit like thinking "Hola" is a cute babyish way of saying "hello", and then realising that it's NOT a cute babyish way of saying "hello", it is actually a word in its own right? (Best example I can come up with, sorry... none of our three languages are really related...)

Anyway... DD went to daycare at 10 months, straight into language 3. I was very, very, very worried about this, due to the reasons the poster above explained so much better than I ever would...

In hindsight, it hasn't harmed her. She picked up language 3 very quickly, and in a couple of months she had a passive vocabulary that was "functional" (she understood what she was told/asked)... hard to say how difficult she found it as starting daycare itself was such a big transition... She's now 18 months. Language 1 is definitely strongest. Language 2 not too far behind, and she has just now started speaking language 3.

I agree with Smoutebollen: it's an investment of time, patience and commitment from the parents. I'd also say it requires the same - and understanding, willing people - at daycare. (Not a given...)

The staff at DCs daycare are brilliant, and they've enjoyed watching the process with DD. But then they are generally lovely and accomodating, just now I had a call as DH is picking the DC up, but something got lost in translation so the staff called me to explain. They really don't mind going the extra mile.

I have at times worried about "overloading" DD, even though we had such a positive experience with DS... he was so much older! But then I've had similar worries about DD being in daycare at such a young age too...

Bottom line - this is the only reality our DC know. Three languages to them is normal. Yes, they've probably been thrown in at the deep end according to some, but they're very capable swimmers now. smile

(I hope this continues to be a positive experience for all of us as they grow. The plan is that they will also go to school in language 3, as that is nearest... Smoutebollen has a good point about homework, but luckily lan3 is the other of my "birthlanguages" so hopefully fine...)

a few interesting observations along the way:

- DC mainly speak language 1 to each other, but I've noticed that if they're playing on their own, they use whatever language the last parent to interact with them did IYSWIM?

- DH says if they are with him, and everyone is speaking lan2, DS will comfort DD in lan1 if she gets upset. (awww... smile )

- DS now "translates" automatically to us parents, which makes for double the chatter. This can get a bit tedious around the dinnertable... If DH tells DS something in lan2, DS then translates this to me and lan1, even though lan2 is the one we all have in common... and so on... so, it's time consuming and noisy. smile

- I find it fascinating how both DC keep checking the languages. If they learn a new word in one language, they ask what it is in the others, and keep checking. It's like the learning process isn't complete until they've got it in all three languages. (I'm sure this will change though, and eventually they'll probably have different strenghts and weaknesses and context specific vocabularies... )

- DS doesn't like me reading stories or singing in the "wrong" language.

Sorry this is so long and rambling, it was supposed to be a short post as am rushing and at work... but it's fascinating!

Broodzilla Wed 28-Aug-13 13:58:17

Actually, reading back I noticed something interesting... Smoutebollen above said they've been advised to make sure the second language is firmly established before introducing a third, and obviously in DSs case, this was not possible... language 2 just took a back seat for a while, as lan1 and lan3 were then more dominant - despite lan2 being our home language! - which I found a bit hard to understand...

anyway, all equal now, but definitely only after more input from DH! smile

SeriousStuff Thu 29-Aug-13 12:19:19

This is all very encouraging - thank you so much both for sharing.

English wasn't introduced to me until I was around 5 years old but I still don't remember actively learning it, it just sunk in! English will be a close second language for our baby. Welsh will be the dominant language and language of the home as this is what I will be speaking to my child (being a first language Welsh speaker myself). My husband is learning Welsh and is keen to use the birth of our baby as an opportunity to strengthen and increase his vocabulary, but he will obviously speak some English with the baby.

We're not worried about the English element as this will come through school/TV/other friends/my in laws etc...

I just wish I'd been introduced to a third language at an earlier age and very keen to do this with out DC1. But maybe we wait until Welsh and English are fairly established (around 5 years maybe) then look at a third.

lunar1 Thu 29-Aug-13 12:26:39

My friends children speak three. They did OPOL at home and English as the third when they were out and about. Both her children are fluent in all 3 now at 5 and 4 years.

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