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possible relocation would mean a 4th language for my dc- worried

(4 Posts)
toomanylanguages Fri 22-May-09 14:23:22


have namechanged because i may be outing my dh's job search efforts...

anyway- we are a trilingual family, i speak italian, dh german, we live in london and speak english to each other. we have two dcs aged 3 and 1. the 3yo is trilingual, and i would say english is her dominant language since she's started nursery. her italian and german are really quite confused (lots of grammatical mistakes and words mixed up), although she understands everything very well.

dh has just been to geneva for an interview and is excited about the possibiliy there. no offer yet so early days (hence name change), but i need to start thinking what i would do if he does get the offer and wants to go... theres lots of things that scare me (chiefly, leaving london after 10 happy years... and the death of my career...), but there's other things that excite me... the thing that worries me most though is having to introduce a fourth language (french) to my dcs... would that absolutely confuse them for good? i am really worried that they will never speak a language properly and will always be a bit handicapped by it. i know there's international schools, but otoh if we do move, i'd want them to go to a local state school, as that is one of the attractions...

any experiences or views? thanks in advance

ZZZen Sun 24-May-09 10:56:40

Not sure, they are both so young and their English is therefore not truly cemented for want of a better word, so if they move to a French speaking country now and attend local French-speaking daycare and schools, presumably English will be replaced by French as first language for both dc.

If you keep up speaking English at home and both you and dh are good English speaking models, I should think they will grow up successfully bilingual no problem at all.

How you will keep up Italian and German I don't know but I should think at least one of those languages will be requisite in their Swiss schooling.

How important is it to you that they keep up Italian, German and English or indeed truly master all the languages?

If you can catch MadameLindt, she might have interesting insights for you. She is from the UK, her dh from Germany and her dc grew up bilingual in Germany before moving to Geneva. Her eldest entered Swiss primary year 1 this year and I think is picking up French quite quickly and coping. That's 3 languages but the dc really were actively speaking both English and German fluently at the time of their move.

You'll find her on the German chat thread under Living Overseas

sachertorte Wed 27-May-09 19:55:14

Why is sending the children to a local school so important to you? Wouldn´t English (as your family language) or German or Italian (as a parental language) be better? The DC will always have strong emotional links to these languages so make a more obvious language of schooling imo.. In Switzerland of all places local schooling in either German or Italian should be possible, I would hope..

4 languages may or may not be a problem depending on the child, when it IS a problem it can be awful, when it´s not they have a great gift. I personally wouldn´t chance my more or less trilingual child in a new fourth language for schooling. The risk of not achieving their potential academically is too great.

Shitemum Sun 31-May-09 20:16:49

I would send the Dcs to an English-speaking school, they will pick up French in the street anyway and from friends bilingual in French and Englishand can always do extra classes when they are older. You could continue to do OPOL but speak English when the family is all together like at mealtimes or weekends for example.
The 3 yo may have a harder time than the 1 yo at first, as at 3yo the brain concentrates for a while on consolidating and making sense of what it has taken in so far in terms of language and it is more difficult to take in new info for a while. Then at 4yo it becomes easier again, that's the last 'window of opportunity' as far as I can remember, for language learning, after that it gets more difficult.
Good luck!

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