How many languages are spoken in your household?

(37 Posts)
lamii Mon 10-Oct-16 20:58:38

My partner and I are looking into moving to Berlin. We live currently in Sweden, we speak English at home and trying to introduce Swedish and French. If we move to Berlin we will have to learn German as well...

How realistic is that? Poor future kid who will have 4 languages to learn.

Do you think a neutral ground is better whether than living in one of our respective countries?

TheFirie Mon 10-Oct-16 23:08:40

My kids speak 4 languages (Italian, French, Spanish and English). They used to speak Catalan as well before moving here in Australia, but they have forgotten it now. And my eldest is doing German at school.

It's doable. You will have some funny syntax sometimes with a word structure from one language used in another.
You say "introduce" Swedish, so I guess your kids don't speak it yet? And how old are they, this makes a big difference.
And what about the French?

leopardchanges Mon 10-Oct-16 23:12:45

Get a German high school kid/uni student (depending on ages) in to do stuff with the kids in German after school some days.

We speak 3, but have friends with kids who speak 5. One language came from a long-term live in nanny.

lamii Tue 11-Oct-16 11:25:29

HI TheFirie & leopardchanges,

I speak French, my partner speaks Swedish and we speak English together. We haven't learned each languages yet. We are being lazy...I have started with Swedish as we live there right now.
We don't have kids yet...If we move to Berlin we will have our first baby there. So I wonder if it's going to be a bigger deal for us than the future kids actually!
I feel a bit drained with learning new languages, but I don't want to stay in Swedish, nor than move to France. UK not an option anymore...

Welshcake77 Tue 11-Oct-16 16:11:42

If you do have children in Germany and they go to German kindergarten school etc they will pick the language up very quickly. I know lots of families who do not speak German at home and the children have no problems with German. It does however usually become an issue for the parents when it comes to school, homework etc so obviously helpful if you can learn it too.

I am British and live in Germany with my husband who has two different first languages. We speak German to each other and OPOL with our kids (English & German). His parents speak the other two languages with them.
maybe you could consider doing OPOL with your children (I assume French is your mother tongue and Swedish your DH's) then have German as the community language and leave English til they start learning it at kindergarten/school? IME so far, our four year old can understand all four languages but only speaks German and English. I think the other two will come with time but you need to decide which ones are most important and decide how to proceed from there.

TheFirie Tue 11-Oct-16 21:51:34

You can teach yourself as many languages as you want. It is just a question of will and motivation. Now with internet it has never been so easy. You even language courses for free on platforms such as Coursera www.coursera.org/browse/language-learning/other-languages?languages=en and edX www.edx.org/course/subject/language. So if your partner is Swedish and you are French, you should stop talking in English, a language both of you already master, and alternate weeks in French and Swedish. During that week, radio, tv , newspapers etc... should only do be read and seen in that language.
Once you will have children in Germany, you should speak to them only French, your partner only Swedish and German will be the language in the street, preschool etc....
The more languages you add, the more complicated it is, and not all children have the same abilities. DS2 is less good at languages than his brother and makes are mistakes (for example using the Spanish cuando instead of the Italian quando), DS1 never made this kind of mistakes.

For you, have a look at this worldmentoringacademy.com/www/index.php?ctg=lesson_info&lessons_ID=1219

ChipmunkSundays Wed 12-Oct-16 12:20:35

Only two languages in our house, but I do know a German/French couple living in the UK. He speaks German to the kids, she speaks French to them, and they will learn English at school. I think that´s pretty normal in such a set-up. I wouldn´t worry much about teaching them English: it´s such an international language that they will learn it at school, see it on video games and TV etc, as they grow up.

I do think it would be a good idea for the two of you to learn each other´s languages, though, so that you can both take part in whole-family conversations in Swedish or French without having to rely on English all the time.

lemonapple Wed 12-Oct-16 14:14:57

I believe a child needs "Home" no matter how international the lifestyle thrust upon them, otherwise they can become like a pendulum without a weight. The very clever Head of our school explains about his multi-lingual pupils that it is above all essential they master profoundly ONE language as it is via language that we think, reason, grasp concepts whether mathematical/science or otherwise, -- so one language in all its richness.

If I were you I'd seek the work link with Berlin via networks, conferences, shows, time there, co-projects, rather than move there. Keep Stockholm as Home.

As for the French, my view is if you do not speak with the child as maman in French from birth, and school them in the French system (Lycee Stockholm?) then they cannot truly hope to have all French career options open as an adult. That is not the same for other Euro countries and languages.

That said, in Asia for example it is quite normal for a child to be trilingual, via school, parents and tutoring. The difference is the parents are often trilingual in the same languages which is not your case.

On a final note, I know several international families who do the 3/4 languages intensively through Primary by whichever means (tutors, parents, nanny, grandparents to live in, school...) and then from 11 years old Secondary just switch fully to English as that it what they are rightly anticipating for the children's Uni and work beyond that.

lamii Wed 12-Oct-16 15:14:37

Hi all, thanks for your interesting replies!

Yes we should learn each others languages. I have started a little ;)
I can not imagine my future kids speaking any other language than French as first language to be honest. I would like to dominate with French if possible...I wonder if my partner should learn French and we stick to that at home.
The problem with staying in Stockholm : Swedes are serious anti social freaks. It's just not nice. That's why we are trying to find a new home.
I agree with Lemonapple and I believe that one language needs to dominate. I wouldn't mind English if not French. This isn't really possible if not living in the UK. Your final note is very interesting!

lamii Wed 12-Oct-16 15:18:05

@TheFirie for some reasons (laziness??) it's been 4 years we are together and we have never dropped English...

TheFirie Wed 12-Oct-16 19:50:43

Oh there is a reason. It is called the language of love. Or at least according to one of the books I read about bilingualism years ago. The language you were speaking with a person when you felt in love with him will always be dominant.
And once the habit is installed it is very hard to drop it.
I speak one language with my sisters and mum, another with my dad. It is impossible for me to speak to my sisters or mum in the other one.

anzu66 Wed 12-Oct-16 21:26:42

Hi, I live in Berlin.

My son was born here. He goes to one of the state-run bilingual schools here. His school is bilingual English/German, with half the students being English mother-tongue, and the other half German mother tongue. About half the lessons are taught in German, the other half in English.

This is not a fee-paying international school, it is a public school, and follows the German national curriculum. The English part follows the curriculum in the UK. To get into the school (on the English side), the child has to take a (not particularly difficult) language test to show that they do, indeed, speak the language as mother tongue.

Berlin has a similar bilingual school which is French/German.

Some of the kindergartens here are bilingual, at least one is French/German.

On a slightly different theme, I think it was on a different thread that you said that you would like to move to Berlin to get away from the (paraphrasing here) difficulty in socialising with people that one encounters in Sweden.
So just as a warning. I've lived in four continents and seven different countries. And Germany has been the hardest of them all for making and keeping friends - though I have not lived in Sweden, so can't compare with there.

But, speaking to other mothers here, I'm not the only one with such an experience of feeling able to connect with only a VERY few people here.

Apart from that, I find it a great city and a great place to live and bring up a child.

Laptopwieldingharpy Thu 13-Oct-16 00:06:03

can i just say you are overthinking this?
smile
Start with opol.
English just happens somehow and really should be the least of your worries.
And if you settle in germany, start with immersion in a local kindergarten.
Dont worry about confusing them. Children are very very clever at building relationships in diffrent languages.
If english is your default position, dont be lazy and do practice opol at home from birth. You have a good 3-4 year window of opportunity before formal schooling kicks in!

Bobochic Thu 13-Oct-16 07:45:09

In our household two languages are spoken, French and English. We live in Paris. DD (nearly 12) is perfectly bilingual - neither language dominates and she is at a high standard versus monolingual DC in both languages, including in writing. This has meant a lot of extra time/resource input, mostly by me - it is IMO much easier for a DC to be a balanced bilingual than it is for their parents to create the linguistic environment in which being a balanced bilingual is possible. Schools, in particular, are great at claiming that bi/tri lingualism is difficult for the child when actually the difficulty resides in creating the school and home environment to support bi/tri lingualism.

ChipmunkSundays Thu 13-Oct-16 07:49:23

That's really interesting, Bobochic. Can you explain more about how you successfully created such an environment for your DD?

Bobochic Thu 13-Oct-16 08:03:26

I recently wrote a (supposedly short!) paper about what I did for a researcher and it was quite hard to be brief. But basically I made English dominate at home - masses of DVDs with good quality speech (period dramas...), masses of books, lots of trips to see GPs in UK, summer camps from age 4. She went to a bilingual school for the first 9 years and so had plenty of English speaking friends. My overriding goal has always been to ensure that every experience she has in English is replicated in French and vice versus. E.g. I taught her numbers and times tables in English before she learned then in French at school, we talk about maths in English.

She recently moved to an all French school (better academics/facilities/behaviour) so have made new arrangements for her written English. TBH her written English is better than her written French but that's because French DC don't do as much writing at school as English DC - she's aligned with standards.

Oh, and she had phonics instruction in both languages simultaneously. This made a massive positive difference to her spelling versus DC who guess how to read in English after learning how to read in French.

ChipmunkSundays Thu 13-Oct-16 08:18:06

Thanks for that! Re the reading, did you teach her to read in English (and/or in French?) before she went to school, or did you just leave that to the school? In your last paragraph above, are you comparing her with DC who went to a French school and were taught English, or with the other children at the bilingual school iyswim?

Bobochic Thu 13-Oct-16 08:22:56

I only compare her to English DC in England for English and to French DC in French schools for French - that's my benchmark standard.

We started on phonics in English when she was 4.5. School taught her to read in French from 5.10. School taught penmanship from 5.3 and that was a highly transferable skill to English.

lamii Mon 17-Oct-16 15:18:53

Thanks so much for your replies everyone.
@TheFirie 'Oh there is a reason. It is called the language of love.' I like that a lot! It makes me feel so so much better not wanting to speak Swedish ;) at least with my man. I think it's important that I can speak and understand basic Swedish but really I have such a burn out with languages, I don't want to have to rely on lessons now. The examples with your family show different bonds with everyone and that sounds interesting to me.
@anzu66 Thanks for the Berliner feedback! French/German school sounds quite good to me. I do get your warning, I have lived one year in Germany and I can't say Germans are the most funky people but they are more talkative and friendlier than Swedes. I am hoping to meet with the cultural art scene which is quite international.

@Laptopwieldingharpy totally overthinking it. But it's also important to rely ponder the move. I don't want to realize that Stockholm is the same as Berlin. I would not like to make things too complicated but I don't like one dimensional situations either. Would def work on OPOL.

@Bobochic Amazing. I would fill the house with French culture, the way you filled it with English.

My fiance says that we shouldn't worry about the 4 languages for future kids if we move to Germany but just do what we want and the kid will adapt to the situation. It's kind of weird to imagine the kid having German for first language which doesn't belong to any of us as a mother-tongue.

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 17-Oct-16 19:16:05

Common ground with DH is french and Arabic ( and now english of course)

Common ground with our kids is english and french although they are far from proficient in the latter. Their ear is used to arabic and they have that emotional connection to keep them going if they want to.

Now their common ground is english and secret weapon against us is mandarin ( still only developping for the youngest and only by virtue of being in Asia for 10 years with compulsory daily classes), we have no interest whatsoever.

They are absolutely wicked at recognising any language the minute someone opens their mouth. They shocked us in spain and italy. They could not speak it but could understand it ( learning chinese tunes your mind into recognising radicals and patterns)
My son even finally admitted that yes pethaps latin would have been a good idea!
They also love all kinds of pidgin english and french accents. I'm not saying this in any derogatory way, it's just a mindset.

It all just happened. I will take credit for the mindset. It was paramount for us that they have a strong sense of identity and we still fight everyday against english being the de facto default language.
English just happens. Concentrate on the rest.

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 17-Oct-16 19:24:53

Just a final note. What are the long term plans for university?
Both of us are straight french top tier education. Which we do not expect that in a million years for our children. So french to that level of proficiency is not a goal. if that was ever a possibility, you will really have to work on it.

MyBreadIsEggy Mon 17-Oct-16 19:29:04

DH and I are capable of speaking 3 languages between us (English, Polish and Thai).
DH and I speak English to each other, I speak Polish and English to my DD (18 months), Polish to my family, but DH only speaks Thai with his mother.
He doesn't seem overly fussed about teaching DD Thai, but it means a lot to me that she learns my native language

lamii Mon 17-Oct-16 19:42:39

@Laptopwieldingharpy so interesting! Secret weapon smile ha!
What are the long term plans for university? -> the Swedish plan would apply for university: if you wanna study long you have to fund yourself. (Swedish families never pay for studies those rats). We are artists so I'm fine with that rule.

@MyBreadIsEggy 3 languages seem reasonable to me now...4 is truly mental

Laptopwieldingharpy Mon 17-Oct-16 21:00:45

opol will work out just fine in the long run & english will take care of itself.
Now do YOU 2 want to make the effortand learn german?
If You have your heart set on Berlin ( and sounds like a great move with your profile) You have to embrace it.
I know there is always an edge/angle/commercial value to being very different/foreign/ niche as a freelancer but if this is a medium/long term plan, you have to dissociate your professional personna from your daily grind.
As anza said above, aim for one of the bilingual streams. Take your pick. Public free quality biligual education. Lucky you.

lamii Wed 19-Oct-16 11:46:45

@laptopwieldingharpy I'm not gonna lie, I'm not keen on learning a new language. I'm hoping that basics would be enough (understanding, taking in shops, etc). I started learning when I lived in Germany for one year. I find it hard to imagine a full conversation in another language than English or French.
' Berlin ( and sounds like a great move with your profile)' --> It's always great to hear from someone else that it might be a good choice. Berlin seems the only option for us now.

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