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Trilingual child - will she ever talk?

(17 Posts)
Londonmamabychance Wed 18-Jan-17 23:20:14

DD is 2 yrs 3 months. Her father is a native Russian speaker, I'm a native Swedish speaker and we live in the U.K. We speak English to each other and she hears English all day in nursery. I strive to speak only Swedish to her, and DH very consistently speaks only Russian to her. The idea is for her to be trilingual.

Not expecting her to speak fluently in all three languages, just to be able to understand all three and probably speak English.

But I now find she is quite behind her peers in terms of language development. She speaks mainly single words in English, some broken sentences in English, and a load of babble no one understands. She is clearly eager to express herself, but uses mispronounced words no one understands, as I guess it's because most listeners are unclear what word she is trying to say - after all it could be a word in any of the languages, and only her father and myself speak/understand all three (we both understand each other's languages but don't speak them fluently). She will also say a sentence with words from each language mixed in and then receive blank looks from other kids. I feel sad for her that she cannot express herself and feel she must be frustrated. I'm worried her inability to express herself and communicate properly will hurt her emotional development. I also feel sad I can't yet communicate properly with her. She will desperately say something to me, and I won't get it : ( I'm also worried if she will be lacking behind for years to come.

Even though all resources say to continue talking your native language to your child, I theeeofre often end up slipping into Speaking English with her, but then return I Swedish, which I think just confuses her more!

Has anyone been in a similar situation and can offer advice?

We do lots of reading etc with her in our own languages and I read English stories to her as well.

We could just speak only English to her, but then she'd be unable to communicate with family in our native countries, and miss out on the gift of trilingualism. Although now I'm no longer sure if it's a gift or a burden!

MarialuisaTeach123 Fri 20-Jan-17 23:22:29

Message deleted by MNHQ. Here's a link to our Talk Guidelines.

Sophia1984 Wed 15-Feb-17 16:31:06

Sorry I don't have any more detailed advice, but I've heard it's totally normal for bilingual (and presumably) trilingual children to develop language slightly later. I think I remember reading that they tend to have caught up by school age though. I'm sure she will thank you in the long run! Have you done any sign language with her so she can express things that way?

DaphneDeLaFontaine Wed 15-Feb-17 16:34:50

Keep going, it will be worth it.

Chaotica Wed 15-Feb-17 16:35:37

I suggest you keep going. It'll be fine. I know a lot of trilingual children and they don't have difficulty with speech. (They might find it difficult to understand others aren't trilingual for a while though.) I wish my DCs had learnt languages that way.

taytopotato Wed 15-Feb-17 16:36:27

Is she using non verbal communication?

My nephew is trilingual and didn't "speak" sentences until he was four.
You are right that bilingualism/ multilingualism is a gift.

GeorgeTheHamster Wed 15-Feb-17 16:38:49

Keep going. Of course she will be "late" in speaking three languages. But when she does she will be fluent in three languages. Which is a gift beyond price.

Oblomov17 Wed 15-Feb-17 16:40:37

I know nothing about this, but a few of my friends have this exact scenarios:
Russian, Swedish, living in U.K.
Indian, Swedish, living in U.K.
but my gut reaction is just to say 'keep going'.

InTheDessert Wed 15-Feb-17 16:43:44

Stick with it. You are doing an amazing thing for her by exposing her to the three languages. You will never know if she was always going to be a late talker, or if the three languages has slowed her down a bit, but if you are not concerned about any developmental aspect, just keep exposing her to the languages.

PotteringAlong Wed 15-Feb-17 16:45:31

Keep going. She will speak; it just might not be gor a while!

NewUserName01 Wed 15-Feb-17 16:46:28

Keep going. Mine aren't trilingual or even bilingual but my daughter has a friend who's trilingual. The father only speaks Danish to the children, I can't remember what the mother speaks and then they speak English at school. I have no idea how long it took them to start talking but they all got there in the end.

I listened to a really interesting programme on Radio 4 about bilingual kids Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be available now but I remember them saying how bilingual children learn empathy much earlier because they learn to understand that not everyone can speak the same language and therefore not everyone thinks the same way etc. It was really interesting.

Your daughter's very lucky.

runningLou Wed 15-Feb-17 16:52:43

Have you tried baby signing? We did it with both DC (bilingual) and it was brilliant - consistent signs for words in both languages. Common signs for things like eat / drink / more / colours etc can also be used at nursery - staff may use them with other children.
Also childminder may be worth considering - I think one to one communication with an English speaking adult might be more beneficial?
To compare, both of our DC spoke English first (at approx. 9-12 months) then a mixture of both, then second language (DH's) more slowly. DS (5yo) can confidently communicate with DH's family as of this year I would say.
Avoid speaking English to your DD if you can. Keep going with it!

Oblomov17 Wed 15-Feb-17 16:55:29

Of course! Are you signing? This could stop her frustration.

runningLou Wed 15-Feb-17 17:00:25

Also if she is mispronouncing words, try to repeat back what she says, correctly. If she talks in English, reply in Swedish - you can say 'in Swedish we say xx' (in Swedish obvs!)
If she talks in a mixture of the two, repeat whole sentence in Swedish.
To help with nursery (or childminder as mentioned above) be very clear there is Mummy's language, Daddy's language and English which is what people understand at nursery. She may not actually know that other people don't understand Mummy/Daddy's language!
Lots of talk about different languages and what to speak where is good. She may not fully grasp it but her understanding will be way ahead of her verbalisation so you can explain complex stuff. Getting to grips with context is the main battle in bi/trilingualism I think.

A2014 Sat 18-Feb-17 16:41:03

Being trilingual is definitely a gift! We are raising DC as bilingual and he will often mix English and Greek. He began speaking Greek to begin with and then switched to English as that is the primary language used at nursery (and to some degree at home). He's started to put together Greek sentences and will often mix the languages but eventually you understand what he is getting at! I think we have been fortunate as he is a chatty little guy (he is currently 2 years 3 months also). I definitely think that children speak at different ages and you sometimes have to 'tune in' to understand them. For months I was the only one who could decipher what he really wanted but he got more clear as time went on.

You sound as if you're doing a amazing job exposing your daughter to your native languages. The latest research shows that kids catch up and speaking multi languages doesn't hinder them at all. I would preserve if you can! As runningLou suggested perhaps repeating whole sentences correctly may help out. Good luck smile

viques Sat 18-Feb-17 16:59:41

What is actually important is that she is hearing and learning from fluent native speakers. It will take her a while to sort it out in her head but she will get there.

bilingual children only suffer if for example , their well meaning parents use as their primary language a language in which they are not native fluent speakers. I used to have parents who spoke poor English saying that they only spoke English to their child thinking it would help them to learn English. I used to tell them to speak their mother tongue to their child as the important thing is for a child to develop a strong base in a language (any language) as embedded skills of strong language acquisition will transfer to other languages but a grasp of weak skills will only transfer as weak skills.

your child is getting a crash course of strong language skills from native speakers in three languages (you, your oh and nursery staff) obviously sorting out the language demands of three languages is taking a while as your child has three grammars,vocabularies, word orders, intonation, pronunciations ( think of all those mouth shapes needed for each language!) etc etc to sort out, but it will come.

In many parts of the world exposure to three or more languages is normal, our brains can accommodate it fine.

Hastalapasta Sat 18-Feb-17 17:06:20

Keep going! DH is bilingual, and my goddaughter is trilingual. They do get there. My DC understand DH's language but do not speak it confidently. Saying that my nearly 3 year old has only just started using coherent words, my second DC was using recognisable words in both languages at 10 months..... confused

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