A friend of mine recently referred to the way my 3-year-old daughter speaks as Creole. It a great way of describing it: she speaks an absolute mixture of French and English. Phrases like “Can you s’il te please tirer my culotte” (please pull up my undies) are very normal in our household and it is so cute I don’t want it to change! But it won’t last; she is quickly learning to differentiate her two languages.
In our household I try to only speak English at home and the children are exposed to French at school and with their friends. I myself grew up with a French mother, and an Irish father but spent my childhood in Germany, so I grew up speaking English, French and German. I actually now have a bit of an accent in every language I speak! As a child I really did not enjoy coming from a multi-lingual family as I felt I was different from my friends. My girls have the great advantage of going to an inner-city Paris school where a huge amount of the kids speak at least two languages, if not more.
So now that I am trying to bring up my kids bi-lingually myself, I have done a bit of research. I am not an expect in anyway, but here are some of the facts I thought were interesting:
- Being bi-lingual or tri-lingual has nothing to do with intelligence, people of different levels of intelligence are multi-lingual.
- Children start differentiating between languages around the ages of 2-3.
- Bi-lingual children do not usually learn to speak later because of learning different languages, as previously thought.
- One of the simplest approaches towards having bilingual children seems to be the one-parent/one-language approach. It is easier for a child to differentiate a language if one person speaks one language consistently to them.
Voila! I am really interested to hear if anyone else has tips and ideas on how to bring up kids with several languages!