A few years ago, over breakfast, we conducted an experiment with Mia.
“Where’s your foot?” we asked her. She lifted one foot, smiling.
“Et ton pied? Où est ton pied?” Again she lifted her foot.
“Donde esta tu cabeza?” She raised both hands up to her head.
“Barkola wa’kan?” And she lifted both her feet, with a look of triumph.
I’ve been thinking about how my two girls are digesting four languages. At home we mostly speak English and Spanish to them. One-on-one, je leur parle en français et en anglais, and Rony speaks to them in Spanish and Kaqchikel.
At 20 months the few words Mia could say were plucked from all four languages – mama, papa, chichi, duck, dog, nez, nena, fish, nan. Now, at 4 1/2, she is fluent in English and Spanish, can understand French and a bit of Kaqchikel.
At 17 months, Anina can only say a few basic “baby” words, and I’ve learned not to worry about her small vocabulary. She’ll get there. The words will stick, eventually.
I remember watching this video on language development in babies, and it’s comforting to know that children absorb it all. Language is a fascinating, fascinating thing…
Which language will dominate for each of my children later in life, I wonder?
When I consider the amount of effort and time I invest in teaching them language, I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it to raise bilingual children.
I am excited to teach them how to read, but the thought of doing it in many languages is daunting.
What do you think? Is it worth putting in all that effort to teach all those languages, and to raise bilingual children? Or multilingual children?