Who is this crazy trilingual family? What have you got to say?
We are a family of three currently living in awesome Sydney/Australia, with the mother (Yin, myself) born in China, the father (Nicolas) born in France, and the daughter (Nina) born in Sydney in January 2012.
This site was created initially, in late 2011, to document our experience, learning, joy, frustration, and evolution of raising Nina as a trilingual child, and the making of a tri-cultural family. And I continue to do so. The first post of this site ‘Trilingual Family In the Making’ shall provide a bit of background of us as a family. The entries under ‘Trilingual Parenting’ category are all around this topic. I am fascinated by how brain works, how children (and adults) learn languages, the ever-changing linguistic and cultural dynamics of our family as Nina grows and we all adapt.
Then in Dec 2013, we set out to another adventure – a 10-month round-the-world trip. With a toddler in tow, it was truly a one-in-lifetime experience. I hence started to use this site to document our trip too. See ‘So Where Did You Go’ and all the entries under ‘Round-the-World Trip’ category for more. With all highs and lows, I can say with certainty that I’m so glad that we did it.
Trilingual parenting and round-the-world trip with a toddler are not necessarily the same things, but they share at least one thing in common: they are both scary and exciting.
In both instances, there is very little existing recipe of success. There are a lot of controversy and doubts. There are people giving the ‘are you crazy’ look.
Fortunately, however, in both instances, there are people saying ‘bravo’ all the way along . There are plenty of opportunities to answer some unanswered questions. There are people who said that they are inspired and probably take one thought, or two, away. There are endless instances for discovering and growing as a family and for each of us individually.
Scary and exciting. This is what this blog is about.
Update 2017: In Dec 2016 I set up a WeChat (the facebook of China) account named 折腾君来了 (ID: i_zhetengjun), to write and publish in Chinese, mainly also about two themes as on this blog (multilingual parenting, and RTW). It inevitably impacted my availability to write in English and update this site. I now created a new category on this site named ‘中文’ (meaning: Chinese) to re-publish some of the articles I originally posted on 折腾君来了. For English readers, it’s perhaps nothing more than a meaningless distraction. For Chinese readers, I hope you enjoy.
DebFebruary 10, 2012 at 5:08 am
Hi ! We are a bilingual family (French mum + Canadian English dad) although I would love to teach my daughter a third language (Spanish or Italian) and although I am very interested in the subject, I am kind of hoping she will be bilingual just because. Because I speak French to her all the time, and her dad in English. Would that be enough? I guess I have a lot more to read…
I will be following your blog which is a great source of info for us !
yinFebruary 12, 2012 at 1:09 pm
Welcome to the trilingual club!
I’m just starting this journey of raising my first child – now less than 1 month – trilingual. Certainly lots and lots of learning, trial and error on the way. I hope to be able to share with many others who are experiencing or planning to give it a go like yourself, and certianly look forward to hearing from you about your expeirence and learning as well.
I have been reading some books, which gave me lots of different perspectives and think of aspects that i’ve never thought of. I have shared a few books in one of my blog titled ‘A Few Books on Bi/tri-lingualism’: ‘http://trilingualfamily.wordpress.com/2011/12/29/a-few-books-on-bimulti-lingualism/. feel free to have a look. As and when I read more (some books, some online resources) I will share my thoughts on this blog too. As you are French mum, you would be able to read that one book in French too, yeah!
Just one note – I borrowed most of the books from library, so just to reduce the potential unnecessary cost. Just buy the one(s) that you think worth re-reading.
Now talking about your thoughts on Spanish or Italian, that’s another interesting element. Assuming that neither you nor your partner is native in these two languages (just from the info as you described, I might be wrong), there are a lot more to think of when introducing this third language to your child. How to make sure the enough intake/exposure? When to start this language? Who to speak this language to the child? How to sustain the level of usage and interest, etc etc. In one of the books I read, it talks about particulay the challanges and methods of introducing a third language that none of the parent speak. something to think …
In any case, it’s a wonderful thing to embark on this journey. Bon voyage et bonne chance !
SaraNovember 18, 2012 at 7:59 pm
Hi! I couldn’t help but leave a comment on your blog! We are a trilingual family (also in Chatswood!) with a 7 month old. We have decided to use a very natural and open “method”… Speaking whatever language comes at that moment. This means that i speak Hungarian and english with her, and my hubby speaks Spanish and english (and i sometimes throw in a couple of basic spanish words too). A friend of mine is a speech pathologist and she advocated this type of method. She says that a baby will figure out the various languages as she goes and that it’s not necessarily important for a parent to stick to only 1 language. I am a little worried about delayed speaking but I guess time will tell! I’ll be very interested to see how you guys go as your a few months ahead of us! Good luck!!
yinNovember 20, 2012 at 10:26 pm
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your story. So one more trilingual family in Chatswood. Should we start a trilingual family club or something like this in the area? 🙂
I’d love to see you guys go with the open method. One thing many books suggested is not to mix languages in one single sentence or conversation when talking to the child, which I try to follow as much as can. But as it has been such a habit for both my husband and I to throw in different languages in a single conversation, I found it really challenging to keep to a ‘pure’ language all the time. Overall I still make an effort but sometimes it just comes so naturally to use a work or two of another language. When I do that I feel quite unsure about the effect it will bring on Nina’s language development. So I’d love to hear back from you how it goes …
Look forward to exchanging more of our stories 🙂
JeanSeptember 22, 2016 at 9:58 pm
I came across your blog when researching languages and children. I feel compelled to leave a message because your situation is very similar to mine… my husband is French (also named Nicolas, haha), I was born in Taiwan but grew up in New Zealand and our children (born Nov 2013, and Feb 2016) were born in Melbourne (we’ve been here 5 years). Language/s has been a huge point of contention since our first was born… I speak French but my husband doesn’t speak Mandarin, and at home we communicate in French. I originally pushed for OPOL, but he thought this was unfair as I was/am at home full-time with the kids, so we came up with something my husband was happy with (I’d still prefer OPOL, but compromises…). Our toddler started mixing up her languages but in the last 6-9 months she’s figured out that mum and dad don’t speak the same language, and will use French with papa and Mandarin with mama. She started going to daycare 2 days a week when she was 18 months, and her English has really picked up in the last couple of months. My husband still believes our daughter’s Mandarin is stronger than French and he struggles a lot with that. I don’t think this would bother him as much if we were living in French-speaking or Mandarin-speaking country but as we live in Australia… that’s another dimension/language; and none of the literature I’ve come across really covers our scenario so we just make it up as we go along and see… :p
Anyway, it’s nice to know there are others in the (almost exact) same situation, and to read about how their methods, techniques, experiences, and results.
yinOctober 7, 2016 at 9:52 pm
Jen, very lovely to read your message! Somehow I didn’t get any notification for getting your comment, hence my excuse of delaying the response.
Anyway it’s lovely to be able to read your story and totally appreciate your situation！Don’t forget to remind your Nicolas (ha, all French are called the same name!!) that our children are really lucky to have the exposure to different languages to start with, and eventually English is going to become their dominant language (if they continue to live and be schooled in Australia), so just be grateful that kids speak all three languages, at all.
Please feel free to come back and leave your comments. Also would love to hear from you what works and what doesn’t at your home. Consider to write a guest post or two? You will be more than welcome 🙂
JeanApril 22, 2017 at 8:36 pm
Thank you for your lovely response. I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to write back. I took the kids back to NZ to see my parents in November, and then end of November, we headed to France for 5 weeks, and then it took some time to settle back into life in Melbourne, and then I’m just slack (the notification email has been in my inbox for literally months, haha). It’s unfortunate that France is so faraway ($$) but I think it was good for our 3yo daughter to see “French in action” so to speak. There are a lot more opportunities for her to speak/use Mandarin than French. I have several Mandarin-speaking mum friends, we attend the same playgroups, and there are also Mandarin-speaking playgroups, and even some of her carers are daycare speak Mandarin), whereas she only speaks French with my husband and me. We do skype regularly with my mother-in-law (who was and continues to be impressed at her French progression), but it’s not the same.
She seems to be going through a stage at the moment where she only wants to speak Mandarin with me; even when we try to read French stories, she’ll say no “read in Mandarin, which isn’t a bad thing at all!! My husband has also picked up a few phrases, words over the year and when he uses those on her, she looks completely confused and doesn’t get it, hahaha. She’s nearly 3.5 so we’re starting “research” into primary schools. We’ve talked French immersion but we’re not sure. I see Nina would’ve started primary this year, what did you guys decide about that?
If you’ll have me guest blog, yes, please (feel free to send me an email anytime 🙂 ). Thank you!