Trilingual Family in the Making

We are a Chinese mother-to-be, a French father-to-be, and an Australian baby-to-be.

So here we are, a trilingual family in the making!


Nicolas and I met in Grenoble/France. Two years after we met we moved to Shanghai/China, and got married there (we had to have three weddings to cater for the needs of the families oceans apart). Another three years later we decicded to cross another ocean to Sydney/Australia. That was in a beautiful early-spring day in late August 2008 (hey this is down under). Yet again three years later, we’re expecting our first baby, due in January 2012.

I am a native Chinese, speaking Mandarin Chinese, English (fluently), and French (pretty fluently), and 2 Chinese dialects (Ningbo and Shanghai dialects), and I’m learning Spanish (struggling). Nicolas is a native French, speaking French, English (fluently), and Mandarin Chinese (I consider his Mandarin quite ok knowing that he can get by with his mother-in-law in the language :)).

Hopefully the paragraphs above satisfied a few curious souls!

While we (especially I) go through the initial anxiety of becoming the first-time parents, before everything else (that is the first name, first pram, hospital, etc etc), we have quickly agreed on the future language rule in the family. I will be speaking 中文 to her (so yes it’s a girl!), Nicolas francais, and between Nicolas and I we’ll continue with francais. Outside of the family, she will have to get on with English.

We haven’t figured out yet exactly what that means and how that will work. But one thing is quite certain: a trilingual-family-in-the-making is going to be an interesting exprience, probaly even quite fascinating, albeit complicated. I started to read about the subject and am discovering a lot of things about brain development, bilingual/trilingual education, parenting, cultures, early linguistic developmentlanguages in general, and more. I have always been interested in these subjects somehow (admittedlyexcept parenting up to this point) and now I have one concrete reason to find out more. As I like to learn and experience new things, it is helping me immensely to cope with the anxiety. I’m quite content with my new-found coping strategy, so I’m going to continue the thoughts along this line.

And why not keep a record? So voila !


  • Cai

    September 29, 2011 at 3:51 am Reply

    Always curious and living life to the full! Bravo

    • yin

      December 1, 2011 at 11:13 pm Reply

      thanks xiaoniu

  • Paola

    November 29, 2011 at 6:20 pm Reply

    First of all, congratulations to you and Nicolas for the baby, and congratulation also for your decision to become a trilingual family, ie. to keep beeing yourself. I think this is vital and really healthy that you transmit to your child how and what you really are and not try to disguise in one single culture to make her life “easier”.
    As you know, I am also a Third Culture Child and was born in a trilingual environment (French mother, Italian father, born in Argentina), moved country 10 times, lived in 41 different houses, attended 6 different schools and 3 universities each one in a different country!!! and I can tell you that I do not recall experiencing any difficulties with languages and communicating differently with my father and mother and today with my brothers and sister. My nephews speak 4 different languages all together and it doesn’t stop them form playing and communicating between themselves when they meet.

    If you haven’t done it yet, you should really ready the book “Third Culture Kids – Growing among worlds” ( It is recommended to expat parents in all international schools. To me, reading this book and it was a revelation and a relief.
    And remember to give her a name than can be pronounced and understood in her 3 languages!!! She will spend a fair amount of time already explaining her origins!!
    Gros gros bisous à vous trois!

    • yin

      December 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm Reply

      Hola Paola !

      It’s sooooooooo encouraging to hear from a TCK self about the positive experience you had growing up with three languages/cultures.
      Sydney in this sense (and not the only one) is really a wonderful place to be, simply because there is such a mix of people with diverse background here, and nobody raises the eyebrow if you speak another language other than English on the street …
      It would have been very different if we were in France or in China. But then, if that would be the case, we wouldn’t think of doing otherwise anyway …

      Totally agree with your idea of the name – that’s why we’re scratching our heads!!! 🙂

      Muchos gracias une otra vez. Espero te hacer una vista en Buenos Aires pronto !!! (ok, that’s the result of my almost one-year study of espanol – i swear i didn’t use any online translator :))

  • Magic

    December 7, 2011 at 8:35 am Reply

    I assume Chinese character one of the most beautiful and meaningful characters in the world. If possible, parhaps you can also try to teach her how to read and write Chinese characters. As I watched a lot of TV shows, in the show, ABCs they can speak Chinese somehow, but they cannot read Chinese character, I always feel sorry about them la… ha, anyway, that’s just my point of view. Wish all the best to you and your baby~!

    • yin

      December 8, 2011 at 9:18 pm Reply

      indeed! i would really love to see her able to read and write chinese. Hopefully I will be able to create an environment where she’s motivated enough to do so 🙂 long way to go!

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