all 76 comments

[–]ninehoursleep 185 points186 points  (1 child)

We speak 3 languages at home. sometimes I ask something in japanese and get an answer in one of the other languages.

No rules!

[–]Gumbode345 12 points13 points  (0 children)

Fully agree. Grew up like this myself, have kids who grew up like this, the whole gunk about confusion comes from people who learned languages late. One thing helps though, not immediately but later, that is linking each language to it specific place/person, because that facilitates the distinction and in particular helps hammering down the rules when they become important.

[–]Bangeederlander 118 points119 points  (0 children)

My kids are trilingual. Just treat all three as living, necessary languages - a mix of travelling or video calling with family from birth (Dutch); school (for Japanese), speaking at home (English, Japanese and Dutch). English, Japanese and/or Dutch speaking friends come over with their kids. I also maybe let them watch a few too many TV shows and YouTube videos than I would like in Dutch or English. Usually Dutch or English radio in the car. I'm not sure my youngest even knows they are three different languages. When they're very young, nursery rhymes helped a lot - we sing a lot of nursery rhymes. The longest grammatical structures they were able to make were from singing nursery rhymes to themselves when playing.

Where I'm from this is natural anyway - it's how I also grew up.

[–]bulldogdiver🎅🐓 中部・山梨県 🐓🎅 79 points80 points  (9 children)

At that age the child is not learning 3 languages. The child is learning 1 really fucking huge language. They're also little sponges. Just keep doing what you're doing.

My 3 kids speak English and Japanese because that's their mother tongue(s). Watching them remember which language to pick and choose once they became aware of the difference (or choose a different language because the concept could be more clearly communicated in one language over the other) was really cool.

Even cooler was watching them learn German when we lived there. We put the kids in the German schools and for the first 5-6 months the 2 younger ones were miserable - they were 4 and 7. At about 5-6 months they suddenly started speaking German (admittedly with a slightly below grade level vocabulary) but it was like a switch flipped. The oldest was 10 when we got there - his German is the best of the bunch (because he spent a year doing nothing but studying German and taking just enough math/science that he didn't forget) BUT it's also the least natural of the bunch because he was just past that point where the language centers start to "harden" and learning a language becomes harder than just being exposed to it.

[–]FruitDove 7 points8 points  (7 children)

I'm sure if the eldest stayed there longer his German would eventually become native. I think the "too late" point is about puberty.

[–]smokeshack関東・東京都 22 points23 points  (6 children)

I research foreign accents. The "too late" point, also called the "critical period" hypothesis, has really poor evidence behind it. Is it really a biological cutoff, or do people have other reasons for not learning language as deeply?

A toddler's environment is absolutely perfect for language learning — every minor attempt at speech is met with overflowing praise, people speak in slow, simple words, you're allowed to make mistakes without fear of consequences, etc. By the time you're a teenager, people talk to you like an adult, nobody gives you a big hug and says you're a genius for saying "good morning," and making a mistake gets you made fun of or ostracized from your peer group. By the time you're an adult, you simply cannot spend 16 hours a day fully immersed in a second language for several years before being asked to produce something. The learning environment is entirely different — if I want to learn Korean, I will have a very hard time convincing a Korean woman to breastfeed me and change my diaper, and I won't be welcome in a Korean daycare.

Examples of adults learning to a native level are very rare, but they do exist. Are those people genetically superior X-Men mutants? Do they study or practice differently from everyone else? The research just isn't there to tell us.

[–]FruitDove 6 points7 points  (0 children)

You have a point.

I'm not a researcher; I'm just speaking from personal experience, but it is certainly true that teenagers are most likely to be self-conscious of their mistakes in a foreign language.

[–]CarniTato_YOUTUBE 5 points6 points  (0 children)

Adults are better at learning languages than kids. You can be more analytical and structure your studies. You are 100% right, our perception is biased because kids get so much more exposure naturally. You are never too old to learn a new language and it's usually an excuse

[–]Wooden-Lake-5790 0 points1 point  (3 children)

The ability to distinguish different but similar phonemes declines rapidly from a very early age. For example, Japanese doesn't distinguish between /r/ and /l/ (or rather they use a different phoneme between them). A child only exposed to Japanese from a young age will have more trouble learning say words in a English accent.

I agree that the biggest influence is environmental, but there are neurological changes that happen throughout childhood that make it easier for children to learn languages as well.

[–]smokeshack関東・東京都 2 points3 points  (2 children)

As noted, I actually research this stuff, so I am very aware of Patricia Kuhl's very famous work on phoneme differentiation in infancy. I cite her often.

I agree that the biggest influence is environmental, but there are neurological changes that happen throughout childhood that make it easier for children to learn languages as well.

Demonstrate this with data. I am not saying it is impossible or even unlikely, I am saying that at present it is poorly supported.

We have abundant evidence that Japanese adults can learn to successfully differentiate and pronounce /r/ and /l/, some of which I have produced myself. If Japanese adults are capable of learning these sound distinctions, where does that leave the critical period hypothesis? We have to walk it back. It becomes a "sensitive period," perhaps. But then we dig further into the data, and we see that the longitudinal studies use tiny samples, so their statistical power is effectively nil — as the authors themselves invariably admit.

We need to have large-scale studies of big, diverse populations over many years in order to say anything useful. If you know someone who wants to provide several million dollars in funds to run that study, well... hit a gaijin up, mang.

[–]Agitated_Lychee_8133 0 points1 point  (1 child)

Well we do know for a fact that children absorb and remember things much more easily than adults, who have a more difficult time. It's not a debate of absolutes, but of majority.

[–]smokeshack関東・東京都 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Demonstrate this with data. I am not saying it is impossible or even unlikely, I am saying that at present it is poorly supported.

[–]justcallmeyou 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Fascinating! I've always wondered about which is more effective, learning naturally or by study.

[–]mdotca 38 points39 points  (3 children)

My two yen: momma try to speak French as much as possible. Let Japanese come from socializing. Try to limit the household language to French and English. I bet your husband could learn French a long with your baby. Since society speaks Japanese, you don’t need it in your house. Similar technique worked for my Canadian Japanese friends. Parents only spoke Japanese in the house. They let Canadian life teach the English. Kids don’t get confused as much as adults so don’t worry :)

[–]fkdjapanlife 17 points18 points  (0 children)

This is called one parent one language, if you want to research it more. In this case, their Japanese comes from social interactions with friends and teachers. The first few months of pre-school might be tough, but kids are pretty resilient.

[–]japanisa 13 points14 points  (1 child)

I second this!

Try and minimize Japanese at home and keep using French when talking with your son, and English when talking with your husband and when your husband talks with your son, if you’re both comfortable with that.

I’m writing my MSc dissertation on how parents try to raise their children trilingually and according to what I found in the literature, chances of your child becoming a proficient and active trilingual are positively influenced by

  • exposure from a young age

  • consistently high quality and quantity of input

  • no community language (Japanese) in the home

  • both parents having some knowledge/proficiency in the minority languages (French/English)

  • creating an environment with many opportunities and reasons to speak the minority languages and to establish a connection to their cultures, e.g. reading French children’s books with them, watching French TV, video calls/visits with your family etc.

Other things that might be good to know:

  • English due to its exceptional status as global lingua franca is acquired more easily than ‘lower status’ languages with fewer speakers worldwide. There also will be more opportunities to learn English later than other languages.

  • Usually the school language will become the child’s dominant language, so it’s good to consider your long-term plans (will you stay in Japan for all of your child’s education?) and decide on local school or international school with these things in mind.

  • As others have said, language confusion is an unfounded worry. Some parents are concerned about language mixing, but most scholars view it as a natural development in multilingual acquisition or even in communication practices among members of a multilingual family/community. I read at least one study that found if parents mix languages, children are more likely to as well.

  • One parent, one language is the most well-known bilingual strategy parents try to follow, but in practice it is extremely hard to adhere to especially for multilingual parents. There is also no evidence that this is the best or most effective strategy, so I personally don’t stress about sticking to one language exclusively.

  • Children may develop an aversion to one or more languages if they’re pushed too hard to learn/use it/them.

  • This might not apply to your situation, but is good to know especially for first-time parents: language delays are most likely not directly caused by exposure to multiple languages. If, for example, parents seem concerned that their 1-2-year-old has not reached their speech production milestones, doctors or childcare professionals who are not experts in early multilingual acquisition often advise them to stick to only one language, making the parents feel insecure about their language choices and plans. However, consistent exposure is key for early multilingual acquisition, so don’t hesitate to get a second opinion if you feel unsure.

It is also good to have realistic expectations. Even if you make sure your child is exposed to three languages equally, there is no guarantee that he will become a balanced active trilingual.

I hope this helps. Best of luck!

[–]punpun_Osa[S] 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Wow thank you so much! We will probably stay in Japan so I’ll make sure that he has more opportunities to speak French. Like you said, I think English won't be too difficult since we use it daily, friends, movies, books etc. I’m going back to Europe soon and I’m going to buy French books for him!

[–]TokyoBaguette 36 points37 points  (0 children)

Just make sure you speak French to the baby so that it's hearing gets used to it.

Babies hearing between US and Japan starts diverging at 6 months old so it's not time wasted.

Mine's still too young to have 3 languages but mainly Japanese at home and English at preschool plus TV in all 3 languages seems to work.

[–]aznfelguard 25 points26 points  (3 children)

My boy's almost 2. My plan is to have him learn Japanese from nursery, school, and pretty much anything outside of the home. Netflix, YouTube, and I will be in charge of English. Wife is in charge of Mandarin. Grandparents will add a hint of Cantonese.

I am expecting some delay in his speaking ability but it's all part of the process in learning multiple languages. Think long term.

[–]gendough 2 points3 points  (2 children)

About to have a kid here and in a similar boat - my wife's from Beijing, I'm from the US, and I will speak English and her Mandarin to the kid.

I'm wondering how to speak to each other in front of the kid, though.

We both can speak Japanese (non-natively), but I’m hopeless with Mandarin, and her English is so-so, enough for basic communication.

Could I ask what you guys do?

[–]aznfelguard 6 points7 points  (1 child)

I'm not an expert so take my advice with a grain of salt.

My wife is native/fluent in Mandarin and Japanese. I'm native in English. Although not great, my Mandarin is better than my wife's English so we communicate together mostly in Mandarin. It's the best option we have. We do this out of convenience for both of us.

What have you and your wife been communicating in the whole time? I think you can just continue using the same method amongst you two. However, if you're speaking to your kid I would think speaking the language you're best at would be better. I don't think it makes sense speaking to your kid in a language you're not good at.

[–]gendough 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Thanks very much for your advice, and it's really interesting that you guys talk in Mandarin. Definitely with you on speaking one's native/best language when talking with the kid.

We just talk in Japanese to each other with the occasional English word thrown in - we've been doing so for eight years and it's kind of evolved into an idiosyncratic way of speaking, which might not be so good. I think we'll try to speak to each other in standard Japanese in the future.

[–]tehgurgefurger 14 points15 points  (0 children)

I'd suggest each parent speaking to the baby in their native tounge. The whole babies getting confused and you should only speak one language to them is an antiquated myth.

[–]Uguisudani 10 points11 points  (1 child)

Similar situation but the 3rd language is Polish and our daughter is almost 3 so there’s people with a lot more experience than me.

We used a lot of English before she entered nursery school but after that we used more Japanese so she could more easily pick up some of the basic commands and requests by the staff. Now it’s half and half as I try to use a lot of English with her but my wife uses 80% Japanese.

A lot of the content she consumes through books, music, and a little TV is mostly English though.

At the moment she mainly uses Japanese to speak but is using more and more English in some situations, and often knows both the English and Japanese word for objects in her life. She also understands English perfectly fine even if she doesn’t use it so much yet.

I haven’t introduced much Polish yet but will start to soon though.

Not sure if this is much help though. I’d like to have her spend more time in English speaking environments going forward and am making an effort to get to know some of the other multinational families in the area.

[–]punpun_Osa[S] 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Thank you very much for sharing your experience! I don’t know where you live but in Kansai, we have a line group for parents (mostly bilingual English/Japanese) it’s very useful. I also made a good friend through a group on Facebook (Osaka Sayonara sale, parents often sell kids items that’s how I met her). Now my kid is too young to interact much but I had some play dates and I think it’s very good for kids to improve their English. The struggle is with French, I guess It is the same for you with Polish. I wonder if using the three languages from the beginning can be confusing.

[–]Minginton 8 points9 points  (0 children)

We speak three languages as well. English, Japanese and Uchinaaguchi (Okinawan Language. Most of my wife's older family speak it exclusively so I've learned as well years ago). My kids are all teenagers now and are perfectly comfortable speaking any of them, which leads to very confusing conversations if overhead with random jumble of each going back and forth. Young children are extremely adaptable to learning multiple languages.

[–]DifferentWindow1436 5 points6 points  (1 child)

One thing I have noticed speaking with other parents is that each family has their own goals and definitions of "speaking the language".

We decided to only focus on English and Japanese and our goal is university/professional level in both languages. Native level 100%. Even 2 languages is a lot of work if you want this level. My wife speaks some French and my boy is for some reason highly interested in Spanish. But we are not introducing any other languages until at least middle school and even then the goal would be a nice hobby language/conversational fluency.

Plan: we have done 100% English at home, Japanese houikuen. Sent him to kumon about a year before Japanese public school so at least he would get his reading/writing down. Japanese public school now and in 3rd grade. Since 1st grade we have been sending him to English clases with American text/coursework (phonics, composition) so he does 3 hours a week of class and another hour of homework in English.

My Russian/French friends just left Japan for France. One reason - what to do with the child's education. They both speak English well plus Russian and French. Adding Japanese didn't make sense when they aren't Japanese and didn't see themselves here forever. If I understood correctly, their goal was French/English first with Russian as a side language to communicate with extended family.

I have an American friend in China who basically says, "My daughter will probably stay in China so Chinese first and then I am focusing on us being able to communicate well in English. I hope to get her to a certain reading/writing level but that's not going to be my focus in elementary".

[–]loveplaindough 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I agree. While language exposure is good, it is also good to set an expectation of the level you want to achieve.

People definitely have different definitions on what multilingual and fluency means, and when they claim they or their kids are fluent in multiple languages, the degree of fluency can be anywhere between being able to hold a conversation about the weather to actually having an intellectual discussion on multiple topics.

[–]daush 5 points6 points  (1 child)

Speak as much u can in any language, their brain are sponge . In my house we speak 5 (Japanese , Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese , English)! He is 3 years old now and some how he know I don’t get Chinese and he change to English or Japanese, I speak Spanish/Portuguese but he only use those to his grandparents 😢

My wife speak Chinese only with him. Tv is English , school is Japanese , I read books before sleep in Spanish and video calls with family Portuguese, Spanish. I speak Spanish/ English with him.

Btw I was born in trilingual family and was ok (I was 2 months old when we moved to another country) . My old brother was around 4 years old when he move and for him was way more difficult at the beginning, he used to punch the teacher or start screaming every time he didn’t understand, so imo start early is best.

[–]LetsBeNice- 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Damn that's crazy, that kid is having such a huge boost for his future thanks to you.

[–]eskatrem 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Similar situation here, my wife is Japanese, I am French (we are both in our 40's) and we both speak our mother tongues to the kids (now 8 and 12 years old). Their Japanese is native (we were living in Spain before that, but they had no problem with the school once we moved to Japan), and their French is a bit shaky, they understand well but make mistakes when speaking. My wife and I speak English together and the kids can understand it.

My personal opinion is that it's fine if their French is not great. If later on they want to do something requiring the French language they will be able to learn on their own.

[–]brudzool 3 points4 points  (0 children)

One thing to remember, understanding a language is different to being able to speak it. They need to actually do it, regularly. My house is bilingual and I have that figured out ...adding a third to the mix....idk

[–]rvtk 2 points3 points  (0 children)

We speak Polish at home between family (it's the first language for all of us) and occasionally English if we're with English speaking friends. A lot of the media consumption happens in English too. Kids go to Japanese preschools so exclusively Japanese there or with our Japanese-speaking friends. Somehow, it works.

[–]zchew 2 points3 points  (1 child)

It requires planning.

My cousin who speaks French, English, and Mandarin Chinese married a Frenchman and is living in France. She only speaks to her children in English, while her husband speaks to them in French. They get some measure of Mandarin Chinese exposure via their grandparents.

But you could just as simply change plan it so your children get exposure to 2 languages via the parents and the last via daily life. Ie you speak French exclusively to your child, your husband English, while your child learns Japanese outside in school

[–]Moetown84 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is the most effective strategy I’ve heard based on the research.

[–]CaptainNoFriends 2 points3 points  (0 children)

There is no such thing as language confusion for a toddler. Failure is not a demerit for a toddler's learning of nearly anything. As a child in a multilingual household, I used to call milk, "leche" without realizing the word origin.

[–]bahasasastra 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I am a language scientist. In language science, it’s widely agreed that speaking multiple languages to your children do not confuse them at all. They have the capacity to learn all the languages you speak to them consistently, so don’t worry about teaching them.

In many countries where many languages are spoken, it is very common for the children to pick up several languages as they grow.

[–]PidjoTheNarvalo 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Exact same situation than you, i was the primary care taker for our second born child and she picked up french in no time, started going to nursery and became super fluent in japanese in no time. Now going to kindergarten in English and same now English is no problem.

IMO the best option would be a french kindergarten, but obviously hard to find, so keep pushing french at home as much as possible, I'm always quizzing the little ones "et en français comment on dit ça? Et ça?" They love it.

But we settled for English kindergarten (where they have japanese classes and are learning hiragana) and the elementary will be in japanese.

Also check out if you have an institut français in your city, they have a club des petits where I am , once a month week end "classes" from 3 to 6 years old , which are very basic but it's nice for them to see more of "us". And then they have french programs from 6 years old.

If you have family you talk to back home, make sure they speak french to the kids, I have to battle with my parents to not try and use their broken English, and tell my kids that it's ok to talk back in English if they don't know how to say it in french.

French will probably come third, but they surprisingly get it easily.

Force et robustesse! Et vive la France !

[–]blissfullytaken 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is what I’m worried about too. So much worse in my case. I speak 7 languages and dialects. So aside from Japanese and English, there’s 5 others that I use normally with my family at home. Mandarin and Tagalog are the two biggest language groups but we also have 3 other dialects in the mix that are very different in tone and structure.

Currently planning to only introduce kiddo to two, Japanese and English. Might expose to more depending on how much they absorb but I also don’t want to ever have a “secret” language between kiddo and me that hubby can’t understand.

[–]OsakaWilson 1 point2 points  (0 children)

The rule of thumb of second and third languages is that they need to actively use the language 20-30% of your day. One-Parent One-Language does not work in Japan like it does in some other countries. As the care-taker, this should be something you can manage.

If your husband has a normal work schedule, the risk for your child is to fall behind in Japanese. There will be some delay when teaching multiple languages, the same rule of thumb applies, so keep track of the Japanese too. Once they go to school, their language will catch up, but you do not want the teacher deciding and unintentionally communicating to your child that they are stupid, which is common with Japanese teacher toward foreign kids. That will turn a delay into a permanent condition.

Imperfect English on your and your husband's part is OK so long as they get lots of input from other sources. They work out which is correct rather well.

Video is good, but interaction is the key.

[–]tsukihi3関東・栃木県 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I speak French exclusively with my daughter (6) and my wife who isn't fluent at all in French only speaks Japanese to her. My Japanese is... conversational at best. Between my wife and I, we speak English as a force of habit.

She's growing up speaking French & Japanese no problem, and she picks up a lot of English passively from us speaking to each other. She's going to the local elementary school.

The hard part I'm struggling with the most is teaching her French grammar/writing. She's a good reader as she grew up in France, but she can't spell and I'm having a lot of issues with finding time and energy to teach her. The other struggle I'll have is socialising with French speakers because we live in countryside Tochigi.

[–]MaxKevinComedy 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Speak French. Children don't get confused. Learning a language before the age of 4 controls how you think. It's the single best thing you can do to give your child a better life. Don't stop at English/French/Japanese. If you have the funds, find a school that will use another language. There's theoretically no limit, but children need about 1-2 hours of daily exposure to learn the language, so they can really learn 10+ before the age of 4.

[–]blosphere関東・神奈川県 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Do you mean simultaneous trilingual, or perhaps simultaneous bilingual and then one (almost native) language as the first foreign language?

True simultaneous trilingual is almost impossible to pull off, bilingual is much more realistic to pull off. In your case Japanese/French :) I'd concentrate on that. The kid will learn English from TV later.

I speak only Finnish to my son and wife speaks only Japanese. We use Japanese and English between us, he's now almost 4.

I really love it that he addresses me pretty much only in Finnish, and the mother only in Japanese. Just 6 months ago he suddenly started translating my Finnish to the mom, it was hilarious :) The change was sudden.

I also wouldn't worry about your kids Japanese, if you put him into daycare or kindergarten, his Japanese will catch up real quick. Your husband should talk to him exclusively in Japanese, hopefully he's able to spend as much time as possible after work with him :)

[–]TawakeMono 1 point2 points  (0 children)

We do the following with our two year old: Japanese = Daycare, and Japanese grandparents. English = When we are all together, and when with only mom. Swedish = Alone with me, and talking to Swedish grandparents.

So far she understands pretty well all of them, but she mixes them up when it comes to talking.

Sometimes she might use a Swedish word at the daycare and the teacher get a bit confused. Like when she was shaking her head and saying "Nej!" when she didn't want something for a while.

[–]Freezaen 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Your best bet is probably to have one parent speak one language and the other parent speak the other. Your child will learn Japanese at daycare and at school like all the other kids.

[–]pu_pu_co 1 point2 points  (1 child)

I don’t have children (yet) so I don’t have an answer for you, but I’ve been thinking the same thing …

I speak Finnish and English natively, Japanese fairly fluently (N2). My husband is Japanese, speaks English fluently but he’s not native. He doesn’t speak Finnish. Just a few random words, and a short phrase or two.

If we have kids I’d love to teach them Finnish as well, but there’s also the problem that Finnish isn’t… really useful. So I worry I’d be wasting my time/effort.

I grew up with my mother speaking to me only in Finnish and my father speaking to me only in English, but that’s tough with 3 languages especially if one person doesn’t speak one of those languages.

Some of my students (I work at an international kindergarten) speak English at school, and another language (Chinese or Korean mainly) at home, and pick up Japanese outside of school with friends/neighbours/watch tv etc in Japanese.

[–]throwawayy435734 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I just want to say please re-consider the idea that your native language isn't "useful". I grew up in a multi-lingual family, am a polyglot, and incredibly thankful that both my parents made the effort to pass down their native languages/dialects, especially my Icelandic mother!

I found out firsthand that a language doesn't need to be spoken by a billion plus people to be "useful"..even a so-called niche language can open up incredible travel and work opportunities in the future.

[–]Ryaies 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Our kid were raised in a trilingual environment. It’s fine but something to watch out for is, it could result in stuttering. If it happens, consult a speech therapist. Also, something happened to a friend’s kid, while she speaks all three but she noticed that people are having trouble understanding her, which resulted in she refused to speak in front of strangers.

[–]limutwit 0 points1 point  (1 child)

We grow up speaking Malay, English and Chinese in Malaysia. Just do it!

[–]Moetown84 1 point2 points  (0 children)

What are the different contexts where you learn/speak each of those languages? For example, inside the home, outside the home, school, etc.

[–]rightnextto1 0 points1 point  (0 children)

We’re doing the same just with Danish English and Japanese. My daughter still only speaks Japanese but she understands both English and danish (altho she doesn’t always know the difference between these two languages).

So keep at it- it can be hard because you don’t seem to see any effect or benefit for a long long time- but trust it- eventually the language is in their brain and just needs activated.

[–]Relative-Biscotti-94 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Also a trilingual household at its early stages (1.5 year old) so keen to read everyone’s response here as I’m also figuring it out.

That said, OP’s situation reminded me of this manga author might be a good read! Similar situations are portrayed probably.

[–]AUWarEagle82 0 points1 point  (0 children)

My children spoke multiple languages until we returned to the USA when they were quite young. Then they promptly lost all languages but English over the following year. It was quite sad but they simply would not respond to me when I addressed them in other languages.

[–]AcademicMany4374 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Try to get some French only materials you can share with your child (where no other language can be used as a shortcut). I wonder if Asterix or some other French original would be good..

[–]MonsterKerr -1 points0 points  (0 children)

Been speaking/reading to my son constantly in English since he was born. A few trips to America, sparse calls with Grandma. He barely speaks any English. He's only now kind of speaking and reading, although he obviously understands.

edit: He's 8

edit edit: guess I should throw in that it's mostly Japanese between me and the wife, and I wasn't insistent enough that he uses English to respond to me early on I guess. And I don't want to shame him now for not being able to speak well.

[–]nozoomin関東・東京都 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I grew up speaking 3 languages, and it didn’t feel confusing until I needed to start learning proper boring grammar at school. I think as long as you take it easy and make it fun, your kid will have no problems! :)

[–]Key_Preference_4594 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I speak 4 languages at home. Japanese English mandarin Cantonese

[–]zackel_flac 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The best is to have everyone at home be able to speak the 3 languages and use it extensively. My advice would be for your husband to try speaking some French as well. Watching TV (with moderation) helps a lot. Regarding international school, it's up to you but language alone should not be the decision factor. International schools are very different from Japanese schools and so going to one of those means your child will be siloed into a bubble that has usually little influence from Japanese culture. They are usually a good option if you plan to leave Japan at some point, otherwise think twice.

[–]kombufalafel 0 points1 point  (0 children)

We do one parent one language (Spanish and Japanese), and between us the parents we speak a third one (English). Our 2 year old wasn’t interested in English for a while but recently she started answering small questions and chosing English books/songs. We don’t overthink it and don’t make rules, but we try to stick to OPOL (one parent one language) and the rest we leave it up to her. No plans for international school, but she attends some after school activities in different languges and I arrange many playdates for her in all of them. It really depends on the area you are. We are quite rural, so it’s a bit complicated but if you’re in a major city you should be fine ;)

[–]AMLRoss 0 points1 point  (0 children)

English and Spanish roots here, Japanese wife.

Kids only learned English and Japanese. I want them to learn Spanish, but they will need to chose to learn at a later time.

Its already hard enough for them to learn 2 languages, 3 is pushing it, UNLESS they can actually use it regularly.

We don't visit Spain so they will never get to use it. They do however use English every day. More so than Japanese funnily enough.

Its all about usage. No matter how hard you try to teach them, unless they actually use it in a practical way, they will forget it or just be plain bad at it.

Seen it with other multilingual kids.

[–]homoclite -1 points0 points  (0 children)

My view was that kids need to learn to think first, so once they learn to think on one language they can start on another. But confusion is a good way to get a bad deal out of multilingualism, particularly when it comes to writing.

[–]Actual-Assistance198 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I speak English and Spanish and would love my daughter to learn both, but I am already struggling with English! I can’t imagine trying to get her to learn Spanish too.

How do parents whose partner only speaks Japanese communicate when you are all together?? I do make an effort to speak in English with my daughter when it’s just the two of us. But when dads around my daughter and I both talk to him in Japanese…if I spoke to my daughter in English, he often wouldn’t understand and would get sidelined from the conversation.

So the result is that everyone’s speaking in japanese and if I try to force myself to talk to my daughter in English it feels so forced because she’ll respond in Japanese. I’m finding that it feels so so unnatural.

She even goes to an English hoikuen but all the kids are japanese so Japanese is still the main language she’s learning at school…what to do?!

Tv is almost always in English so I think that helps a little, but she’s still only speaking like 10% English…

[–]ConsciousLibrarian78 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Method 1: One parent, one language. You speak French to them, dad speaks English to them. You all speak English together. They don't need to write in those languages yet, so focus on speaking only. But you live in Japan, so they must learn how to speak Japanese outside of the home. So, getting them into a Japanese kindergarten is a good idea. This helps with learning all 3 languages, but might cause them to get mixed up more often.

Method 2: English at home, Japanese outside, French through songs and nursery rhymes. This maximizes the learning of the most needed languages while paving the way for a third one. However, you risk not being able to teach them much French.

Method 3: full Japanese at the home and outside of it. When they're fully alphabetized (or whatever it is in Japanese), start on a second language training. Once they can carry on daily conversations in 2L, start on 3L. This helps prevent delays in schooling, but at the potential expense of their fluency and a lifetime of language learning.

Expect confusion. Expect them not being able to use one or the other right away. Expect them to be a bit behind compared to monolingual children. Multilingual children start off slow but catch up fast, and surpass even faster. Keep at it and don't get frustrated.

[–]Tokyo-Entrepreneur 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Speaking exclusively French to the child is the way to go. We applied “one person one language” strictly and that way there is zero confusion about which language is which, and no mixing of languages in sentences. It makes a very clear separation. And it increases exposure to French compared to using it only some of the time, so it’s better for their French.

Longer term it is better for them to go to the French school if you want them to be native level French. The country language (Japanese) is automatically dominant so you need to counteract that somehow.

[–]CrimsonReign07 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Worked with a multilingual family. Think they swapped out all the time, and one day their daughter said a sentence in 3 or 4 different languages. Said it was super cute. She’s fine, just takes time to sort it all out. Like pretty much everyone else, I say just go for it.

[–]SamLooksAt 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Just from my own experience with a bilingual child.

Don't worry about it! Kids just don't get confused by this stuff, they just know they are different!

Although it seems to help if specific people stick to specific languages. I.e. mummy language, daddy language, everyone language.

It actually seems to help if one person can't speak a specific language as this vastly simplifies the separation. In my case, it was me and Japanese before we moved to Japan.

Even then as they age they just kind of seem to sort it all out naturally.

[–]LumiereCastaway 0 points1 point  (0 children)

No rules as such but natural assimilation. You are underestimating the amount of information (habits, languages etc) that babies can absorb when they are at that age.

Personally I was raised as a quadlingual - local language from mother’s side, local language from my father’s side, local language of the state we lived in and the National language that everyone had to learn.

So I would repeatedly context switch depending on whom I was speaking to- dad and his side of the family, mum and her side of the family or with the people outside. In rare cases, I would get vocab mixed up and tend to butcher the word by “English-ify” -ing it.

Like your case, my father couldn’t speak my mother’s language but vice-verse was true. Over the years, he could understand quite a lot after repeated exchanges between us and by hearing us speak.

[–]Ejemy 0 points1 point  (0 children)

From friends who did the same as you they told me the most important thing was not mixing the languages mid sentence. Also one of their daughters was getting stressed when her parents asked her to use one language but they let off and she naturally got around to speaking it well after a few years. Don't force and don't mix is what I got out of it.

[–]Substantial-Goal-911 0 points1 point  (0 children)

You will not confuse your child. Exposure is the most important at 7 months and I would highly recommend using French as much as possible. Your child will get Japanese and English from his dad.

[–]Kilo123gofys 0 points1 point  (0 children)

As someone who grew up with three languages (Filipino, English, Japanese), I’d say I never really experienced any confusion whenever my dad would speak to me in Japanese and broken English while my mom in Filipino (Tagalog) and also broken Japanese and English. In fact, the association with where I hear the language used actually helped me develop more interest with learning my other mother tongue as I spent most of my childhood in the Philippines. My English developed because of school, Filipino when talking to friends and at home while Japanese whenever we go back for annual visits.

Now that I’m studying French in school, I learn faster than my peers and have a deeper understanding of nuances because of this so I think that its best to have the child to be exposed to your preferred languages. Granted, the kid might develop a sort of Japanglish-French where he uses all words/syntax in a single sentence but that only really lasts during early childhood. As he meets more people and grow, he will eventually learn to separate these languages.

If anything, the only problem that I really had was a sense of belongingness because I am stuck between both worlds so I think being close with kids with a similar multi-lingual abilities should help with his growth and ease the feeling of isolation.

Tldr; It’s fine. It’s a matter of exposing the child to different environments. As long as he doesn’t feel that it is forced, he will eventually find love towards that language

[–]dogsledonice 0 points1 point  (0 children)

We live in Canada but my wife spoke only Japanese with our kids when they were young. I used a mix, as I'm not fluent by any means. Preschool in English was maybe difficult for a week or so but they catch on quick.

The hardest was keeping them fluent once they were immersed in English most of the day at school/friends. It takes focus and effort on the parent(s)' part to keep them speaking back in that language. Trips to that environment help a lot (we enrolled them in Japanese schools for month-long stints at the end of every school year, speaking with peers is really key at a certain point). But don't worry about them mixing things up, they switch back and forth effortlessly

[–]RedYamOnthego 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ideally, your husband can passively learn French with the baby and study it in his free time. (Even 10 minutes a day adds up over 18 years.) That way, he can reinforce your French commands & understand your French conversation, and chime in in his native language. He should play with the baby often in his native language and read stories.

Then, you can supplement the third language with playdates. During playdates, you use the English or Japanese of the group. (Although, if you are very social, getting playdates in French also would be amazing.)

If Baby has a firm background in French, Baby will have an easier time picking up English than his monolingual Japanese classmates.

As long as you make all three languages real to your child by using them in certain situations, I think you'll be fine. So much is up to the kid's personality, too!

[–]miraishonen 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Basically sticking to one language per person is the easiest on the childs developing language center, even if you get answers in other languages just continue to use french to him/her and you should be just fine!

[–]cirsphe中部・愛知県 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Only thing to be careful of is from 1.5-3yo where they ahve very limited volucabulary. For instance they only kno 50 words at age 2. Make sure that they don't learn how to sap apple in 3 languages as you'd be cutting down the amount of words they know. What i did is i kept a list and would mix in the english words that my chidlren knew into the japanese i was speaking or japanese in the english my spouse was speaking.

after 3 they will be behind a little bit compared to native speakers but will also be able to handle the other two no problems.

Note that whatever the language of the school is will become their native language as it's based mainly around how much you use it.

Since you are the only french speaker and they will have tons of exposure to japanese and english in Japan, i'd make sure you only speak French with your child and even go so far as to only show them french tv shows. VPN to france for French netflix. Have the husband speak only japanese with the kid and when you are all together speak english. it will freak out people looking on once you start mixing the language.

me and my spouse are both bilingual english/japanese with vary degrees. I'll speak in one language and spouse will answer in their native language and kids will change the language they are speaking depending on who their comment is directed to.

Oddly enough the kids speak Japanese together despite both of them going to english speaking schools.

[–]cutestslothevr 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Babies and young children are really flexible linguisticly. If you want them to know all three languages you're at the right time to start.

[–]tangoliber 0 points1 point  (0 children)

1) I wouldn't worry about mixing up languages

2) However, since the kid will be getting Japanese from school, I would highly encourage you to not speak Japanese at home if at all possible. Once the child goes to daycare/kindegarten etc, they will only want to speak Japanese if they think their parents can understand it. Would be best if you pretend to not understand any Japanese.

Just having the kid learn two languages is a big challenge for most if the parents are able to understand the language that the kid is getting at school.

Some kids are easier than others.