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Is it ok to change the language I speak to my son at 1 year old?

asked 2015-03-29 19:47:06 -0400

MER gravatar image

updated 2015-03-29 19:49:41 -0400

Hi, I am French Canadian and bilingual in English and French. My wife is Spanish and speaks the three languages but her mother language is Spanish. We speak English between each other and we live in West Canada (English Speaking). When my son was born we decided that she would speak Spanish and I would speak English to him as it was one of my two languages and the language my spouse and I spoke. We thought that we could introduce French later on by taking him to a French school when it was the appropriate time. However, I am worried that we may move away from Canada soon and that it will be difficult for him to learn French in the future. Therefore, I am considering changing the language I speak to him and start speaking in French. That is why I was looking for some opinions from your forum. Could this confuse him? Could it have a bad implication if he doesn't speak English and we live in and English-speaking country in order to take him to school in the future? Could it be for him also confusing that her mother speaks Spanish to him, I speak French but her mother and I speak English? Thank you in advance for your help and input.

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answered 2015-03-30 04:55:47 -0400

annabenc gravatar image

updated 2015-03-30 05:03:54 -0400

Hi there, I am not an expert in this field. Personally, I am a mum of two and have a linguistic degree, plus my family is one-foot in the country of my origin and one-foot in an English speaking country... anyway:), you can just take my opinion as an inspiration for further thoughts. Kids' brains are incredibly plastic. I think that either way you choose, your baby boy will eventually catch French more or less easily sooner or later - either from you or in daycare etc. I don't think there will be a major difference, when you look at it a couple of years later. Another thing is - you are a father. You have instincts. And every language is different - or rather, speaking different languages creates different experience. I'd say just try it and see - later you might regret not having tried. Your son is 12 months. He might accommodate very quickly and you might not notice any 'bad' reaction and you might find this challenging and fun. Or, you can find yourself doubting and being uncomfortable, which your kid will pick. I think you should follow your heart and realise what motivation you have for this or that. Then you'll see which way is right for your family. Every family is a living organism. You (I don't mean you personally, you know:) cannot think about different parts of this organism separately, but only bearing the whole thing in your mind. I am sure there is a solution which you will soon discover that it is the right one and you won't doubt. The only thing you should be firm about, I suppose, is being consistent. About the language you speak with your spouse and she with you, about the language you talk to your little man. He will probably switch back and forth, may refuse to talk in one or the other language to someone or generally, and what not. Hang in there though! Time is on your side. You can't fail! Fingers crossed. :)

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thank you so much for your answer. it sure helped :-)

MER gravatar imageMER ( 2015-03-30 12:16:53 -0400 )edit

answered 2015-03-30 05:25:50 -0400

anon1 gravatar image

You seemed to me to assume that multilingual parents should speak only one language to their children. If so, this blog post of mine, ‘One person, one _.’ may be of some relevance to your question:
Other posts at the same blog may also help, look for the tags ‘child’ or ‘home’, for example.

Children don’t get confused about what makes sense to them. Your boy will follow suit on any family practices in which he is being nurtured and which come naturally to your family. Those practices are specific to you and your wife, to your respective cultural backgrounds, to the countries where you happen to live in, and they are all as different as the languages that serve them. This is also why your son won’t have any problem learning any new language that will come to matter to him in future, at any time.

Madalena Cruz-Ferreira

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thank you for the information. we will look into it

MER gravatar imageMER ( 2015-03-30 12:17:12 -0400 )edit
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Asked: 2015-03-29 19:47:06 -0400

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Last updated: Mar 30 '15