Raising a trilingual child - when/ how to introduce 3rd language

asked 2015-11-26 14:18:37 -0500

I'm a native English speaker, and speak Portuguese, French, and Spanish at intermediate to advanced levels. My husband is a native Brazilian Portuguese speaker, speaks English fluently, and has some basic French. We speak English to each other and live in California. We're expecting our first child, and want to raise him to be at least trilingual - with English, Portuguese, and French. I plan speak to him in English and my husband plans to speak to him in Portuguese. (Once our child is old enough for family discussions, we will experiment with having the family language as Portuguese in order to support it as our child's minority language and to make family time more cohesive. I've been taking weekly Portuguese classes for almost 2 years, so my level is ever improving.)

My questions are about how and when to introduce and support French. I plan to stay home with our son for the first year of his life, then we plan to put him in a French-immersion daycare, followed by French-immersion schooling at least through age 13 (i.e. at least until secondary school). What, if anything, should I do to introduce French to him during his first year when he's at home with me? Though I worked as a French speaking nanny for 2 years for two preschool-aged children, based on that experience I know I don't want to speak French to him - because I'm not fluent enough to feel as emotionally connected in French as I do in English. Once he's communicating more fully, i.e. around age 3, I'd love to read to him in French, and discuss those books in French, have conversations in French as a fun game if he wants to, etc... but I really don't want French to be our primary language of communication for the reason I stated above.

I'm a preschool teacher for children aged 3-5 years, so I know very well how to manage that age group, and I'm not worried about supporting 3 languages once we get to stage of his life...but I have no idea how, and whether its advisable, to find some source of French during his first year of life - OR just stick with English and Portuguese for his first year, and introduce French with daycare at age 1 - OR...?? Other suggestions? All thoughts welcome! Thank you so much!

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