Last year I wrote about why we decided to raise L with three languages and also why we decided to go for a One Parent One Language approach. We are now 2,5 years into this trilingual approach (2,5?? Can´t even believe myself how fast time is going!) and I often get asked “how it is going with L´s talking” and “how it is all working out for us” so it´s time for a status update!
Let´s start with saying that we are still with the same approach, C talks English to L, I speak in Dutch and the language outside of the home is Spanish (at daycare, at his grandparents etc.). C and I try to speak as much English as possible between each other when L is around but sometimes, out of habit, we switch back to Spanish. We often get asked what we do if we are around people that don´t speak/understand the language we talk in, but we decided that for the sake of consistency we stick with English / Dutch respectively also outside of the house and if necessary, (e.g. because other kids are around playing with L or out of politeness to friends/family) we repeat the same thing in Spanish so someone feels left out.
What surprised us that already from a very young age, L understood everything across three languages. Where I was a bit afraid that three languages could be a bit too much for such a small guy, that fear was gone very quickly because L´s passive understanding of all three languages was really good already very fast.
Phase two was the starting of talking and he started with words in all 3 languages as well, some words he only knew in Spanish, others in Dutch and others in English. The majority was Dutch or Spanish but “cheese” or “shoes” have been English-only for a long time! Also, when he started making phrases, the first sentences consisted of a mix of all languages leaving his grandparents, aunts & uncles in both countries sometimes a bit confused ;).
Phase three has started in the last few weeks and the big difference we have noticed is that not only he started talking much more and more in phrases of a few words but also that he distinguishes between languages. For example, during the new year´s lunch, he told us in Dutch he wanted to eat, so I told him to ask his grandmother if his lunch was already ready, after which he went to the kitchen and asked her in Spanish for his comida. Pretty amazing! We have had a few examples of this already, where he tells me something in Dutch and then turns around to one of the neighbours or someone from the Spanish family and repeats in Spanish. Or, whereas before he replied to everything and everyone with a Dutch “ja” (=yes), now he distinguishes as well and, for example, replies to someone asking him something in Spanish with “si”.
Although we are still at the beginning of the real talking, this little guy amazes us every single day with his knowledge of 3 languages and how he has started switching between them depending on the situation. So we are definitely not regretting the approach we took and plan to continue this with baby #2!