Monday, August 22, 2005

What are we going to speak for dinner ?!

My concern for my son's language development solidified when I started to wonder which one, if any, will become our family language.

At the moment, we decided to apply the "one person, one language" method:
  • I address Milo exclusively in Italian
  • his father speaks to him in Dutch only
  • the nanny speaks to him in French (and this is, at the moment, the language he hears the most, in quantitative terms, being also the language of the environment)
  • he regularly hears English passively, since this is the language his parents use among each other and with several friends

But in a few years, when, let's say, he'll be 3 or 4, which language will we speak once we are all sitting at the dinner table? Are we going to keep on switching according to our interlocutor? Will English eventually take over? Or French?

To give you also a better understanding of the complexity of our situation:

  • I speak fluently Italian, English and French, but I do not understand Dutch
  • Milo's dad, on the contrary is fluent in English, French, Dutch and has a very good understanding of Italian

We spent the weekend in Brussels visiting our friend David, who's Flemish (hence Dutch speaking), married to a Turkish woman; they communicate in French and their 2 1/2 years old daughter is growing up trilingual. Until now, they also have stuck each to his own language, and their girl seems to understand very well all three languages. David seems convinced that none of the three languages will prevail as a family one, and they will keep on switching: a perspective I find fascinating, but also somewhat schizophrenic!

Friday, August 19, 2005


My son Milo is 16 months old, and, to date, his vocabulary consist primarily of these three words:
  • "Auto" which we believe is pronounced in Dutch and he has learned from his Flemish father;
  • "A boir" (that is "to drink" in French), which he has learned from his Moroccan nanny;
  • and a very polite "Grazie" in my own mother tongue.

He's the son of an Italian and a Flemish (Belgian) living in Paris, France. To add spice to the menage, Mum and Dad speak English to each other! Hence, he is surrounded by 4 languages every day.

Milo has several little buddies with parents of different nationalities, who are confronted daily with multi-linguism; a task which can develop great assets for this generation, but that can also mine their language learning process. It is not unusual for bilingual kids to start speaking slightly later than monolingual ones.

My curiosity as Milo's mum and as woman, inspired me to start this blog, in which I will monitor his language development, hoping to share some useful insights!