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Raising a Multilingual 4 Yr Old: Current Challenges

I realize that I haven’t written about Enzo’s progress in learning Spanish and French lately. If you’re just reading my blog, here’s how we stand: Enzo is soon turning four, and at home we speak Spanish and French to him. He learns English at daycare. As of January, Enzo is also taking Spanish lessons at his daycare, three times a week. This is truly wonderful! He comes home singing hello songs and more, and he is so excited about it.

We continue using a bag of tricks at our disposal: books, music, movies, toys… in both Spanish and French. We firmly believe in making language learning FUN!

Language learning feat pic

Enzo is learning a lot, but of course there are some things that he confuses. Here are some of the issues he’s currently dealing with:

1. Confusion of EL (Spanish) and ELLE (French). This is a tricky one. El in Spanish means He or is the masculine pronoun for an masculine object… El carro, el reloj, etc. ELLE in French means SHE (The total opposite!) So he confuses these two; which is normal. We just correct him gently and explain that some words are different in Spanish and French. I  constantly say “En español, es así, y en francés, es así.”

2. Mixing up EL/LA: In Spanish and French are masculine and some are feminine. The issue for Enzo is that not all the words are the same in both languages, i.e. car is “el carro” (masculine) in Spanish and it’s “la voiture” (feminine) in French!

translating literally
3. Mixing the R sound in the different languages: When I was little, I couldn’t pronounce the Rs in Spanish… Enzo’s problem is different. When he is speaking in French. He rolls his Rs in French words the Spanish way!
4. Adding letters at the end of words: Enzo is adding letters at the end of French words.
5. Literal translation from one language to another: Sometimes when Enzo is code-switching his brain will translate phrases literally. For example, he wanted to say “be careful” and he was speaking in French “Fais (from the verb FAIRE = to do, to make) attention” so when he switched to Spanish he said “haz (from the verb HACER=to make) cuidado” instead of “TEN (from the ver TENER=to have) cuidado.”

Bilingualism (or multilingualism) is a journey which is constantly changing. Where are you in your journey? What challenges or wins would you like to share? Leave your comments or questions below!

 

 

Diana Limongi
welcome! I'm a Latina working mom from Astoria, NY, mom to a trilingual four-year old. I blog about motherhood, Latino issues, women's issues, work/life balance, food, parenting and raising my multilingual and multicultural son!

2 Comments

  1. It’s nice to read about your boy because those are also similar “challenges” our daughter (2 1/2 y.o.) has and will have. We have the advantage that our city is pretty much bilingual (English/French) and so far her Spanish is coming exclusively from me. She has started to make the effort to speak exclusively in French to her family, but still mixes the 3 languages in a single sentence (which sometimes can have 9 words!). I’ve been thinking about the “El”/”Elle” thing and her acquisition of gender pronouns (and nouns). What is fun is to hear use the 3-syllable Spanish word instead of the easier ones in her other two main languages.
    I think it will be hard to figure out speech issues as right now she has her very own unique pronunciation of most consonants. And also has (common) switches like “m” for “n” and “b” for “p”.
    I am just amazed at how their little brains can figure out all the input we are giving them and create language that is understandable (and creative).

    1. Hi Manolo! Thank you for reading and for your comment! I hope my experiences help you and your family in your language journey, it’s a team effort! Mixing in normal, really… especially when one word is harder in one langauge (example, my son prefers to say “PLEASE” instead of por favor or s’il te plait!) This year I’m working on creating more resources for parents like us, so please leave me a note, or email me and let me know what kind of resources interest you! Merci!

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