A multilingual Sprout

This post is part of the Bilingual for Fun Carnival, hosted by Bilingual For Fun.

Shortly after Sprout started walking about a month ago, he also started to actually say some words. He has been saying “mama” for quite a while, although I’m not exactly sure he’s referring to me or just asking for comfort… He clearly says “papá” in Portuguese. Other words he says are “bye-bye” (said “baba” and referring to going out, not to people leaving) “ball” (“ba”) and “dá” (as in “gimme”, although he sometimes uses a similar sound to point “there”). He has said “tiger” (“tiga”) once referring to his favourite stuffed animal, and I’m glad I had a witness because otherwise I would’ve thought I dreamt it! Clearly he’s staring to speak English. Which is normal because he spends most of the day with me. However he does understand both fairly equal. In funny way sometimes! Like when daddy asks him to get his “sapatos” (shoes) to go out, he always gets daddy’s, but when I say get your shoes, he’ll bring his!

I’ve been asked many times what we are doing regarding languages. Both me and R are Portuguese, although I was born and lived in the US until I was 12 and am bilingual. It’s only natural we speak Portuguese to each other, although I must admit I mix in quite a lot of English, especially since Alex was born. Our arrangement consists basically of one parent, one language. I only speak English to Alex (although I have a hard time doing so around Portuguese speakers because I feel I’m being rude!) and Rod only speaks Portuguese. We both speak Portuguese to each other. Outside the home, he has contact mostly with English (both by native and non-native speakers) and French. I never worried much about him picking up all these languages. That’s one of the good thing about living in Brussels – it’s so multicultural. A real melting pot where it is quite common (especially among expats) to see couples with different cultures and languages with their children who speak various languages from an early age. Being bilingual myself, I know firsthand how it is to grow up with more than one language. I’m fluent in both, although at varying levels. For instance, I feel my English never really “grew up” once I moved to Portugal. On the other hand, I feel I can only express certain ideas adequately in English. I never considered writing this blog in Portuguese (although I did consider doing both). I think in both languages and I can switch easily between them. However, I also know my Portuguese wouldn’t be nearly as good had I not lived and studied in Portugal.

I’m really curious to see Sprouts language develop. Will he have my American accent? Will he have a French accent? I also wonder where he’ll grow up. We plan on staying here for the forseeable future, but not sure if that will be for life.
Considering the amount of parenting books I’ve read (I really should post about them!) it’s amazing I haven’t read anything about multilingualism. I’m thinking about getting this book. I’ve heard very good things about it. I’ve also looked for information on http://www.multilingualchildren.org/ and I’ve also been reading the blogging Carnivals on bilingualism. There seems to be more information out for bilingual children than for children with 3 or more languages, but I’ll keep looking! Please drop a comment if you have any good resources.

5 thoughts on “A multilingual Sprout

  1. Pingback: Blogging carnival on bilingualism | Bilingual For Fun™

  2. OH how I sometimes miss my Brussels. I wish we lived in a country that spoke sth other than Dutch or French, so she’d be trilingual too, and her Dutch wouldn’t suffer as much.
    Oh we’re bilingual Belgians, livng in Ivory Coast

  3. I only speak French with my son (age 2) here in the US, and my friends are completely used it to. No one seems to find it rude. Ditto for my monolingual husband–he has no problem with my speaking exclusively French with our child! Of course, it helps that with a child this young, pretty much anything I say is not that important to anyone else and/or can be understood through context, gestures, etc. I also occasionally translate or summarize for the people around us. (“I just told him he can’t have another Cheerio until he eats three beans,” that sort of thing.)

    I would expect that if your Portuguese friends understand why it’s important that you speak English with him while your husband speaks Portuguese, they would support that and not feel left out!

    The sidebar of my blog has resources you can visit, sites I have found useful and informative about raising kids with more than one language. (I don’t have as much about trilingualism because we’re not doing that.)

    Also, you and mamapoekie might enjoy this profile of an adult trilingual who grew up in Belgium: http://babybilingual.blogspot.com/2010/03/profile-nics-multilingual-family-in.html.

    And finally, if you read my post in this month’s blogging carnival, you’ll “meet” another Portuguese speaker far from home with a daughter about your son’s age!

  4. Hi, I jumped over from the carnival n bilingual for fun.

    You are obviously doing an amazing job raising your son! I only hope I can do as good a job with mine. We are attempting to raise him bilingually here in Japan. I speak with him in English and his father speaks with him in Japanese but we speak with each other in Japanese.

    I learnt Japanese at a later stage in my life and wish I had started earlier- I started studying at 17 when I entered university and it just so happened that on my year in exchange in Japan I met my now husband. At the time my Japanese was crap but we managed to communicate and fall in love (and then later marry and have a bub!).

  5. Hi 🙂 I just found your blog when I was searching info about antenatal courses in Brussels and WOW, thanks sooo much for writing all this down. I’ve been reading your posts since yesterday, starting from Oct 2008. So much useful info! My baby is due in the end of September and as a foreigner in Belgium I am a bit lost with everything … and to top it all it’s my first child so I’d be lost even in my home country. Thanks again, a veryvery helpful blog.

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