My 4-year old new languages learning follow up

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It might be too early to say that my daughter Luísa is trilingual because she doesn´t speak all languages that fluently, but she does already speak a lot in her two new languages: English and Spanish, (besides her native Brazilian Portuguese).

We arrived in Costa Rica 4 months ago (when she was still 3-years old) and she´s been going to a bilingual kindergarten (Spanish and English) for the last 3 months. Being at the school is what made her start speaking the other languages, although I have been teaching her English myself.


I´ve been reading to her in English since she was a baby, she´s watched a lot of movies and I talked to her in English in Brazil sometimes too. So she was pretty much used to the sounds and there were already a lot of phrases she understood well.

She now plays by herself in English, or mostly in her ¨own¨ sort of English, but with many real phases in it (and each week more, it´s amazing to watch the process). She talks with confidence, even when it doesn´t make any sense or when it´s a mixed up of two languages (funny how she mixes only two languages at a time and not the three she knows).

By speaking confidently that way, she has the best attitude for learning, she simply speaks without any fear and her vocabulary is increasing and making her phrases more clear every day.

She sings a lot of songs on her own (some that I thaught her and manny new ones that she´s learning in the kindergarten) and last week her American teacher told me that she´s speaking a lot more and singing almost all the songs there.


Her Spanish is going well too. This too was introduced to her when she was younger. We spent 2 months in Chile, one when she was about to turn two (so we took advantage of her not paying the airfare) and another when she was two and a half. We were there visiting a boyfriend I had, so he too taught her a lot, sang some songs that we kept till today and played games with her.

She also went for 4 weeks to a Montessori kindergarten in Santiago and learned a lof of words by the end of it and I was very proud when one day at a park she used a polite word in Spanish with another child ¨Permisso¨ (Excuse me). She pretty much forgot all about most of it soon after we were back home in Brazil, though (or so I thought).

Although in the kindergarten the main teacher speaks in English, the children play in Spanish and in the afternoon Luísa usually has the chance to play some more and practice more of her Spanish.

So, now we are going full on with her language learning with both English and Spanish at once. This is the biggest reason why I chose Costa Rica when deciding on an extended trip. I knew that besides the Spanish, English was widely spoken here.

More languages, do they fit?

We have some other foreigner friends and Luísa picked up some Dutsh as well, since her best friend Reese is a Costa Rican son of a Dutsh woman with an Italian man. There are also two kids at school with German mothers and there was a German volunteer at the school for these first 3 months and I´ve been told she gets a bit of German too. In these two other languages she follows some instructions, and she might repeat a word or a sentence.

Her languages soup varies around Portunhol (Portuguese and Spanish mixed), Spanghilsh. She says things like: ¨Eu quero meus shoes¨ (I want my shoes), ¨Aqui es mi house¨ (Here is my house) and ¨Eu quero a bike¨ (I want the bike), I´m used to it now, but in the beginning, it was hard to understand what she was saying. It confused the hell out of me and it was a bit frustrating and annoying for both of us when I couldn´t understand what she wanted and she kept repeating the same puzzling phrase. Sometimes I had to ask her: ¨Can you please repeat that in Portuguese?¨

Although she can make a big mix with me, she uses the right language with each different person.

I wrote down a list of phrases she uses and I got more than 40 phrases like: I´m hungry. I want to go home. Let´s have ice cream. Please and thank you and etc.

Will the new languages stick?

We are here for another couple of months (maybe more) and then back to Brazil. I´ll do my best to keep the English and Spanish alive at home, but only time will tell if and how she will hold all this information. A good thing is that one of my best friends in Brazil is from Scotland and has a little boy, so we can keep some conversation going on after we are back.

Actually, where we live in Brazil is quite an international touristic site with other children that we know with Spanish, Argentinian and Italian families, so she will have the opportunity to keep the new languages.

It´s easier now to talk to her in another language because she initiates it sometimes, so I guess I´ll keep at it in our home in Brazil (or wherever we are).

Knowing other languages is something not only useful, but getting more necessary in our modern days. So why not do the effort to make our children learn it when they are very young and learn easily?

I´m sure parents that know other langauges like me can teach the children theirselves, but even those that don´t can make it happen.

The Soul Travelers 3 are a great example and inspiration of monolingual parents raising a fluent in three languages girl (Mandarin, Spanish and English).

This article was originally posted on Tripping Mom by Marilia Di Cesare on May 16, 2011. Republished with authorization. Click here for all other posts.


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