We speak three languages at home. Namely: English, Afrikaans and Setswana. Most children in South Africa are bilingual so our situation isn’t the exception, but the norm. Mr speaks five languages, but understands about eight and I have a love for languages and learn them easily. It was only natural to pass this on to our son.
Our first strategy was to speak to our child as much as possible. He knows most commands and items in all three languages. This has resulted in speech delays as he has three times more languages to learn – Add some Xhosa, Zulu, Sepedi and Sotho to the mix and you have one hell of a concoction. South Africa has eleven official languages and living in the city exposes him to most of them.
Our goal with teaching him to speak many languages was that he could identify with and understand when his grandparents and family spoke. We also wanted him to be able to answer them as well.
He is really starting to catch on now. He would speak English and Setswana at home and English and Afrikaans at my parents, because they don’t understand Setswana at all. This fascinated me. I had no idea how he knew how to separate our families into languages.
He is also started to recite words in three parts. Cow, Koei, Kgomo is a great example of how he compartmentalises the words.
Teaching him three languages simultaneously has been met with some criticism. We often hear “Isn’t he talking yet?”
“When is he going to talk properly?”
“Where is he going to use Tswana anyway?”
That doesn’t matter to us, we understand him and he is doing great.
It is easy to throw in the towel when your child doesn’t meet the standard talking markers or milestones set by a child who only speaks one language, but don’t let that dishearten you. Keep going! It will pay off in the long run.
Are you raising bi, tri or multilingual children? Let me know. Do you have any tips you would like to share? I’d love to start a conversation.
Love and Blessings,