Four Languages: Mission Impossible?

I was in NYC for work, and as I was travelling through the city, you can tell English is not the only dominating language. You could hear Chinese and Brazilian Portuguese spoken at shops, and chattering among street vendors in Hindi and Arabian. This is definitely a phenomenon in the United States of America – a country of immigrants. In addition, when I look around, there are many kids nowadays from cross-racial families, like mine. Looking exotic is fun; and be able to comprehend & speak multiple languages is a bonus.

In the past generations of immigrants, people abandon or not enforce their kids to speak their ethnic languages, because the common desire is to learn and to only speak English, so that they could immerse themselves into the new country quickly. That notion has changed completely in the modern parenting, especially for those with diverse ethnic background families. Linguistics and early child education shows a child could learn a 2nd language 3X faster before age 7, and pretty much slow down (or becomes difficult) after age 14, compared to an adult. Also many of my friends are regretting themselves or their kids can’t speak their ethnic language, as the moment they start to go to elementary school, they refuse to speak other language besides English, unless other immersion learning environment is provided. Otherwise, you are pretty much stuck with high school level of a foreign language capability. Which is a pity.

Therefore my takeaways are:

a). The golden learning window is small, better optimize than regret later

b). Learning a 2nd language stimulates the brain in a different way, even if simultaneous translation glasses may become available for our kids’ generation, culture aspect will never be replaced by robots.

The following is the journey I am embarking for my almost 3 years old & 8 months old, there are —

English

Mandarin Chinese

Romanian

Spanish

Read more details for our approach of each of theĀ language here.

So how do my kids do? You may ask… My 8 months old takes all in, no complain. And my almost 3 years old is totally confused between Spanish & Romanian when she is asked to count to 20 (a nature revolution according to the linguists). However she is able to translate for our Chinese nanny to place a food order at the Navy Pier for their weekly Children Museum excursion.

The fact is my own four languages journey (Mandarin, English, Japanese & French) started after 7, which is clearly too late, so I am not good at anything. However, I start to feel it could be mission possible for my kids. Stay tuned.

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