This is a tough one. At least, I think it’s tough. Apparently, according to the experts (my 20 books on Raising Children: How To, Version 2.5), for a child to be perfectly bilingual, it is vital that both languages are spoken in the home. And if there are more languages involved? What then?
When Noah was born we had to decide. We chose German, because we live in a German-speaking country and he has some German-speaking family, and English, so he knows what I’m saying when I yell at him. But D and I speak English with each other, which would then mean that D speaks English with me, German with the kids. That didn’t work for him, because he doesn’t like the German language. And it doesn’t work the other way because… well, neither do I. Language police, we need to be ticketed! So we only speak English at home. And I resigned myself to knowing that it was my fault if my children never learn a second language properly.
Not true! Noah speaks excellent German, better than many kids his age, and it’s his second language, so… you know, GENIUS. *ahem* After the disaster of a non-English speaking bilingual kindergarten, he now goes to a German-speaking one. And he communicates just fine. (Some of his stories are a little confusing, since he uses words from both languages in a single sentence, but for the most part the other children understand him perfectly. Except his friend Luis who speaks German and Spanish and informed me that he does not like it at all when we “talk funny and he can’t understand” “English, Luis? You don’t like it when Noah and I speak English?” “Yeah, I don’t like it. It’s scary.”)
So supporting Noah’s bilingualness (bilinguality?) is challenging but easier than expected, since he knows there is a difference. He’s getting very good at translating, something I wholly support, he asks everyone what things are called in the other language. And his absolute favourite thing right now is watching an episode of a show first in English, then in German (Oh, digital TV recording device that I just got this past week, I love you so!).
The point of this post is to negate what all the books say, kids will learn whatever the hell they want to, and you’re lucky if it’s something you wanted them to learn in the first place.