If learning more than one language were a product, and some would argue that it is, I think the label would read something like this, Trilingualism: the key to the past, present, and future!
My bebita has reached the phase (17+ months) where the use of language is supposed to take off. That being said, I have gotten a little obsessed with trying to count the number of words she can say or comprehend but does not verbalize, yet. I learned that the majority of the words she can verbalize are in Spanish—success! The number of English words, French words, and words she can sign happen to be equal in number—hmm!
To be honest, I wasn’t completely surprised. After extensively reading about trilingual development I learned that being consistent about the amount of exposure to each language is key to acquiring all languages at a nearly equal rate. Fortunately, we have a plan, but still, as any parent trying to teach their baby more than one language this can be worrisome. I wonder if parents in pursuit of more than one language are always as frantic about how much of the minority language their child is learning as I have been. I wonder if this will always be the case or maybe once I know that my bebita can actually speak Spanish better than me, I will finally be able to sleep at night.
There’s more to the ultimate and the ambitious goal of trying to raise a child with three languages. I’ve mentioned before that it is no different, in my opinion, than the parent who wants her child to learn how to play an instrument. There are cognitive benefits in learning multiple languages, just like there is in playing an instrument, but the reason I want my baby to learn more than one language, one I hold close to my heart, is because I believe that language is closely tied to an individuals sense of identity. I want my daughter to know where she comes from. I want her to understand, to a certain degree, one achieved only through speaking multiple languages, that her maternal abuelita crossed the border illegally many times to work in this country so that future generations, like her, could have a better life. I believe that knowing multiple languages can offer a window to the way other people see the world. It can offer a window to the past, to the present, and to the future.
My deliberate decision to pursue trilingualism for my daughter is firmly rooted in my experiences as an educator and as a bilingual individual. Spanish is the key to her past, French (which could be any other language but for practical reasons we chose it—key for cognitive benefits is more than one language, any language) for the cognitive benefits, and English, well it’s the local language.
Why do you want your child to learn more than one (possibly three) language(s)?