Mother and Baby

Forget Learning French At School: Londoners Are Raising Trilingual Toddlers At Home

Because of how multi-cultural our capital is, an increasing number of toddlers are now able to chatter away in more than one language

We all know that learning a language is easiest when you’re a tot as children are thought to be better at mimicking sounds. But it would seem that more and more toddlers brought up in London are learning several languages in one go.

Due to the multi-cultural nature of London, a large number of toddlers in the capital are raised by parents who speak a language other than English at home. They might also have an au pair who speaks another different language to them and they speak and hear English at nursery or when out and about. Talk about educated!

Due to the multi-cultural nature of London, a large number of toddlers in the capital are raised by parents who speak a language other than English at home

Nick Clegg’s family are one such multi-lingual family. The Lib Dem leaders talks in English and Spanish with his wife and children, in Dutch with his relatives and the family’s au pair is Spanish-speaking, according to the Evening Standard

Helene Pfeil, from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, says that the main advantage of a background in different languages is that it breeds a natural appetite to pick up more. But there is slight downside – trilingual children can tend to ‘code-shift’, a phrase that language analysts give to dropping words from different languages into one sentence.

Susanne Barron-Hauwaert, a researcher currently looking into the experiences of trilingual families, says, ‘It is very different from bilingualism since the three languages can’t be balanced in the way two are.’ It isn’t often that a child would speak all three languages with equal skill and one language will tend to lack.

But once school starts, children tend to change their first language quickly to suit the rest of the class, meaning that English tends to be the strongest language for kids in the UK – even if it isn’t what they speak at home.

What skills are you teaching your toddler? Let us know below.

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