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How many languages can a child learn as their first languages?

rockerbox
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I know that children can learn at least 2 languages together with no difficulties and speak both fluently as their native languages, but is there a limit as to how many languages the adults in their lives can speak with them understanding? I am assuming here that the parents speak the languages fluently and speak to their children in all the languages equally.

4
2 years ago
1

6 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/-Katrina.-
-Katrina.-
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That's a good question. I've never met anyone who knew more than 2, but I would say about 4-5? That alone would be very hard to handle. You would have to be continuously rotating each language with speaking, listening, reading, writing. It might also depend on the languages; maybe if they were all pretty similar, the child could learn more.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/Hyllning

I agree with all of the things you have said, except the last. It would somewhat harder if the languages were similar, because then you'll need to remember to distinguish them. Like learning Spanish and Catalan would be harder to distinguish words than between German and French. It all depends on the child's learning ability, but I would say that the different they are, the easier it would be to learn. This however isn't completely true, others may say otherwise!

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/-Katrina.-
-Katrina.-
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That's true. I suppose it all depends on preference/learning style.

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/DragonPolyglot
DragonPolyglot
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My mom's friend grew up speaking Spanish, English and German (Argentinean mom, German father, both parents spoke English to each other). So that's three languages she can speak fluently. But somebody's first language is the language their mother uses. This friend of my mom's will think in Spanish first before she thinks in German or English, because Spanish was her mother's language. But that is only one example and I'm not sure about other situations (bilingual mom, no mom, ect)

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/SamijaH.
SamijaH.
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I really wonder what my kids are going to speak once I have them. I speak Bosnian, my husband German and we communicate to each other on English xD LOL

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Reply2 years ago

https://www.duolingo.com/timnhendricks
timnhendricks
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According to the Multilingual Children's Association, the maximum is usually 4. They cite researchers who claim that a child needs to be exposed to a particular language about 30% of the time in order to actively speak a language. Obviously that can be difficult to achieve for most families. I have also read an article that referenced a British child growing up in India learning English from his parents and three other local dialects from the cook, the gardener and the nanny. For those of us with normal means, the number may be less than four.

In my case, I started looking into this as my wife and I are expecting our first. Neither of us speaks any language other than English fluently, though we both have some experience in German and Spanish. It seems the best we could hope for is teaching them English at home, getting them into a regular playgroup for a second language, and potentially hiring a nanny that speaks a third (if we could afford it). We ended up settling on just two languages to start with, English and Arabic (which my wife and I have now begun to learn). Again, the key is exposing the child to the languages approximately equally and to be diligent in reinforcing that learning.

Here's a link to a helpful article from the website that I mentioned at the beginning of the post, but the rest of the website has many interesting tidbits and articles about all of the aspects or raising a child in multiple languages. Hope it helps!

http://www.multilingualchildren.org/getting_started/tensteps.html#many

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Reply2 years ago