Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Multilingual child

This post I wrote back in 2006 when my wife and I were talking about starting a blog on language learning for children. At the time, we were living in China with my daughter, who was just starting to speak, and a Chinese nanny. I think I intended to write more for the post, but since I've let it sit for so long, I can't recall where I was taking it. In any case, I'm posting it today, February 17, 2009, but keeping it's original date.

In the interest of full disclosure, we're not exactly the typical in terms of languages. In rough order of ability, Akiko speaks six (Japanese, English, Chinese, French, German, and Spanish) and I speak eight (English, Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, and German). Many say we both must be some kind of language geniuses, but I always argue against this assessment. What we had was not some blessed DNA, but rather a desire to learn languages and opportunities to do so which we took full advantage of. So while we have no qualifications in linguistics or the like whatsoever, we do know a thing or two about learning languages.

Our plan for our daughter and any other children that come along is for them to be fluent in multiple languages. English is an obvious first choice; even ignoring the fact that they'll be living in the States while they grow up and likely living there beyond that, English is of course the global language. And, of course, they'll need it to communicate with those in our family who haven't spent quite as much time learning other languages. Japanese is another no-brainer; they'll need it to communicate with the Japanese side of our family. Beyond these, we're incorporating two more languages: Chinese and Spanish. China's economic rise gives the Chinese language more and more import, and this will continue long into our children's lifetime. Spanish has become the unofficial second language of the United States and speaking it will be an advantage in a wide range of professions in the States.