Can one raise a quadrilingual child?

Can one raise a quadrilingual child in a predominantly English environment? I’d like my daughter to learn Japanese because I like it, Korean because she’s 3/4 Korean, and Mandarin because I just found out that it may help her attain perfect pitch. Maybe we can study Korean and Mandarin together. We’ll see, she’s not even 1 year old. :-)

24 thoughts on “Can one raise a quadrilingual child?

  1. Sure, the ealier you begin, the easier it will be. My 2 kids (6 & 4 years now) speak french native), hebrew (native), english (near native), and we try to teach them japanese.

    The only difficulty we had, is that to learn a language/be fluent with it and have a good vocabulary, the child has to hear a lot of that language, but each language will be spoken less, compared to other people. So, compared to other kids in school (in France, most of them speak only one language), they were a little late in speech development. But they were able to catch up, and now are on par with others.
    So your work will be to divide the time for each language correctly and read many many many books to them :-)

    Luc

  2. She’ll probably not be fully native in all four languages (to be bilingual, you generally have to grow up around native speakers of both languages; one supposes the same thing would apply to being multilingual in more than two tongues), but studying them with her could be worthwhile anyway, and may help her in any number of ways later. Even if she doesn’t end up using those languages in particular, she’ll have a better natural ability to understand language in general. Also, learning is itself a learned skill, so doing it early and often is advantageous per se.

    • Well, the only source of English I had growing up was a couple of hours of English television everyday, and I like to to think of myself as bilingual.

  3. I hope to raise à trilingual child myself, for similar reasons! Good luck to both of us :-)

  4. Well, I’ve been trying to speak some simple Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese to her. Hopefully, my accent isn’t too bad to mess her up especially with Mandarin and Korean. So far, the response has been “da da” and “ma ma”. :-)

    • It is certainly possible. There is just one catch. Each language has to come from a different source being that a person, television, radio or book. Each parent has to use only 1 language with the child. If each parent mixes languages it usually results in the child confusing them as a single form of communicating and that brings whole new set of problems. Let her learn japanese from you, English from her mother and mandarin from a friend or from the television (Just an example) We discussed this in psycholinguistics’ class a few years ago with a multilingual linguist that raised her two daughters this way. Best of luck.

  5. I can’t think of anyone I know who has grown up quadrilingual but I have known several trilingual people (yes, I’m jealous!!!!) so I don’t see why not. Another commenter mentioned this but don’t be surprised or worried if your daughter seems slower to speak than monolingual kids. This seems to be very common for kids who grow up bilingual.

  6. It is possible to raise a child but the amount of time spent on communicating in 4 different languages will have to be the same.
    I am bililingual from young (learning English and Chinese). I have learnt Korean Language for about 4 years and am currently self studying in Japanese Language. I hope to learn an European Language after I attained a certain proficiency in Japanese. Your website really helps me a lot! Keep up the good work! :)
    Do check out my Korean Language blog: http://bitsnpiecesofkorea.wordpress.com
    Please feel free to give me comments and correct me if I am wrong!
    Thanks! ^^

  7. It’s possible and it’s actually common in some cultures and regions. You’ll have to provide a lot of input from all the languages. I would suggest putting on some music in Mandarin and Korean so your child hears the proper sounds. A big hurdle later on is getting your child to actually speak the languages. It’s a big reason why people who grow up bilingual aren’t as good as they should be in one of their languages. They resort to speaking the one they’re more comfortable with at any opportunity.

  8. I believe that its really possible if there is environment around the kid or both parents r Multilingual or at least both of them r Language Appreciative kind.
    I myself love speak 3language which are native and 1 foreign language that is Japanese. I also love Korean and Mandarin cause I’m too close to their culture and Lifestyle because of
    1.I read abt it all the time
    2.Watch alot of Dramas and Movies.

    So having a love for language can create quadrilingual child.
    ^_^

  9. Course! I grew up a trilingual (self working on the quadrilingual part, jap that is, as long as I can master it before 18 it would still count as growing up knowing four, right?)
    I live in taiwan pretty much 99% of my 16 year old life. My mom’s taiwanese and I’m also half american, so I can speak both of these perfectly, Taiwanese not as well possibly due to it not being frequently written (It technically doesn’t have a writing system, just adapted one from mandarin) and I tend to learn mostly from reading. (which caused me to mix uk and us english often) it didn’t cause any pressure to me growing up, and it’s awesome show off material, lol. I guess you have to find the best media, for me it was books. On the other hand, genes do count, I took after my father and had good language skills, and was able to finish my first novel time cat around 9 yrs old with my father busy my mother not knowing english and no english media but picture books. my sister is 13 now and still can’t spell and read as well as I do when I was 9 @_@

  10. Of curse you can! I’m quadrilingual! Granted, 3 of them are similarand 2 of thse 3 are practiclly the same thing…so des it really count? LOL But I grew up with English, Punjabi, Hindi and Urdu. I can speak all of them and understand them fluently. However, honly one I can write is English; the others have a complely different alphabet…which I actually used to know a bit of but…if I neve had to use it, well…I didn’t retain it?

  11. I think it’s a bad idea.
    1) Kids don’t like to speak in any language that they don’t have to. If they know they can speak to you in the language they use with their peers, they probably will. Your daughter may assign you or your wife (or whoever) specific languages to speak to her in, and get upset or uncomfortable if you break that role.
    2) You will have many times more mistakes to correct.
    You overestimate the ease with which children learn language. (Most experiences are not encoded into memory as strongly without language.) Hopefully your daughter will have a passion for languages. PS: The English of the other “multilingual” commenters here is not encouraging.

  12. very possible, I’ve seen a lot of people who speak many languages at a young age

    one of our Japanese instructors had 2 little kids at the age of 6 who spoke English, Japanese and Arabic pretty fluently.

    one of my friends who is 24 now, was fluent at 5 languages at the age of 15 (from moving to a lot of countries with his parents for 1-2 years each) but just goes to show it’s possible.

  13. @Jonadab:
    So if I understand you correctly, I would be bilingual? In my case, I have a German speaking only environment (German speaking part of Switzerland), but a Polish mother as well. So would you refer to me as someone who is bilingual? I hear/speak Polish nearly everyday, it’s equal to the German part and an important part of my everyday life. (Of course I can not only speak Polish, but also reading and writing it as well, which would fullfill my bilingual ability).

    Thanks for your answer.

  14. My 3.5 year old is well on her way to being trilingual, and it’s our hope that she eventually picks up a fourth language.

    We began with English and Sign ( we dropped ASL after 2 years but we have family that could help her with it later)
    She has been in Mandarin immersion for 2 yrs and 1 year each of Spanish and French ( we dropped French since she absolutely refused to listen to it)

    At some time in the future perhaps she could return to French or ASL, though I’d like for her to add Arabic.

  15. I am 15 years old. I am a Quadrilingual. I can speak 4 languages at a time. I learned 3 languages since I entered school when I was 2 years old. As the time goes by, I learned one language when I was 10 years old.

    If you want that your child will become a Quadrilingual, then it is better that he/she should have the interest to learn because if a child did not have any interest to learn 4 languages, then giving him/her books and etc. will be useless if he/she is not interested.

    Speaking many languages is possible if he/she is interested.

    • Interesting. Just curious, which 4 languages can you speak and did you learn them in school or just at home?

      • It should be possible to learn multiple languages, but for optimum benefit one should learn them at the same time, before their brain becomes fixed in any one language’s way of expressing things. Now, I find the claim to have started school at age two dubious; most two-year-old kids can’t even form a complete sentence in one language.

  16. Quadrilingual – You definitely can make it! I’m a Malaysian and right here pretty much everyone is at least bilingual – English (as the international language) and Malay (the National language). As I’m of Chinese descendant, I speak Mandarin too. As for the 4th language, if you consider a dialect as another language, then yes – I do speak some Hokkien and Cantonese as well. And with this site, read some Japanese.

    One thing though about being multilingual is that a person will have a flow of thought of a dominant language. As for me, I usually think in Mandarin, hence my English is more like Manglish / Singlish (go wikipedia the difference). Of course, written wise, it wouldn’t be too big a problem as you get to think and structure your sentences with the right grammar.

  17. Hi, I am Asian born dutch and i speak Dutch,English,Hokkien and understand basic Cantonese and Mandarin aswell some German (related to Dutch). My boyfriend is Russian and is fluent in Russian and French and English. My parents speak fluent Hokkien,Mandarin,Cantonese and Teochew and my dad knows Malay. So me and my boyfriend talked about this before about teaching our kids French,English and Dutch only or we overload our poor baby brains. But my parents will speak either Hokkien or Mandarin with our kids and my boyfriends parents will speak Russian to our kids xD. So my question is won’t my future kids get a head explosion from this :((( ? I seriously dont know -.- They will hear 5 languages…..

  18. My grandsons of ages of 10,12 and 15 speak four languages, Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish. I am very proud of them and the island we live, Aruba. Our island of 120 thousand people, is like a language laboratory. We are born as monolingual, speaking Papiamento. At age of six we become a bilingual ,speaking Dutch, because the system of education is based in Dutch. At age of 10 we become trilingual and quadrilingual, speaking Spanish and English. Every foreign people who come to live or work in Aruba with their family, their children will become too quadrilingual as everybody

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