The weak point in S.’s trilingual education is without doubt English. In Italian and German she is on the right path, in English however she is far from being mother tongue. S. is able to have simple conversations with peers and adults, but her grammar and vocabulary are quite basic.

Not surprisingly, if I am honest. S. hardly ever needs to speak English. She listens to my partner and I speak English, to the English grandmother and to our housekeeper, who does not speak Italian at all, but she usually answers in Italian.

Already some time ago I wrote that we have to find a way of pushing Scarlett’s English, if we want her to become trilingual. But how? There are many blogs that make it sound easy. Find an English speaking play group, expose the kids to more English. Not easily done. S.’s life is already packed, as it is. She goes to school until 4:30, does afternoon sports activities and plays an instrument. She also does a German course once a week. Squeezing in more planned activities would be too much, after all children also need time to play. So we postponed the problem to later.

Then suddenly an opportunity to speak English appeared out of the blue. In her German course S. made a new friend. M. is Portuguese, but also speaks German as she had lived in the German speaking part of Switzerland for some years. So the two girls initially communicated in German.

When S. then went for the first time to her new friends house she found out that M. is often talking in English to her mother who grew up Canada. As the parents speak neither German nor Italian everybody simply spoke in English.

The two girls now use different languages depending on the situation. They speak English when they are at M. house and German when they are at our house or at the language course. When the two of them are alone they usually speak in German, but when the older sister joins them, they swap to English, as she prefers speaking English to German.

What does this all mean for S.’s English? It is obviously nice that S. is now speaking English to her friend, but the occasion comes up once or twice a month. By far not enough to make a real difference. I believe however that these are all little building blocks on the way to becoming trilingual.