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After Quentin’s German had remained surprisingly stable for most of the year he eventually slipped back into speaking Italian to me some weeks ago. As always I feared it would now take a lot of time and effort to reactivate it, but when his German grandparents came to visit us for Easter, Quentin’s German bounced back at once. “Ich habe gebaut das Haus, guck hier mit einer Rakete” (German for:  I built the house, look, with a rocket) he said to them or “Ich habe Yoga in der Schule gemacht.” (German for: I did yoga in school). I breathed a sigh of relief. Quentin has reached the stability that allows him to activate his German whenever it is needed. Read the rest of this entry »

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Four months have passed since the summer and Quentin’s German has remained surprisingly stable. „Es hat geschneit.“ he said, when we were in Germany and he looked into the snow-covered garden one morning: „Ein Vogel hat draussen gegraben.“ (German for: It snowed. A bird has dug outside). Usually Quentin does not go beyond saying single sentences and what he says is quite simple, but he is still able to bring across what is needed: „Ich habe ein Haus und eine Strasse“, he says playing Monopoly, or: „Ist schneller der Schiff oder der Auto?“, he asked when he looked at a book.

Keeping Quentin’s German alive is a great success as usually our children’s German speaking slowly withers away when they return to their Italian surrounding. Read the rest of this entry »

When we were back in Milan from our summer holidays Quentin wanted to show me some skateboard tricks: “Ich gehe Skateboard fahren,” he said, “Ist schoen Skateboard-Fahren. Komm anschauen” (German for: I go skateboarding, is nice skateboarding, come and look). There is no doubt that Quentin’s skateboarding has improved a lot this year, but what I am really happy about is his progress in German. Quentin finally made a big step ahead in his speaking.

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Scarlett finished year three in school and turned over night into a keen reader. Thanks to Harry Potter. The moment she got hold of the first Harry Potter book “The philosopher’s stone” she started reading and devoured it in less than a week. We were all quite surprised as Scarlett hadn’t been too much into reading before. She read what she had to read for school, but that was about it. Read the rest of this entry »

In our trilingual home there is a simple rule: we watch films in original language. And thanks to Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks English has become our default language. Everybody was fine with this rule until one day Scarlett’s friends came for a sleep-over and watched a film in Italian. Some days later, when I wanted to set the language to English for our family cinema evening, Scarlett started a little rebellion. She wanted to see the film in Italian, saying she would understand it much better. To my surprise Quentin came to my aid and said: “Capisco lo stesso” (Italian for: I understand it the same). Read the rest of this entry »

Some days ago I came across an article on multilingual upbringing that pointed out the  importance of planning ahead. There are children, it said, who become bilingual without a specific plan, but often the language project fails because not enough planning is done. To make sure your child reaches a certain level of fluency, you need to know where you are heading, you have to provide enough exposure time and you have to react if milestones are not reached. Read the rest of this entry »

Every year after our summer holidays the inevitable decline of Scarlett’s fluency in German begins. The first couple of months she manages to keep her summer level, but when Christmas draws closer she slowly slips back into speaking Italian to me. This year, however, I was surprised how quickly it all happened.

Giving it a closer look I realised that it seems all down to exposure time. Read the rest of this entry »

When we went on a one-week trip to England this summer we were eager to see how good Scarlett’s English actually is. When Scarlett was born our plan was to turn her into a trilingual speaker, but what concerns English we somehow lost sight of this goal on the way. English has always been by far Scarlett’s weakest language, but in the past year her exposure to English had even dropped further. Scarlett overhears our English conversations, but she has spent less time with her English grandmother and our English speaking housekeeper.

Generally we had the impression that Scarlett understands English without problems, but we were not so sure about her ability to express herself. Scarlett usually answered in Italian to her grandmother and conversations with Teresa had become rather basic. So we were wondering in how far Scarlett would be able to interact properly with English children. Read the rest of this entry »

At a certain point in a multilingual education the question of what to do with reading and writing comes up. Scarlett got first intrigued by letters when she was 4 years old. She proudly started writing “SCARLETT, MAMA, PAPA or NONNA” on paper. We were happy to foster this interest, bought a big illustrated alphabet poster she studied intensively and wooden letter cubes she loved playing with. Read the rest of this entry »

A few weeks ago Scarlett said some sentences in the passato remoto, a tense that is used in Italian to talk about a distant past and has no equivalent in English: “E poi la regina morì” (Italian for: And then the queen died). I was quite impressed as the passato remoto is typical of a literary and elaborated language. But soon I realised that Scarlett hadn’t turned into a highly cultured speaker, she simply repeated the odd sentence from fairy tales they did in school and which are often told in the passato remoto. The episode however made me wonder how well Scarlett speaks and whether she will one day be able to reach a high level in all her languages. Read the rest of this entry »

In the past months Quentin has gained a lot of self-confidence in speaking Italian. He is chatting away at home, he talks a lot to his friends and he speaks more to adults. This is a big step ahead as Quentin has always been a shy boy and never talked much outside of the family. Last year he didn’t say a single word to his kindergarten teachers, this year he is still timid but he talks when there is the need. He also talks more to our neighbours and his friends’ parents.

I suppose Quentin’s new self-confidence has been boosted by his exploding language skills. Read the rest of this entry »

When we came back from our summer holidays in Germany this year, Scarlett was perfectly fluent in German and never mixed in a single word of Italian. Back in Italy she switched beautifully between the two languages, but after a month, slowly but surely, she started slipping into speaking Italian to me. Read the rest of this entry »

Scarlett has just turned six. She started primary school last September. But which is the right school for a trilingual speaker? Living in a big city we had the choice to send Scarlett either to an Italian, a German or an English school. In the following I will try to explain our thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

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