My children are learning three languages, because my husband is English, he, of course, speaks English to them; I am Mexican and speak Spanish, and we live in Italy. I only speak Spanish to them, but only speak English to my husband. They go to childcare, and that’s the place where they are learning the native language. They are born in Italy. What advice would you give me?

Thank you!


Dear Idania,

thank you for your question. It seems to me that you have already found a good balance with the three languages in your daily life, you speaking Spanish to your children and English to your husband, and your husband talking English with your children.

May I ask how old your children are and if there is anything that makes you worry about the language situation within your family? I can imagine that due to the fact that you talk English to your husband and he talks English to your children, a classical situation, for example during meals, would be that Spanish is spoken less frequently? If so, my question would be: Does your husband talk Spanish? Would he agree to talk Spanish with you from time to time in front of your children? I ask this because this would put a bit more emphasis on Spanish, and also give you the opportunity to talk “your” language with all the members of the family.

You say that your children attend a childcare where they are learning the native language: would this be Spanish then or English? We usually call “native language” the language of both or one of the parents. I suppose you mean that they talk Italian at the (Italian) childcare? In this case, they talk Italian at childcare, English with their dad and Spanish with you. May I ask which language they speak when interacting among them? Will they use English, Spanish or Italian?
I’m sorry to ask so many questions, but I would like to make sure I fully understand your situation. I’m looking forward to your answers and would really love to continue this conversation.

With kind regards,