I have a 5-year-old daughter and 1-year-old twins. I was born in Iran and speak Farsi. I moved to the United States at the age of four, so English is my stronger language. My husband only speaks English and we have a nanny who speaks Spanish. We currently live in the United States.
I tried teaching my 5-year-old daughter Farsi, but failed. She spoke Farsi fairly well until the age of two when I started her in nursery school. I was not very strict in speaking only Farsi with her. I would sing nursery rhymes and songs in English (because I did not know it in Farsi) and I would read her books in English (I cannot read Farsi.) My 5-year-old still understands some Farsi.
I would like to succeed with my twins, but I feel limited because I do not know any Persian nursery rhymes to sing to them. I yearn to sing to them with the English nursery rhymes and games that I know, but I think it’s important to teach them Farsi as well. How important is it to sing and play nursery rhyme games to babies? Also, Is three languages too much?
I speak Farsi to them (English to my older daughter and husband), my nanny speaks Spanish to them and my husband and 5-year-old daughter speaks English.
Any advice would be helpful.
Thank you for your message about passing on your family language, Farsi, to your children.
First, let me congratulate you on your decision to give it another go with your twins to pass on you early mother tongue to your children. With your new resolve, I am sure you can succeed and since your older daughter still understands some Farsi, she may well pick up the language again.
You ask whether being able to read books, sing songs and recite children’s rhymes is necessary for passing on a language. Of course it is not necessary – the most important thing is that you expose the twins to as much Farsi as possible. That said, you can still use “read” books in Farsi by using any children’s books and either translating on the fly or making up the story as you read.
With regards to songs, a quick search on YouTube with the search term ‘Farsi children’s songs’ did come up with some results, so why not learn from there and then you can sing songs in Farsi as well, if this is what you would like to do. Perhaps you could even do this together with your elder daughter and engage her in helping you with the language exposure? I was also able to find some Farsi audio books with children’s songs and stories that would be helpful for you.
Another alternative is if you could get someone to record some rhymes and/or books for you – this is fairly easy to do on a phone. You could use the Children’s Library to find free online books to read from (you may have to create a free account access the books).
Three languages are not too much for your twins, many children have grown up in such a multilingual environment. However, for your twins to maintain the Spanish they learn from their nanny, there would need to be a continuation in the exposure once they start nursery or school.
Wishing you a successful bilingual family journey!