Q&A: Can a father teach a child three languages?

by | Aug 20, 2015 | Coaches, Practical advice, Q&A Being the parent in a multilingual family, Q&A The trilingual+ child | 0 comments



Thanks for the website! I am starting to check it out to make our daughter, multilingual like us!

My wife and I are native Spanish speakers, we are living in Brazil right now, so we also know how to speak Portuguese and our third languages differ from one another. I am fluent in English, while my wife knows English and French, but she has talking shyness, so to speak, since she doesn’t think of herself as fluent.

Since pregnancy, I have been talking to our daughter in the belly and singing to her mostly in Spanish, but sometimes going to Portuguese and seldom in English. What I want to know is how do I balance all three languages for her? Should I use schedules on which I should communicate to her in an specific language?

Thank you so much for your help!


Thanks for your question. It’s great you have set the goal of helping your child learn 3 languages already. Babies do start learning their mother’s native language in the womb. It’s unclear if they learn from other voices at the moment, but it’s certainly great to start the habit now.

If you really want your child to learn 3, you want to shoot for 30% of their waking hours in each language. This could be splitting up the day into different languages or it could be alternating days. At the younger ages, before the concept of days is really established, setting times of the day probably works better.

To simplify, you could instead look at doing just 2 languages initially, one that your wife speaks and one that you speak and then adding a third later. My recommended strategy would be two home languages, one spoken by each parent and then the third majority language spoken when outside the home.

Ultimately, your child will learn Portuguese no matter what since you are living in Brazil, so you could easily speak the non-community languages at home and she will pick up Portuguese once she enters the school system.

Best of luck on your family language journey and do let us know how it goes!


Nick Jaworski

Nick Jaworski


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