Imparare l’Inglese ascoltando mamma e papà

Dear Letizia,
I am originally Czech which is also my mother language but I worked abroad and speak English fluently. Some kind of nice fortune made me meet an Italian guy and God knows how it happened I am now living in Italy with my husband and a baby girl of 18 months.

I am still fighting with Italian language so we speak only English with my husband. With our daughter I speak in Czech and my husband in Italian. So far she started using czech words and does not speak Italian. I believe she understands Italian and suprisingly also English. I am bit worried if exposing her to English as well might not mess her head too much.

Also I am not fluent in Italian so find it hard not using Enslish. Here comes my qestion: Do you have any experience with a family using three languages at home? Can it really work this way? Also I am bit worried of her using only czech language so far. Do you have experience with the situation if the second language comes after the first one….can it develop fully and so well as the first one?
Luckily I also started using baby signs when my daughter was little so now  she uses about 20 signs and she perfectly expresses herself. All the Italian family knows the signs so…so far we somehow make it….

Thank you,



Ciao Nikolletta,

ti rispondo in Italiano, io non mi preoccuperei… Fermo restando che come sempre io do solo un parere, direi che è abbastanza comune che mamma parli una lingua, papà un’altra e che il bambino impari anche la terza lingua che mamma e papà parlano tra di loro, leggiti The bilingual edge se ti va. Mi sembra di capire che avete già una vostra routine, secondo me potete andare avanti tranquillamente, e poi le lingue della bambina si svilupperanno naturalmente, ovviamente l’Italiano avanzerà rapidamente quando comincerà ad andare a scuola.


Immagine: Life is elsewhere

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  1. octavia says

    hi Nikoletta…i also have a 17 months old boy who is exposed to 3 languages. i am Indonesian but I was raised trilingual (malaysian, indonesian, english) My husband speaks only italian so italian is our everyday language…but I speak both indonesian and english to my son since it’s easier for me…i always mix the languages since i was small so i am more comfortable this way…
    My son mostly speaks in indonesian, but he understands those 3 languages well…he probably speaks indonesian better since he spends most of his time with me…
    But i’m not worried at all about his italian since we live in italy,surrounded by italians…so it’s impossible if wont speak the language…in fact, I am more concern about his knowledge of indonesian language and culture since we are miles away….

    • octavia says

      sorry…supposed to write : “so it’s impossible if he won’t speak the language”
      anyway…what i was trying to say is that I wouldn’t be so worried if i were you… :)

  2. Warda says

    Hi Nikolletta, my daughter is just 2, we moved back to Italy when she was nearly 1 and she understands all the languages we speak at home. I speak to her in English, my husband and I speak French to each other, he speaks to her in Italian (as he’s learning it) and in Arabic at certain time (his mothertongue). When she first started speaking she spoke English as she spent most of the day with me, but since starting nursery in Italy she speaks Italian, with certain words or phrases in the other languages (if she’s learnt them with either me in English or her dad in Arabic and not encountered them yet in school). She also understands French though we don’t speak to her directly in that language – but if I’m tired and I slip up, she’ll reply to me in Italian as normal. We tried using baby signing when she was very little but it didn’t really work with us, I guess I just didn’t persevere with it – but now the mix of languages doesn’t seem to hold her back anyway.

  3. Barbara says

    Hello Nikolletta, we also have the same situation at home. We live in Austria and my husband is austrian; I am italian and we speak english between each other. So our 3 years old is exposed to german, italian and english.
    He speaks the two mother tongues and he understands english but does not speak it.
    I try to stimulate english also with audio books and cartoons( not too many), so he can hear a better accent than our.
    big hug

  4. says

    hi Nikolletta,
    same situation at our place: i speak italian to my daughter, her dad speaks to her in polish, me and him we speak english to each other. So far my daughter (16 months) seems to recognize the three languages, even after days she’s not exposed to some of them (so for example when I bring her to italy and she doesnt hear any polish and english, I noticed that if then she hears accidentally somebody speaking polish or english she shows immediate interest, while the same doesnt happen with other languages such as french , even if we spend a lot of time in a french environment. She doesnt speak yet, even if she’s great in explaining herself and communicate. Still, recently she started to say nie to her father and no to me, so we take it as sign that yes, we are on the right path :-)

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