My daughter will be two and half in June and as with the many mixed couples in Saigon, she is growing up bilingual. In actual fact, she is growing up TRILINGUAL. I find the understanding of this issue to be a total paradox. On the one hand, we are constantly asked 'Can she speak English?' and are met with wide eyes of astonishment when the answer is yes or when she turns to me and starts speaking English. We also send Lousia to a nursery nearby where only French is spoken. She can already count and sing songs in French too, but not at home because she knows mum and dad don't really understand her toddlers version of French. I am already feeling horribly inadequate and have a couple of French courses downloaded ready to brush up! You may be asking why do that? Indeed some parents I have met are too concerned that their child would be 'confused' by a third language. I am utterly convinced that is not the case.
Scientists believe that language is acquired most easily during the first ten years of life. During these years, the circuits in children’s brains become wired for how their own language sounds. An infant’s repeated exposure to words clearly helps her brain build the neural connections that will enable her to learn more words later on. Language can be learned a multitude of ways, like casual conversation, songs, rhymes, reading, music, story telling and much more.[from here]I have known kids as young as five who can speak four or even five languages. Example: a French friend married a Thai lady and had three kids who went to a British school and learned Mandarin. We don't intend to push our daughter into learning French as if it was a classroom subject. Rather just give her the exposure and see how she picks it up. Some of you may remember too that Chi's little brother has lived in France since he was one and is now eighteen. He doesn't speak Vietnamese, only French and school taught English. We see France as a distinct possibility in our future, so that's our added motivation, not that you need one either way..
The other half of the paradox is that for a huge portion of the worlds population, growing up BI or TRILINGUAL is normal. Think of all the people in the subcontinent, Singapore, Malaysia, The Phillippines, Africa and so on who grow up speaking more than one language. Think of it like that and we are just catching up with the rest of the world...and I know for sure that Louisa's peers, in this 'international' environment, will also be multi-language speakers.