Episode 38 – Q&A – Which third language should I introduce to my children?

Episode 38

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I share my thoughts with a listener on which language she should introduce to her children.  She is deciding between French which is spoken by a larger percentage of the population and Italian which she is very passionate about. Tune in to hear my recommendation.

Episode #38- Transcript

Welcome to another Question & Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast!

Today I am answering another question that came in via email and this one actually ties in quiet nicely with our previous episode, episode 37, where I chat with Madalena Cruz Ferreira about some common misconceptions about multilinguals. This week’s question is from Dionne Buentello and the question reads as follows:

I have two daughters, one is 2.5 and the other one is 6 month old and I am raising them bilingual in English and Spanish here in the United States. My question is regarding introducing a third language.  I have studied both French and Italian although French a little more than Italian, but I am absolutely in love with Italian and it comes easier to me than French. 

In your opinion, which language should I introduce to my children, French or Italian?  I realize that French is a lot more practical and spoken in a lot more places and I was actually leaning towards French because of this.  But just thinking of teaching Italian to my girls gets my husband and I so excited. I’m now thinking that I might get farther with it if I stick to the one I’m passionate about.  (Oh and I actually have friends in Italy that I communicate with and non in France).  What do you think?   

Well Dionne, thank you for sending in your question and for your approval to share your experience and current situation with the Bilingual Avenue community.

Let me start off by saying that exposing your child to a third language is an ambitious yet very attainable goal.  Dionne, you are lucky that you have two additional languages to choose from and I understand why you may be conflicted.  You are right that French is spoken by a larger percentage of the population but that does not necessarily need to be the leading factor in your decision.

Instead, I would encourage you to think about the following questions. What may be more beneficial to your children now? Which of the two languages makes you more excited?  Which one do you think you can support for the longest amount of time?  The language journey, as you know is a marathon and not a sprint, so you have to be in it for the long run.  Therefore, it really is important to be motivated and make sure it is something you are going to look forward to as well!

Based on your email, to me, the answer is obviously Italian!

Your excitement is palpable and I think that energy alone that you have towards Italian will carry you a long way.

Now like I said in the introduction, this is a topic that I discussed with my guest on episode 37.  We talked about the misconception that some languages are more useful to learn than others.  The main takeaway for me in that discussion is that one of the factors that you should take into consideration when selecting a language is whether speaking that given language will be of use to your child NOW rather than LATER.  Because we cannot predict what is going to happen in the future but we have a lot more control as to what is going to happen in the now of our children.

Well, you mentioned in your email that you have friends in Italy so that certainly increases the chances that Italian will be language that your children can use now! I bet your friends will love the idea that you are teaching your children their language and will likely be willing to help you along the way whether it’s through practice or helping you find resources in Italian all of which is very important. Remember, I always encourage parents to find as many ways as they can to support the language needs of the children and I always suggest incorporating other native speakers to the mix so I do think the fact that you have friends that speak Italian is something to really consider.

To wrap up my answer, I would suggest two things.  Number one, I would encourage to consider doing some goal setting and number two, establish a language plan to guide your journey.

Goal setting can help you sort out questions like: Is your goal for your daughters to be fluent? Or Proficient? Do you want them to be able only speak Italian or is it also important for you that they can read and write?  You can tweak along the way based on how they are progressing and then reassess as needed!! I have a goal setting guide and a post that may be helpful.  bilingualavenue.com/languagegoals

As for the language plan, we talked about how important it is to establish one with Rita Rosenback on episode 29 and you can find out the details of that discussion at bilingualavenue.com/episode29

Best of luck on your journey Dionne and keep us posted.

For anyone else out there who has a similar question, that you’d like answered on the podcast just head over to bilingualavenue.com/contact and submit either your audio question or your email question.

Now before I wrap up, I did want to send out a special thanks to Elena from macomefa.com for translating one of the Aesop Fables into Italian!  We need your help translating fables into your target language.  To know more about this collective effort, head over to bilingualavenue.com/episode30. We’d love to give you a shout out on the podcast for helping us on this very worthy cause.

May you have fun travels on your language journey! Hope to see you again on the avenue.


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