Thursday, May 29, 2014

Choosing Your Child's L3

My husband and I have two son's, aged 2 and 3. We discussed on more than one occasion what third language (L3) our boys should learn.

Our boys have both Spanish and English because the spend time in Mexico and the United States. Their Mexican family do not speak to them in English, and they will be spending many summers in Mexico. Spanish fluency is an inevitability. My beautiful daughter, aged sixteen, speaks French and English fluently. (French was actually her first language)

Some experts would say we should start our children on their third language now, while others would suggest waiting until they master English and Spanish. I think we will wait a little before starting L3, just after we know our son's competently communicate with us in English and with the family in Spanish.

We want L3 instruction to start certainly in their elementary years, when learning will be very easy. I think that L3 instruction should begin by their fifth and eighth birthdays.

The big question is - What should the third language be? As parents, we get to make this decision for the boys. I do not think there is any 'bad' or 'wrong' L3, only languages that are more useful than others. I suggested L3 should be Chinese, my husband suggested Japanese.

Many blogs report that Chinese, Arabic and even Portuguese are more useful business language to learn. LINK  Having a working knowledge of Japanese is a must of one wants to work in Asia's cutting-edge gaming and robotics scene. Japan certainly has innovative electronics. But their population is shrinking, true they are more innovating than the Chinese, but I think Chinese will eventually trump the Japanese even in electronics. I think Japanese was the language to know in the 80's and 90s, but can we say what was true then will be true in 20 years from now?

If we really think about it, the usefulness of L3 (language three) will be defined by our son's chosen occupation. Will they work in real estate, medicine, manufacturing, or politics? According to Wikepedia, the most spoken European languages after English are German and French and South America, the most spoken language after Spanish is Portuguese. If we base our decision about L3 based on business in Europe, the answer is German (because the boys already speak English), and if we base our decision on South America, it should be Portuguese (because the boys already have Spanish.)

In all practicality: our best choices should come from the following list: Chinese, German, Portuguese.

One thing I have always said, is that a value of a language is defined more than just how much money it will bring, but how it improves your life.  We do not know how L3 will improve our sons lives, nor do we know what occupation they will enter. We do not know what world they will be living in. Working with these variables, I still think L3 should be Mandarin Chinese. But then again, I speak French, my daughter speaks French, so why shouldn't L3 be French?

China Sprout
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South King County Lango Summer Camp
Seattle Eastside Lango
Seattle Summer Camps Villa Venture
Zoom Spanish Playschool

 Campbell, R. and Sais, E. (1995), Accelerated metalinguistic (phonological) awareness in bilingual children. British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 13: 61–68. doi: 10.1111/j.2044-835X.1995.tb00664

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