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Four year old speaks seven languages

#1
Four year old (though it could be almost five, they didn't say her birthday) speaks seven languages:



Looks more impressive than it is (because she only needed to learn a few dozen collocations to "speak a language" at a four year old's level), but it's still very interesting at how comfortable she is switching languages.

Also, if she's able to keep up with all seven languages as her vocabulary expands (without it keeping her from learning more important things), that's going to be very impressive.
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#2
Pretty awesome! I knew a four year old who spoke 3 languages, and she ended up using words from all three together in sentences a lot, so that only her parents could really understand her at times. At least that girl knows how to switch languages fully it seems.
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#3
Related. I met a Belgian guy who grew up speaking maybe 2-3 languages. His sister married someone from from Eastern Europe who spoke a few (different) languages too. And they had a kid.

You'd think that the kid would grow up speaking a ton of languages. It turns out that the opposite happened. The kid just shut down and refused to speak. I guess everyone was speaking to him in a different language (including the grandparents), and it just overwhelmed him.

My friend said that this happens sometimes when kids learn too many languages. Obviously I'm not an expert on this, but I thought I'd pass it along.
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#4
I wonder how many reviews she has due on anki!
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#5
Some of her nannies aren't even trying to pretend it isn't scripted. Wonder how much they practiced this. At least she's a better actor!

(not that I would expect them to do something without having practiced it intensively, since a 4 year old can only improv so much). Her pronunciation seems ace, so I'm not doubting her abilities. Good on her parents to invest so much into her education, though I do have to wonder what repercussions this will have on the kid later in life.
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#6
(2016-10-25, 8:16 am)Zgarbas Wrote: Some of her nannies  aren't even trying to pretend it isn't scripted. Wonder how much they practiced this. At least she's a better actor!

(not that I would expect them to do something without having practiced it intensively, since a 4 year old can only improv so much). Her pronunciation seems ace, so I'm not doubting her abilities. Good on her parents to invest so much into her education, though I do have to wonder what repercussions this will have on the kid later in life.
I don't think the girl was so much scripted as that the questions were tailored to what they knew that she knew how to answer. Which of course means the questions side did have to be scripted.
Meanwhile, I was thinking it's an interesting coincicdence that it's 7 languages.... I've always heard that you need to know seven languages to be a U.N. interpreter... apparently though, this is a sort of urban myth (collegiate myth?) that students in language classes tell each other. 
The actual requirements though?
U.N. Career Page Wrote:Perfect command of one official language of the United Nations. English, French, Russian or Spanish interpreters must also possess excellent oral comprehension of two other official languages. Arabic or Chinese interpreters must also possess excellent command of English or French, as required.
So she knows the 6 U.N. official languages and the three E.U. 'working languages' (English, French, and German, although English will be removed after Brexit).

That can't be a coincidence, so much as she's actually being prepared from this age to be a diplomatic translator.

Although the languages would also make her a very independent diplomat or international businesswoman.... or spy, as long as she stays off of the TV after this!
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#7
(2016-10-24, 11:26 pm)Bokusenou Wrote: Pretty awesome! I knew a four year old who spoke 3 languages, and she ended up using words from all three together in sentences a lot, so that only her parents could really understand her at times. At least that girl knows how to switch languages fully it seems.

Small children don't have a concept of "language". My daughter is 1 1/2 and she says some things in German and some in Chinese. It will be interesting to see at what age she can distinguish between the languages.
Edited: 2016-10-25, 9:09 am
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#8
Quote: I don't think the girl was so much scripted as that the questions were tailored to what they knew that she knew how to answer. Which of course means the questions side did have to be scripted.

Notice how all the nannies use unnatural inflections for their questions and do not have a single moment of hesitation. They're speaking really fast and there are no breaks where there should be.

The little girl 'reads' the French poem like someone who is reciting a memorised poem, no breaks for the lines, didn't accidentally read the title in the French one. In the stegosaurus question she starts inflecting the hard words at the end, which is a memorisation technique rather than a reading comprehension one. It's all scripted and memorised, but that is to be expected of her grand TV moment. I'm judging the adults for acting so poorly (the English and Arabic nannies are the worst).

In ESL you have to pay attention to when kids are giving you scripted/memorised answers vs. when they're actually thinking it, it's not a hard skill to acquire. Even with the memorisation, her pronounciation is too on point for it to be mindless repetition of sounds so I think she's genuinely learning it Tongue

And yeah, it's a really well thought out language list. Even outside the diplomatic use (nice catch) it's just such a good medley of practical languages from eclectic language families. The linguistic flexibility that she will get from this will be amazing even if she doesn't go through with the language study.

Quote: Small children don't have a concept of "language". My daughter is 1 1/2 and she says some things in German and some in Chinese. It will be interesting to see at what age she can distinguish between the languages.
Switching languages is an acquired skill (it is easier to just mix them), but IIRC children as young as 1 can tell when they are being spoken to in a different language. What they don't understand is why *you* can't understand them when they mix Wink

Seriously though, train her to not mix. It's a bad habit that doesn't go away without practice.
Edited: 2016-10-25, 10:24 am
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#9
Really? I read somewhere that they don't know that we are speaking different languages. To be honest, I did not spend much time thinking about this issue. I would like her to be bilingual, but when plan to move back to Germany when she reaches the age to go to school (or even earlier). There I have a lot of friends who's parents are BOTH from another country and still they can't speak very well, especially in situations other than day-to-day family stuff. I would probably have to send my daughter to a Chinese school and get my wife to only use Chinese with her.

How can I train her to do that? Should I just not 'understand' her when she uses Chinese when I'm speaking German?
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#10
(2016-10-25, 12:27 pm)Wurstmann Wrote: How can I train her to do that? Should I just not 'understand' her when she uses Chinese when I'm speaking German?

I don't have any direct experience with it, but I think the important thing is that sentences are all in the same language and not making a pidgin. I'd verbally correct the mistake (parrot back the right way to say it) if she mixes languages in one sentence.

You could probably help solidify code switching by speaking to her in whatever language she's speaking in. If you're speaking German and she answers in Chinese, then switch to Chinese too. Leading by example kinda thing.

But yeah, no experience, just my thoughts as someone who reads a fair bit about language learning.
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#11
When she uses a Chinese word, confirm it in German. Don't be mean or condescending, just try to point out that one word of that sentence was off.

'i want to play with my 娃娃'
'You want to play with your doll? Ok.'

Additionally, never mix in front of her; she should be able to adapt to the situation. Humans just want to adapt to their peers, after all :p

Up to a certain age, mixing vocab is not that bad of a thing. Watch out for when she mixes grammar or starts inventing German words based on the Chinese ones; that's what happens when your bilingual+ kid's language skills are uneven and she's letting the Chinese take over (or vice versa). Raising a kid functionally bilingual is *a lot* of work and will need trained help and considerable amounts of exposure in both languages to work. It's easier for her to have a main language and a secondary one - just decide on what you want for her future; she shouldn't have any problems catching up to her peers in Germany unless you're limiting her exposure to German to daddy time: make sure she watches German shows and listens to German music and has someone to speak *only* German to.


One problem with bilingual kids is that they can become someone functional in both languages but fluent in neither. This is really common with Immigrant children, and one of the reasons for which they fall behind in school early on.
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#12
I have read that if you want a child to grow up bilingual it is best for one parent to speak one language to them while the other parent speaks the second language exclusively. Alternatively, you speak one language at home and they learn another language in school. Reportedly they pick up the school language very quickly. My wife actually was inadvertently educated this way and she doesn't recall any real language problems.

My daughter is the same age as yours and we loosely follow this at home without being too ridged. It's more like I speak English to my daughter and my wife speaks Japanese. When it's the three of us, we speak English because it's simply expedient. My daughter is starting to catch on and speaks mostly Japanese to my wife and English to me. Her daycare provider speaks Hebrew, Spanish and English with her during the day, so we occasionally get a few Spanish or Hebrew words, but I think she knows a lot more than we hear around the house.
Edited: 2016-10-25, 1:44 pm
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#13
(2016-10-25, 12:48 pm)Zgarbas Wrote: One problem with bilingual kids is that they can become someone functional in both languages but fluent in neither. This is really common with Immigrant children, and one of the reasons for which they fall behind in school early on.
I have read some studies that bilingual kids only fall behind for the first year or two before they begin to catch up. By roughly grade 3, there is no objective difference between bilingual kids and their monolingual peers.

Agreed though, it will take quite a bit of effort to raise a bilingual child. I'm not sure if we will be raising our daughter fully bilingual, but we would like for her to be comfortable enough in Japanese to speak with her relatives and keep up with Japanese language shows. If she feels the need to take it to the next level when she gets older, she'll have a lot of the groundwork laid.
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#14
My daughter doesn't really say sentences yet. Mostly single words or combinations of two words. And she uses the same language for any single word consistently. For example it's always "No!" or "狗狗", no matter who she's talking to. I have to think about that topic again and read a lot of stuff. And talk with my wife, of course. Wink
Thanks for all the help!
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#15
My parents tried to raise me and my siblings to be bilingual. It didn't really stick since there was a lot of pressure for me within myself and peers to be fluent in English. I know enough of my native tongue (though I consider English my primary language at this point) to watch TV and learn a few words from context. I don't understand everything, but I get the gist of the general plot.

Output on the other hand, besides the basic greetings and commands (e.g. eat now, sleep now) which my parents used to say on a daily basis, I'm at a total loss.

My older sibling knows a bit more than me but not by much whereas the younger one only knows English.

The thing I can recall with trying to maintain being bilingual was when I was in elementary school. There would be times I'd slip non English words to my classmates and they'd laugh at me. Sad  Long story short, after weeks of going through that, I begged my parents to just speak English with us at home so we could assimilate better with our peers. It worked of course, but I was no longer "bilingual" if I ever even was at the time. Confused
Edited: 2016-10-25, 3:59 pm
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#16
(2016-10-25, 12:43 pm)SomeCallMeChris Wrote: I don't have any direct experience with it, but I think the important thing is that sentences are all in the same language and not making a pidgin. I'd verbally correct the mistake (parrot back the right way to say it) if she mixes languages in one sentence.
I'd be surprised if that had much effect -- certainly research indicates that parents correcting their children's language mistakes in a monolingual situation has pretty much no effect on how the language acquisition process happens.
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#17
It can, but only in the form of teaching underlying rules. And then it doesn't actually make them use the right rule, it just puts the right rule in their head, if they understand it in the first place!, so that it's easier to identify and acquire naturally when they hear it happen and they're ready for it (per i+1).
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#18
I mean that I don't think teaching underlying rules of grammar to very young kids has any effect -- they're not like adult learners, they do it all by exposure.
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#19
Exposure is what makes you actually acquire things, but that doesn't mean teaching never helps. Yes, telling kids how to speak correctly almost never helps, but there are very specific situations where it does. A kid that's very good at memorization would certainly benefit from having more mental references when listening to what people say.
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#20
(2016-10-25, 10:20 am)Zgarbas Wrote:
Quote:Even with the memorisation, her pronounciation is too on point for it to be mindless repetition of sounds so I think she's genuinely learning it Tongue 
Just to throw it out there kids can learn proper pronounciation by shadowing their favorite cartoon characters  Tongue
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#21
(2016-10-29, 11:55 am)juniperpansy Wrote: Just to throw it out there kids can learn proper pronounciation by shadowing their favorite cartoon characters  Tongue
Totally. Too bad they usually pick these two:

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#22
(2016-10-29, 11:55 am)juniperpansy Wrote:
(2016-10-25, 10:20 am)Zgarbas Wrote:
Quote:Even with the memorisation, her pronounciation is too on point for it to be mindless repetition of sounds so I think she's genuinely learning it Tongue 
Just to throw it out there kids can learn proper pronounciation by shadowing their favorite cartoon characters  Tongue

Watching cartoon shows in 7 different languages and shadowing them sounds like more work than actually studying...

I watched cartoons in 4 different languages as a kid (long story involving us stealing cable from neighbouring countries), the only one that I ever picked up was the one I was formally learning on the side (English). My 'shadowings' all those foreign languages openings were a jumbled version of sounds that had very little to do with the language itself (I have the VHS recordings to prove it Big Grin. My mum, who cannot speak A word German, was super proud of me singing the OP to Mila Superstar, but that was her illusion of grandeur fueled by linguistic ignorance projecting)
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#23
These days, little kids have toys that teach them basic words and sentences in different languages. And it's not even like the parents can pick and choose the toys, to stick with just one language...at least not without being obnoxious and telling everyone what gifts to buy for their kid.
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