Raising Bilingual Kids & Little Global Citizens

Bilingual Parenting

How Many Languages Can Children Learn at the Same Time?

How many languages can a child learn at once

How many languages can children learn at the same time?

How many languages can children learn at the same time? Should they master one language before we start to teach another? Is two or three languages too many for a child to learn?

These are all common questions of parents who hope to raise bilingual or even multilingual children.

Well, the answers aren’t so simple.

What we know is that children can learn multiple languages at once, and the benefits of being bilingual are endless.

Learning multiple languages from birth is not a new phenomenon either. In fact, raising multilingual children is more common than most people think.

The thing is, all families are all different.

Different language combinations, locations and circumstances mean that no family is really the same.

Therefore how many languages your child can learn at once depends on many factors.

The main factor when determining how many languages a child can learn at once is the languages the parents speak. Because children spend most of their daily lives with their parents these languages are usually the most influential.

Monolingual parents who speak the community language

If you are a monolingual parent and speak the community language, then teaching your child multiple languages will be more of a challenge. It doesn’t mean they can’t, it just means more effort and it may limit the amount of languages they can learn because of the lack of exposure to each.

Sending your child to a bilingual school, hiring a bilingual nanny, or enrolling your child in an immersion school are all options for introducing new languages, however they will most likely be limited to one or two languages outside the family language.

This isn’t always the case though. If parents have the means, and the budget, a child from a monolingual family can learn more languages.

How to raise a bilingual child when you don’t speak a second language

Monolingual parents who don’t speak the community language

If a child speaks one language at home with their parents, and then learns a second language (using MLAH)in the community or at school, then they have a great chance of becoming bilingual quite naturally. In this situation there is a good balance of exposure to both languages.

In this situation, a child can also learn a third language in another setting. For example, if the child attends a bilingual school, language school, or has a tutor.

One Monolingual Parent, One Multilingual Parent

If each parent speaks a different language, then as long as children receive enough exposure to both languages, it should be natural for them to pick up both of languages from the start.

If those languages don’t include the community language (eg Parent A speaks Spanish, Parent B speaks French, family live in the USA where English is the primary language spoken), there is the opportunity for the child to learn a third language quite naturally by using the two minority languages at home, and the third language in the community.

A multilingual parent, can also successfully pass on two languages to a child if there is enough exposure and consistency.

How a multilingual parent can pass on two languages

Multilingual Parents living abroad

It can sound a little complicated, but this is probably the best chance of a child learning multiple languages at once. If each parent can speak multiple languages.

Eg. Parent A speaks to child in Italian, Parent B speaks to child in French, family language is English, and they live in Germany. This would allow the child to have good exposure to all four languages and potentially become fluent in all of them.

As the child gets older there is the opportunity to add additional languages through other means.

We taught our daughter 8 languages in 6 years

The problems with children learning lots of languages at the same time

While it may seem easy for a child to learn multiple languages, exposure and consistency is important.

There are many things you need to raise a multilingual child. Exposure and resources are the main ones.

If a child does not have enough exposure to the target language, they cannot become fluent. Therefore by adding too many languages at once, you risk not having enough exposure to each of them. This could mean your child can speak 3, 4, 5 or even 6 languages, but is not actually fluent in one of them.

If a child does not have the language resources necessary to help language learning, they cannot become fluent. Parents need to ensure there are enough resources in the target languages.

Introducing multiple languages at the same time

If you are considering introducing more than language to your child at the same time, make sure you take these factors all into account.

A few questions to ask yourself are:

How many languages can my child learn at once with the resources we have available?

Will I be able to provide enough exposure to these languages?

This should help you with your answer.

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How many languages can a child learn at once


  1. Jamal

    Hello everybody,

    I would like to share with you my experience in teaching my kids foreign languages that maybe you could get some ideas from it or provide me with your kind feedback.

    My old son is 5 years old, he started speaking Arabic when he was 1,10 old, then I gave him the opportunity to learn the Turkish language by joining a Turkish kindergarten when he was 3 years old, he was able to speak Turkish very well after 6 months. Due to the Corona virus pandemic he couldn’t go to the kindergarten from March 2020 till now, due to the quarantine he started watching English cartoons on YouTube and he is doing very well in a short period of time, and he speaks with a very good accent, he started with watching rhymes and other cartoons, nowadays he started focusing on documentaries or scientific videos such as Dr.Binocs videos those tell children about the world, our bodies’ systems and other interested topics, besides that he uses Khan Academy Kids app on the Tablet device. I am looking forward to find more smart methods for him to learn in a smarter way and learn the cleaver thinking.
    I am wondering if I could schedule some daily cartoons in Spanish or Mandarin for him.

    My youngest son is only 2.5 years old and he speaks a little of both Arabic and English.

    Your comments and feedback are highly appreciated.

    Best regards.

  2. AM

    My 6yr old niece is learning 5 languages. The community and main language spoken at home is English. Secondary home and extended family language is Spanish, but I am the only one that is actually making an effort to teach her Spanish. I’ve been teaching her since she was a baby. I try to exclusively speak to her in Spanish because I researched and learned it’s best for them to associate the language with the person rather than the object. I also give her Spanish lessons four days a week, along with French, Japanese, and a short Mandarin Chinese lesson. Total lesson time each day is about 45mins. We started the French and Japanese at 2 years, and the Chinese at 5. Sorry I’m bragging here, but I am just so proud of how well she’s doing. Reading hiragana in Japanese, Spanish, and English! She surprises me daily. Love that girl!
    My BF’s 2 yr old daughter is simultaneously learning Spanish, English, and Russian. As her mother is Russian so speaks only Russian to her, her grandmother (daily babysitter) is Puerto Rican so speaks only Spanish to her, and my BF speaks English to her. She responds in whatever language is spoken to her.

    Hope that helps give you an idea of how we introduced multiple languages to our children.

  3. Mitiku daba

    I have got interesting ideas .thank you so much

  4. hi moms i have son that will be 19 month this week ,we leave in Portuguese speaking country, me and my husband speak tigrigya (Eritrean), and Amharic(Ethiopian) language.his nanny speaks Portuguese,and our friend specks English ,i get stuck here which language shall we talk to my toddle.

  5. Meery

    Hi there Moms!

    I am pregnant and trying to decide what languages to teach my baby girl once she is born.

    My husband speaks English, I speak English (obviously), Spanish and Romanian. We live in Thailand.

    Our baby will learn English from daddy, Thai in school and community, but I cannot decide if I should speak Spanish or Romanian to her. My family is Romanian which would make sense as she’ll have more input but would kind of prefer teaching her Spanish as it’s a more useful language?

    Any advice is appreciated.
    Thank you!

    • Paula

      If I were you I would teach her Romanian as it’s your mother tongue. Spanish is quite easy to pick up later in life and I am sure you and your family will be pleased to speak Romanian to your daughter.

    • Marga

      Romanian is the answer!
      I learned Spanish as a teenager and became fluent while living in Spain. Spanish is a very easy language to learn later!

    • George

      Hello Merry, I’m just wondering what languages did you decide to teach your child and how is it going, I am also planning on teaching my children romanian english and japanese. If you are interested I wold like to hear more of your journey ?

  6. Ande

    I just want to say thank you for laying this out. As a monolingual new mom (I have French and Spanish vocabulary but that doesn’t amount to much really) I appreciate detailed insight on how to proceed. I guess my best approach is to learn Spanish with my baby first, and move on to a third language later after he is speaking both well. Thanks again!

  7. Cheryl H.

    Never really realised until I counted the other day, my kids are learning six, seven languages at the moment. They can actually only speak three by now, but I think it doesn’t harm learning more…

    I am trying my best to practise the languages I know with them, and am making my husband teach them what he can speak on top of those.
    Seems fine, as I don’t have an expectation to see them speaking all of them fluently anyway.

    • Gabby

      I’m want to teach my kids 3 languages. At what age did you start? Also how did you start to teach them? Did you introduce it each language one at a time slowly or at the same time?

      • Jay

        My 5-year-old son speaks 3 languages fluently due to the nature of our family. I am a native Spanish speaker, my wife is a native Russian speaker, and we live in an English speaking country. The most important aspect is consistency in language exposure. All three languages must be introduced from birth if possible and maintained throughout the first three years. My 14-month-old daughter can understand basic commands and essential words in all three languages (open, close, up, down, parts of the body and some animals). I read a study about how children from age 6-months to a year can differentiate various languages and understand their sound pattern, allowing them to learn the language easier, than if introduced after a year of age.

    • Barkat

      That was a great knowledge I have really learnt a lot from it.
      I want to teach my child 3 and half year old daughter 3 languages.

    • Sonny

      Hello. My fiance and I only speak english. However our recently turned 3yr old has taken to asking google how to say different things in spanish, mandarin, portuguese, french, and korean. She does this ALL DAY. Sometimes I think she’s talking to me but she’s actually talking to google (lol). Is she actually learning from this? I’ll ask her how to say different things in one of the various languages she’s decided to speak and she’ll quickly answer however since I don’t speak any of the languages I can’t be sure it’s right. Also I’m nervous about everything just melding together and nothing coming out right.

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