By Alina DizikNovember 2, 2016 2:17 p.m. ET
Raising a bilingual child is a goal for many parents in the United States. There are many reasons for encouraging children to learn more then two languages. Partners from two different countries often want their children to speak both native languages. A bilingual family who lives overseas usually encourages its children to become fluent in its local language. The languages spoken in the Striuli family are Spanish, English, French, and Italian. In order for this to work, the trilingual household needs rules. Mr. Striuli enforces the rules by acting confused when the children speak the language they are not suppose to speak at home, and only answers when he is asked in the language he desires. His children understand that they must speak Italian to their father, Spanish to their mother and French at school. Annick De Houwer, professor of language acquisition and multilingualism at the Universitat Erfurt in Erfurt, Germany believes that the right time to commit to introducing a second or third language to a child is at birth. Parents need to create an environment where children are comfortable speaking.
Before elementary school age, children can learn a second, third or even a fourth language. Language-based play groups or frequent video chats with bilingual family members help children understand the value of learning another language and culture. Being bilingual or trilingual can put young children somewhat behind other children in English vocabulary development or grammar, but most catch up by the seventh grade. Also when children get older and spend more time at school and friends' homes, it can get harder to maintain second and third language skills. However, being committed pays off and the result is the envy of many adults who are struggling to learn a foreign language..