La Tela di Carlotta
it en es

Raising multilingual kids: the importance of the first three years of life

Apr 18, 2017

If you want to know about raising multilingual kids, please take a look at this infographic that I created for you :-)

As you probably know, we’re raising Oliver and Emily multilingual. Except rare exceptions, I speak to them exclusively in Italian, Alex exclusively in Finnish, and Oliver goes to a bilingual school where one teacher speaks to them in English and the other one in Spanish.

I strongly insisted on this language setup, because thanks to my personal experience teaching languages in the last 10 years, this is simply the only way I believe children can become truly bi(tri, cuadri)lingual. I had read a lot about it, but I had never found it all written down in one book.

Until today.

I literally devoured the last book I read, Understanding the Human Being: The Importance of the First Three Years of Life by Italian Silvana Quattrocchi Montanaro. Despite it being old and in some parts outdated, I think it’s a book that every parent should read. I loved every single word—I actually read it three times!—and my head was sore from nodding throughout all the 168 pages (times 3).

And when I thought it could’t get any better, I got to the chapter about Learning Languages, and especially about teaching more than one language. I want to share it with you because raising truly polyglot children is not easy—it requires dedication, disciple and consistency—and I feel like many parents don’t actually know just how important the first three years of life are.

As Dr. Montanaro writes (and I don’t think it could be said any better):

In the first three years of his/her life, a child is a genius in learning languages.

So here’s everything else you should definitely know if you want to raise your kids multilingual (yes, I typed word by word from the book just for you). I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The second (or third or fourth) language must be used in a child's environment in the first years of life, in the sense that one or more persons should speak the other languages to the child in his presence.If we could have two, three, four or five different persons speaking different languages around the children they could easily absorb all of them without any particular effort, provided that each person speaks to them always and only in the their language. There are no learning difficulties, because children have minds that work in a very special way and have a switch mechanism that lets them go from one language to another without confusion, without needing to translate and without the accent of their mother tongue.  But this is possible only in the first years of life, “during the years in which the child is a genius in learning languages”.The sooner you begin, the better. In japan, a course was recently developed, consisting of playing English-language cassettes three times a day to infants from birth to the age of six months. When, at the age of 3, 4, or 5 years, these children come in contact with an English teacher, they will learn the foreign language much more easily that other children. This phenomenon has a physiological explanation. Their language centre has absorbed the characteristics of pronunciation and style of the English language during the first few months of life.Below the age of three it is absolutely essential that each different language is always spoken by the same person. If a mother, father, or grandmother speaks two or three languages perfectly, they should decide which one to use with the child and always speak that one. Language is an integral part of a person, like all the somatic characteristics, and cannot be changed without producing a sense of great insecurity in the child and consequent difficulty in communication.Maria Montessori was a pioneer in this area, and clearly stated that only by making use of the natural development of children—the sensitive periods—is it possible to educate them up to the level of their human potential. This potential is enormous as regards the learning of languages.
[…] An immediate solution would be to bring together a group of children below the age of three several times a week, with a person who would talk to them in a foreign language".

If you liked it, spread the knowledge (share it on Facebook, send it to parent friends…): children have an amazing potential in learning languages, but it’s us parents who need to make an effort and find creative solutions to give them the gift of languages.


Niamh Tonge • Apr 24, 2017

Great advice here, what lucky kids you have with such an opportunity to be multilingual - what a gift to give them!

Tell me what you think

Did you like it? Do you agree or disagree? I'd love to hear from you.

I think you'll like these

The blog

I write mainly about Montessori, parenthood, and multilingualism. Here are some recent posts.

One day a few years ago my husband came home and said, "Why don't we put a mattress on the floor in the baby room? It'd be much more natural". "Never" was my reply. That's how our Montessori journey started. Since then we've been living, breathing and applying the philosophy at home day in and day out, starting from ourselves. Because educating children starts from the parents.
An example of how I practice empathy with my kids
How I show empathy to my children
Happy 4th birthday, Emily
Montessori New Year's tradition
Montessori Peace table
Audiobooks of real-life stories for kids
10k on Instagram!
Terrible twos
The organs of the body: workshop for kids
Kids understand if you give them honesty
Living sustainably
Living sustainably for me doesn’t only mean to have a more eco-friendly lifestyle. It means to make decisions that are sustainable for our planet, the people on it, but also for our life, our lifestyle, and our happiness. It means to take any daily chance to evolve and be happier, healthier, kinder, more responsible and more caring human beings—the only sustainable way for a meaningful future.
Face yoga is an act of self love
Why you should wear the same outfit twice on Instagram
The power of creating habits (and why you should do it, even if you then break them!)
Responsible eating is the diet of the future (Would you like to teach it to your kids?)
The power of NOT complaining: can you do it for a whole month?
Clean up your planet, please!
Infographic: 8 steps to switch to cloth nappies (a guide for reluctant parents)
A personal note on happiness
A personal note on social media
A change of life always widens your horizons
New to La Tela?
I’ve prepared collections on various topics that I’ve written over the years. Perhaps you’ll find one that interests you.


We sold everything to travel the world for two years. We're currently in New Zealand.


In 2020 I wrote 4 books for the Italian collection “Gioca and Impara con il metodo Montessori” curated by Grazia Honegger Fresco. The collection is a project by Il Corriere della Sera and La Gazzetta dello Sport.

We also implemented the workshops of the last 15 volumes of the collection with Oliver and Emily.


On my podcast, “Educare con calma”, I talk about various topics, from Montessori to sustainability. Only in Italian!

Jan 15, 2021 • 20m
Come "montessorizzare" la casa per dare indipendenza ai bambini
In questo episodio di Educare con Calma parliamo di come offrire indipendenza in casa attraverso l'ambiente. Vi parlo dell'importanza dell'ambiente (anche nelle scuole Montessori), di quanto sia importante apportare piccoli cambiamenti in casa per dare più indipendenza ai bambini, e anche di come purtroppo questo non sia sufficiente… Questo tema è uno dei primi che avevo in mente di trattare sul podcast… meglio tardi che mai! 🌸 -- Come appoggiare il podcast: Io non faccio pubblicità e non acc...
Jan 13, 2021 • 05m
Montessori in 5': Un metodo per smettere di criticare
Ho deciso di creare una piccola rubrica sul podcast in cui vi parlo di Montessori, educazione consapevole, disciplina dolce, disciplina positiva (chiamatela come volete, io la chiamo "educazione a lungo termine" 😉) e in ogni episodio tratto un tema in soli 5 minuti. In questo primo episodio vi suggerisco un metodo (infallibile) per smettere di criticare continuamente i nostri figli (a voi piacerebbe sentirvi sempre criticati e corretti?). L'episodio è nato da questa riflessione che ho fatto s...
Jan 8, 2021 • 31m
Viaggiare a tempo pieno: domande e risposte
In questo episodio di Educare con Calma rispondo alle vostre domande (più ripetute) sul nostro stile di vita di viaggiatori a tempo pieno: perché lo abbiamo scelto, come ci manteniamo, come permettiamo lo sviluppo sociale dei bambini e molto di più. Vi lascio anche alcuni articoli relazionati a ciò di cui parlo nell'episodio: I bambini devono uscire dalla propria zona di comfort  Vuoi un cambiamento nella tua vita? Trova la grotta! Se ti va, lasciami un commento sotto gli articoli per farmi s...


I update Instagram almost every day to be "close" to my family far away.

Why La Tela di Carlotta?
I dreamed of the name La Tela di Carlotta. One morning I woke up and in my dreams I had created a blog named just like the American novel (Charlotte's Web). Many years and endless ups and downs later, this web of thoughts and stories is my work. It took me a long time to understand what kind of online presence I wanted and today I know: I'm transparent, I show real life, I don't advertise, I only recommend sustainable brands (and not only because they pay me) and I believe in the value of my blog and my courses—because if we don't believe in the value of our work, no one will believe in it for us.
Carlotta dreaming of La Tela
I know! I don't want it to be over yet either.