Answer from Alice Lapuerta:
The chances of acquiring equal, native-like fluency in all three languages is probably a bit unrealistic. As with bilingualism, language aptitude is subjected to change over time, as the child’s needs and circumstances change.
There are always stronger and weaker languages, and some languages are only acquired passively. Tell yourself this is not a bad thing. Identity issues and language preference will also come into play sooner or later.
Sometimes it seems our children have ‘forgotten’ a language, only to pull it out again as soon as the need arises. I have found that fluency waxes and wanes as my child moves from one life stage to another.
In my daughter’s preschool years, Spanish dominated. As soon as she entered German kindergarten, she preferred German. Then we relocated and adopted English as a family language, and lo and behold she prefers English over all languages. As soon as abuelita comes to visit us for several weeks, suddenly Spanish is “in” again.
It is not that she forgot her aptitude in the other languages, but she simply decides to focus on a certain language depending on her needs and circumstances. Knowing this, we shouldn’t set ourselves up for failure by setting unrealistic goals such as aiming for ‘equal, native-like fluency’ in all three languages. We relax more knowing that it is natural for our children to go through phases when they just don’t speak with native-like ability – at least not yet.
For more information on raising multilingual children, see Madalena Cruz-Ferreira’s article, “Raising Multilingual Children: Why the Fuss?” in the March-April 2007 issue of Multilingual Living Magazine: (multilingualliving.com/enjoy-multilingual-living-magazine).