London is home to a new generation of polyglots. As one of the most iconic cities in the world, the UK capital is a popular place to live and has proven a draw to people of all nationalities looking for somewhere to settle. As a result, there are now an increasing number of children living there who have been raised speaking two, three or even more languages.

According to Evening Standard writer and linguist Anne McElvoy, London has been “slated for its monolingualism” in the past. However, that appears to be changing and it is no longer unusual to hear of families in the capital who speak two different languages at home and yet another – typically English – outside this environment.

Globalisation means more professionals are choosing to move abroad to further their careers. As London is one of Europe’s major financial hubs, there are people of all different nationalities living and working in the city, and they have been falling in love there too. As a result, married couples who speak a different language to each other are raising their kids to speak their mother tongues as well as the language of the country in which they live. And these are not skills they are willing to let slide, with Ms McElvoy saying adverts on Gumtree suggest au pairs who speak three or more languages are in demand.

The journalist spoke to Helène Pfeil at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue in Mayfair. Helène’s mother is French and her father German and she grew up speaking both. In addition, she spoke English from an early age, which she is now also fluent in. Interestingly, she says that while she has dreams in all three languages, she thinks in French. Helène notes that being able to speak three languages fluently has provided her with a natural aptitude to pick up more.

Recent figures obtained and reported by Sky News revealed that at 240 schools in the UK, English is the second language of 90 percent of the pupils. Meanwhile, at five of the schools, none of the children speak English as their mother tongue.

There are many benefits to being raised trilingual, according to Ms McElvoy. One of the main ones is that it instils a sense of adventure and a willingness to face challenges in that person, which may explain why so many trilinguals are “high-fliers”. They are also attractive to employers, who want someone who can not only converse with clients and partners abroad but who is also willing to relocate overseas for work.

Research into developing the ability to speak three or more languages fluently is in its relative infancy, but it is thought that the person will always be strongest in two of the languages and weaker in the third. This differs from bilingualism, where the speaker can have an equal aptitude for both. A recent study by Brown University and King’s College London, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, used brain scans to show that immersing a child in more than one language from birth until the age of four gives them the best chance of fluency. After four years old, the brain’s myelin – an insulating cellular material – becomes fixed, so it is more difficult to develop a natural aptitude for a new language.

Ms McElvoy suggests that parents who will not be raising their children in a multi-language environment can still encourage language learning by playing foreign language films and television shows at home. Reading the subtitles teaches kids a few phrases before they start learning a language at school, she explains. “Something I’ve learned about multilingualism is that it is rarely wasted,” the writer concludes.