Updated: Thoughts on ‘what type of multilingual parent are you?’…

I’ve talked before about our family’s cultural settings – husband and wife coming from different (but not exclusive) cultures/languages, raising our 3 TCKs, all now 7 years of age, and under; as well as presented thoughts on the Creative Flow of a TCK. This past April, AFSA hosted a panel discussion on emotional resilience in third-culture kids (TCKs) with a particular focus on the Foreign Service experience, during the first week of April. Experts on the issue of TCKs are expected to discuss the issue, taking questions from the audience – too bad we´re a bit far from DC, but we´re looking forward to reading about the discussion. The main question under discussion will be why some kids adapt very well to life in the Foreign Service while others struggle [check the AFSA website for more information].

“Are you curious?”  We are!

Blog Hop: I’ve talked before about our family’s cultural settings – husband and wife coming from different (but not exclusive) cultures/languages, raising our 3 TCKs, all now 7 years of age, and under; as well as presented thoughts on the Creative Flow of a TCK. This past April, AFSA hosted a panel discussion on emotional resilience in third-culture kids (TCKs) with a particular focus on the Foreign Service experience, during the first week of April. Experts on the issue of TCKs are expected to discuss the issue, taking questions from the audience – too bad we´re a bit far from DC, but we´re looking forward to reading about the discussion. The main question under discussion will be why some kids adapt very well to life in the Foreign Service while others struggle [check the AFSA website for more information].

Phonics & Math: let’s get the family together to help!

From my/our end, we are trying to do our part of the challenging task that is raising worldy third-culture children. And we´re doing it through language. It’s already known that speaking several languages fluently increases job opportunities, makes international travel easier, and enables you to communicate with a lot more people a lot more easily. There are various theories on how to best raise multilingual kids. “One parent, one language” (OPOL for short) is popular, and to some extent that is what we’re doing in our family.

One thing we’ve learned about raising TCKs: reading is a magic tool!

We’ve found out we’re “moderate” multilingual parents… At least, that’s how we tested, according to the Multilingual Living Quiz. Which is the best “group of multilingual parents”? Hard to say, they’re all different, and unique in their own way. There’s no magic formula when it comes to raising children in a multicultural setting. I’m always talking about our multilingual household, the challenges of trying to keep up with Spanish, Portuguese and English, while assisting our 1st grader on his (now!) English homework assignments, as well as with his homeschooling English/Spanish tasks! [Note: our son had started first grade in Brazil, last February, attending a Brazilian Montessori School, and had English classes three times a week. We moved to our current post, La Paz, Bolivia, in August, so, he could begin the American School year, as a first grader…] And our oldest child is just one of the examples: there two more on the line – his younger sisters (now aged 4,5 and almost 2) are a lively part of this multilingual/multicultural environment….

Looking for “help” from flashcards, when it comes to linking the sounds to the words!

Challenging, but exciting. And we’re very satisfied with the outcome: our oldest children are capable of communicating with both sets of grandparents, watching bilingual TV, having play dates both in English and Portuguese, and, offer very positive feedback to their dad when talked to/read to in Spanish. 😮 Recently, I stumbled upon a great quote, about the experience of raising bi/multilingual children: “raising multilingual children is an adventure you share together – one that is a lot of fun, but for which you will need quite a lot of patience. Sometimes, linguistic development will not progress in the way you hoped. That is fine, and everything will eventually work itself out. Sharing my language with my children has been about sharing my heritage more than anything else. It might be difficult at times, but it is a gift that will last a lifetime“. Couldn’t agree more! 😮 

Remembering bed time stories: from mom, in Portuguese… From dad, in English!

Helping our oldest children with their homework in Portuguese, having them practice English phonics with their native-speaker father, seeing the children have routine conversations with their dad in Spanish and English; and reading bed time stories in … who knows what!

We’ve been very fortunate regarding the kids school back in Brazil (they get both Portuguese and English), and we were thankful for the opportunity to use the educational allowance for homeschooling our 1st grader when it came to supplement his English language.

All in all, it’s working, and we’re pleased with the current results. Based on the explanation for each “group of multilingual parenting styles”, the Moderate Parent has found the golden middle way of bilingual parenting. Well-informed about bilingual issues yet know that ultimately they have to make your own rules and decisions that suit your family the best. Have a healthy dose of commitment towards your bilingual endeavour, a reasonable amount of self-confidence in what you are doing, and have no problem in bending the rules when necessary and when it’s in your family’s best interest. the “moderate parents” have chosen a model, are committed to it, and don’t give up easily when troubles arise. Acquainted with worries and problems but can ride through rough times by getting the right support from certain experts, their online group and other bilingual parents.

[Test originally published in Multilingual Living Magazine]

After all that, now it’s your turn to answer: “What type of multilingual parent do you think you are?” Take the quiz and find out! Here are examples of the questions:

“When you are on the playground with your child, you…”

“When your child speaks to you in the “wrong” language, you…”

“When it comes to literature on bilingualism, you…”

“Your reaction to the word “OPOL” is…”

“Your aim is for your child is…”

And there are many more questions/concerns/curiosities… Take your time to check it out!

So, how do you think you did?

Click Here to calculate your score and find out the results! We had a lot of fun (and learned a lot!) doing this little exercise! 😮 thanks for coming along!


Author: 3rdCultureChildren

Welcome! Here I am, 'releasing' my thoughts on traveling, parenting, raising TCKs, teaching, writing, working... and who knows what else! I’m a WIFE, 'geeky-stuff' SCIENTIST, TEACHER, AMATEUR photographer, MOM of 3, TRAVELER by choice and by marriage, and of course, a HOUSEHOLD QUEEN!!

23 thoughts on “Updated: Thoughts on ‘what type of multilingual parent are you?’…”

  1. My husband is a German TCK growing up in Taiwan, and thinks in English most of the time. He is fluent in German and can read fairly well – though he is more comfortable in English. We are living in a Chinese environment and have been since we’ve been married.
    We had high hopes of me speaking English and him speaking German, but that didn’t work out. I’d say mainly because he didn’t think in German when the oldest was born – he rarely spoke German to anyone. So, remembering to speak it at home was difficult. He did better speaking Chinese to them. 😉 On top of this, his family all speaks English fluently, so there was no pressure on us in that regard as well.
    I do have a question, though that I’m wondering. Will you continue to educate your children in all three languages through middle school and high school or focus more on one language? I’m just really curious about this. You seem to be really doing a great job with them right now so that they master both written and spoken of the three.
    Great post to ponder on…


    1. First, let me thank you for such an elaborated comment. Much appreciated! Thanks for sharing your experiences, and, why not say, your challenges bring your multilingual kids up! Trying to answer your question, husband and I have agreed that the language for educating the kids will likely be English. My oldest son, now 7 knows how toreador and somewhat write inPortuguese, and I helped him with that. My 4 year old will learn how to read and write in English, first, and later, I will offer her the rudimentary/basic Portuguese. But not now, since they’re attending an Ameican school, we don’t wanna have her confused. The boy is able to read basic Spanish sentences, but no writing involved, and we’re not pushing that. The baby is learning to speak in Spanish, and I only talk other in Portuguese… It will be hard, as you pointed out, to have them raise and educated in all 3 languages… Spanish is my husband’s second,and my Third, so, I do not see us pushing too much on that front! Let’s see… Thanks for taking the time to question and offer your take on the theme! 😮


  2. In our house we speak English, Spanish and Dutch and the boys seem to know all three languages equally. My five year old is a dynamo with languages. He can switch, translate and think in all three. My two year old understands all three but is not as talkative as my five year old was. We lived in Mozambique with the older one until the age of three and he was able to speak 4 languages when we lived there. It is curious to see how the different children take to the languages differently. I thought for sure my two year old would be the same since we haven’t done anything really different, but I noticed he is taking longer to use his words, although you can see he understands all three. I call Dutch the secret language in my house,because only the boys (not me) speak it. So basically this is how it works: School = English, Language we speak as a family = English, Mommy = Spanglish to the boys (more spanish), Daddy = Dutch to the boys, Empleada/Nanny = always Spanish. The boys will also take Dutch lessons once or twice a week. It is definitely challenging, but so worth it. We don’t really think about it…just the way we live our life.


    1. Meli, it’s pretty crazy, right? When we arrived here, Cecilia wasn’t really talking… Now, she talks to me in her very limited Spanish… sometimes, I have to stop and ask her, what she really wants… I learned the word “chompa”(like, jacket, or so) from her, and had to ask Vicky to ‘translate’… Cesar & Marcela speak to each other mostly in English, with some Portuguese, here and there… I’m noticing it’s becoming harder to continue with my OPOL (“one parent one language”) decision, when it comes to the kids, their social life, playdates… Sometimes I feel I’m being ‘rude’ to people when I’m addressing the kids in Portuguese, in front of other (local) kids. The one thing I know for sure, is that, at the end of (any given) day, I’m mentally exhausted – I have to switch back and forth between all three languages, and this is just the norm. As you said, it’s just the way we live our life… but it still begs the question on what type of multilingual parent are we? really? Don’t know the answer…:o


  3. Enjoyed your post! All the more so since /multilingualmulticultural life – as mentioned by Sakti above – is part and parcel of life in India! I think it is an advantage more than a challenge, an opportunity to broaden horizons!


    1. Thank you, Madhu! And I’m really glad to be getting different impressions, from distint life experiences… It makes this blogpost much richer, and much more interesting… As you mention, it could be an advantage, especially for our globalized world… And yet, it remains a challenge to be overcome by committed parents/grandparents… In any way, I do appreciate each and every comment. Thank you and all the others for that! 😮 Very enjoyable post, for sure!


      1. I am probably not looking at it from a parents’ perspective 🙂 My challenge is to make sure some of our less spoken languages – that includes my mother tongue, that my grandkids can not speak! – do not become extinct!


        1. Agree! My mom grew up with Continental Portuguese. I learned that as a child: grammar, literature… my siblings didn’t have the same opportunity, so, I’m the only one left who can “write like our grandparents”… Brazil developed its own “version of the language”, with lots of neologisms, adapted words, etc… don’t know for sure if it’s a positive or negative aspect… Brazil has different regional “unofficial varieties” of Portuguese – language is a live tool, and it keeps moving, adapting, adjusting… eventually, unfortunately, parts of it end up disappearing for lack of usage… but I do appreciate your concerns and efforts in preserving your mother tongue! It represents your culture, where you came from, and it says a lot about a person… 😮


  4. Very interesting. I am from India and we have a different challege as India has more than 2 dozens of official languages. I studied a different language (Odia) than my mother tongue (Bengali) and now staying in a state which speak another language (Gujarati). Everybody in India speaks English and Hindi. So my kids (both below 6 years) now have almost learnt to speak and understand all the above languages. Yes it is a challenge.


    1. Sakti -thank you for taking the time to come over and share your impressions! Much appreciated. You’re totally right: the experience is very challenging, but we all have hope… 😮 Good luck and success keeping up with the multilingual environment for your kids… not easy… but we need to think about raising worldly citizens… Take care, R. 😮


  5. Thanks for the mention of our upcoming session on Emotional Resiliency in Foreign Service Kids that will be held next week. Even though you won’t get to see it live, AFSA will upload the video to their website for worldwide viewing.

    I wish I could comment on what kind of bilingual parent I am….but mine would be more of what I failure I was! When my daughter was 2, we left Portugal, where we had spoken Portuguese in the home when our housekeeper was around. The housekeeper only spoke to my daughter in Portuguese from infancy, so our daughter understood Portuguese as well as English. When we left Portugal, I tried to continue the Portuguese with her, only – at the age of only 2! – she wouldn’t answer me in Portuguese and finally admonished me to “stop speaking like Dolores!” I finally gave up on it.


    1. Becky – thank you very much for taking the time to check the post out, as well as, to share your past experiences with Portuguese/foreign language. Much appreciated, and I’m honored to have you among the post commentators… 😮 Regarding the AFSA upcoming session on Emotional Resilience, it’s great to know they’ll have it uploaded! Thanks for sharing that! Will definitely be downloading the video and watch my husband. Congratulations, once more, on being one of the speakers/panelists. And, no worries about “a failure” when it comes to trying to keep up with foreign languages… I feel like we’ve got good days, bad days, and sometimes, really, really bad ones… 😮 Rich experience, but, oh my, very challenging! Greetings & thanks, from Recife, Brazil.


  6. I’m inspired to speak spanish at home more now. My kids’ dad all speak Spanish and I beg them to speak Spanish to the kids but they haven’t. My mom was raised bilingual, I was until they couldn’t accurately diagnose my infant-aged hearing issues because they couldn’t tell if I didn’t hear them or didn’t understand them so they told my mom to stop speaking Hungarian to me and she did. But she still wishes she’d have kept up with it. Other countries are so great with this and the US doesn’t do enough!


    1. Hey Sarah! So glad you stopped by with your experiences regarding learning different languages, and your previous/original household setting! I was raised bilingual, but because of school, not due to family language (my mom comes from Continental Portuguese heritage), since my parents spoke no English, and Portuguese was spoken in our house during 100% of the time – but back in the 80s, my parents knew how important it was to have a second language, and I was always surrounded by bilingual movies/shows.
      We are all moving towards a better place. All countries and cultures. People have become more aware of the need to be more open to new cultures, trying new experiences when it comes to enrolling their children in different lingual settings.. We’re moving. It’s good. In fact, it’s excellent! Parents are more careful, more conscious, more interested in their children’s language skills (or language issues!). At least, this is my very positive perception from the traveler/expat parenting world! Let’s keep being positive! Thanks again, Sarah, for taking the time to stop by and leave your comments. Much appreciated and necessary. Kind regards from (currently!) Portuguese-speaking Brazil! 😮


  7. This is so interesting! We also got “moderate parent”. I try to speak spanish to them most of the time but sometimes forget. I also read to them in french and english is the main language in the household. I’m taking them to a spanish speaking playgroup in hopes Evan will be motivated by seeing other little kids speak spanish! Great post!


    1. Thank you very much, Ana Gaby! That’s exactly what I was looking for with the post: to create some sort of “mini-forum” for shared experiences… It’s definitely not easy to be a responsible parent in charge of a multilingual (multicultural) environment… My husband and myself are trying our best to share knowledge, information, traditions, cultural insights with our children – as well as, we’re learning a lot from them! It’s remarkable the positive feedback one receives from the little ones! They absorb more than you imagine, and are totally aware of their surroundings! I do appreciate your comments and shared impressions – it makes the blogging experience richer and interesting… keep ’em coming! 😮 I’ll be happy to discuss! 😮 Congratulations on managing a multilingual household! Challenging, but fantastic task! BTW, glad you appreciated the post!


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