Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…

I often talk about the challenges of parenting, especially considering the difficulties placed by language and culture, one of the many issues associated with moving to a different country, every couple of years. That said, I took a look back at the posts published in 2012, mainly on parenting & language, and found one that gave me a very positive feedback, working as a sort of a ‘discussion forum’, that I plan on exploring/expanding some time this year. [Another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Like everyone else, I know there’ll be a great deal of ‘procrastination’ before I’ll be able to cross tasks off my 2013 to-do list!]

Oh, well, at least, I’m taking the time to revisit thoughts/facts/articles… it’s the first step for the beginning of a good research! 😮

“Are you curious?” We are! 😮

**UPDATE: Follow-up post discussing thoughts on Diversity & Raising Children as Expats

I often talk about the challenges of parenting, especially considering the difficulties placed by language and culture, one of the many issues associated with moving to a different country, every couple of years. That said, I took a look back at the posts published in 2012, mainly on parenting & language, and found one that generated a very instructive feedback; working as a sort of a ‘discussion forum‘, that I plan on exploring/expanding at length, some time this year… [Another one of my New Year’s Resolutions… Like everyone else, I know there’ll be a great deal of ‘procrastination’ before I’ll be able to cross tasks off my 2013 to-do list!]

Oh, well, at least, I’m taking the time to revisit thoughts/facts/articles… it’s the first step for the beginning of a good research! 😮

The post that got me thinking was one related to a simple question: “What type of multilingual parent are you?”, pointed out by the Mumsnet Bloggers Network for 2012; that had been initiated by a clever 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“.

Last year’s blogpost provoked a very positive reaction, expressed through the number of visitors, and especially, throughout the comments, coming from parents, consultants, educators, expats like ourselves, or simply, other parents who echo our opinions about how challenging, adventurous and/or never-ending this experience should be.

Learning should never stop, and teaching our kids through example is the best way to keep ourselves current! At least, that’s the hope! 😮

Here are some of the comments, and based on their [shared] experiences, it could be YOUR TURN to answer – what type of multilingual parent are you? Or, even better, what type of [multilingual] parent you hope to become?

But first, let me thank all the visitors/readers who shared a comment, or who sent me a message [with your opinion/suggestion] regarding this topic. It makes the blogging experience much richer, more productive, and way more enjoyable! My deepest appreciation to all of you! ♥

VisitorMy 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… 

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.
Visitor Enjoyed your post! All the more so since /multilingual-multicultural 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!

Visitor 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!

VisitorVery interesting. I am from India and we have a different challenge 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.


VisitorThanks 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.

           (*) Please refer to original post for the full text, and more details on the 2012 AFSA initiative.

Visitor 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!

VisitorThis 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!


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!!

28 thoughts on “Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…”

  1. We’re having our first child in April and will raise him trilingually. We live in England and speak English amongst ourselves, but my mother tongue is Dutch and my husband is a native Japanese speaker. We’re planning on consistently speaking our native languages to our son, and hope he will pick up English from their surroundings and their parents speaking to each other. Very excited about it!


  2. I think it’s fascinating how different-aged children in the same family have such varied experiences. That was my journey growing up (German-Norwegian-English) and I see with my own four children-(English, Norwegian, Chinese).


    1. Thank you for your comments1 Much appreciated. I feel like we’re always learning something [about culture, habits, preferences] every single day with our children… the more we move, the more we try to adapt/adjust, the greater/richer the learning… 😮 Saludos from [currently!] La Paz!


    1. Thank you! Thank you! 😮
      I appreciate knowing how others have ‘endured’ this experience, because it gives me the required strength to keep on going with my/our ideologies when it comes to raising multilingual/multicultural children, yet respecting their [the children’s] limitations, restrictions and personal abilities/passion… Not an easy task, for sure!
      I grew up in a Portuguese speaking household, surrounded by Portuguese speaking friends from one of the schools, and English speaking from the other school… That said, I always felt like an ‘alien’ in my own ‘comfort zone’… until I grew older, began traveling, and found out there were/are others like myself out there!
      Now, as a married woman (to another expat), with 3 children (each one born at a different country), and none of them having lived for more than 2 years in their parent’s country (Brazil and/or USA); I’ve realized: this is just the way life is… and I have to embrace it, and live it the best way my children would expect me to do! 😮

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your experiences, AFrankAngle! Have a great year!


  3. This is a great post. Seeing all the ways of parenting multi-lingually is fascinating. Here in the US, multilinguality is the exception. Only immigrants do this, and sometimes their children. But once the children set up their own households, it’s pretty much English-only. I’m working on ways to let our communities know that teaching languages to their kids will benefit our society as a whole.

    I started out teaching Russian to my kids, but being in a 99% English-speaking community among our friends in the US, it was really hard to maintain. Nevertheless, they still remember scraps, years later. It didn’t go to waste!


    1. I’m so glad to know that ‘it didn’t go to waste’! I totally hear you, and thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and share your personal experiences… much appreciated! I know how hard it is to ‘stick’ to your heritage language/culture/traditions, when one is surrounded by a ‘foreign environment’, to which we all need to adapt/adjust and embrace!

      We’ve been trying to do this, with our kids… it definitely goes beyond the daily teaching… it needs the [painful/challenging] follow up… so hard! I’m already working on a [short] piece about the need to recognize and embrace diversity, [] mainly, because of the way we’d like/hope to bring our children up in this ‘new/moving/changing’ society… will keep you posted on that – if I’m able to get it out by the end of this week!
      Thank you for your comments and shared thoughts… and I’m really glad to learn the post was enjoyable – the idea is to make it as a forum, for exchanged thoughts… why not?

      Maybe, in a near future, have you come up with a ‘guest post’ about your experiences in raising multilingual children/adults?
      Let me know what you think, and have a great and successful year!


      1. I’d be happy to write some time if it’s something that would benefit your readers.

        One note is that Russian is not a heritage language for me. I’m just “normal ‘merican” from a monolingual family. I just learned Russian and wanted to try to pass it on. It was a real challenge because I never learned baby-talk or any sort of basic household speech. I can discuss theology or politics, but I had to work to be able to discuss fairy tales. It was an eye-opener for me.

        I’m also trying to work with schools around here to increase local, community languages taught in schools, rather than the “foreign” ones like French and German. I’m encouraging multi-linguality in my town, my suburb. So I talk to people at my kids’ school, as well as members of the large Somali community here.


        1. WOW! Thank you for the quick and detailed response… I’d definitely be interested in discussing more about the guest post… interesting to know that Russian was a ‘later-learned’ language for you, and yet, you’ve worked hard to make sure your kids had it… seems like Spanish for me… growing up in Brazil, our second language was English, taught at schools, never Spanish… recently, Spanish is coming out strong, and many Brazilians feel the need to have it, considering possible job opportunities with neighboring countries… But I still try to make sure our kids have Spanish. Their dad had Spanish as a kid, from his dad, who, as expected, stopped using it at home due to social pressure [the old story… nobody spoke Spanish, only English, so, why bother?] 😮

          Thanks for all the work you’ve done, and all the effort you’ve put out to assist the schools… language is a live tool… we should never forget that! Take care, Raquel.


  4. I think its good to teach different languages to children. I think its the perfect way to teach culture and diversity. There is no better time than when they are still young and their minds are like sponges xXx


    1. Thanks, Mintedmoose! Although, as we all understand, it’s a very challenging and risky process: when to start, how to begin, which tools should be used, which experiences should be shared between parents & kids, and between the siblings themselves…. too many questions, and yet, not all the answers… but we all keep on trying…. hopefully, it’s the right approach, and we [parents] are taking advantage of the [available] technological tools to do that…. 😮 Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts! Much appreciated!


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