The endless challenges of raising multilingual kids…

23 Mar
Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil

Dialects of Portuguese in Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



This is another example of my many moments of introspective thoughts… This is one of those days when I try to understand [and accept!] the decisions we’ve made for our lifestyle, the way we’re raising our children, the kind of education parameters we [husband and I] need to make available to them… As part of the educational tools my children need to be exposed to, are, for sure, the language/communication/social expression tools.

I’ve already mentioned here my [random] thoughts on the whole bi/multilingual culture {Comments and extra thoughts on being a multilingual parent…}, and its obvious benefits, not only to the growing child, but also for the society that child is part of…

My children are surely enjoying their school break – another 2 full weeks to go, and they’ll be back at a familiar environment – an international school, surrounded by Spanish speaking classmates, and other expats, mainly from neighboring South American countries, a few European reps, and the well-known US-American crowd.

All fun and games, until it came to reinforce the endless/continuous need for them [my kids] to keep speaking Portuguese at home. Since I spend several hours at work, I’m not with them to ‘remind’ my lovies the importance of keeping up with ‘mommy’s language’…


KeyboardLayout-Portuguese-Brazil (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They speak to the nanny in Spanish, to other American kids in English. The TV is mostly in English, with a few Spanish options. I’m their only link to Portuguese, right now – and I feel it’s my duty to stress the rule of  ‘if mom is home, you should only talk to her in Portuguese, as well as, to each other”.

Guess what’s happening? The rule is definitely off. We [parents] had it all planned out: our kick-off was the One Parent One Language (OPOL) method, where one parent speaks the minority language, which would be, in my case, Portuguese. My husband would have the kids started in Spanish [his father’s mother tongue], and gradually move on to English [husband’s mother’s tongue], as school moved on and our children required a deeper knowledge of English… We knew their/kids’ brains are hard-wired for language acquisition and children up to three years old easily process both languages.

Our 3 children had an early ‘linguistic’ start. They’re now 8; 6 and 3 years old – and were introduced to different languages as early as their birthdate. Soon, our family will be transitioning from our current Spanish-speaking setting, to a Brazilian Portuguese scenario… how would my kids [re]adapt? What would be the social, emotional, psychological impacts this imminent move may bring? Only time will tell us…

José Saramago

José Saramago (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Right now, it seems not to be working. Maybe, it’s because we’re tired at the end of the day? Or because the kids see me talking to their dad in English; and to their day-time nanny in Spanish, they believe it’s okay to leave Saramago‘s language aside, and completely pretend they don’t know Portuguese [??].

So here I am, asking for suggestions [??], trying to figure out an easy [and painless] way out… ,

I’m always on the lookout for interesting resources for supporting our toddlers’ learning, I stumbled upon this very interesting article from Multilingual Living, which I’ve shared here before.

From our “tentative trilingual home” to yours… Thank you for reading… and for any suggestions that come our way! 😮


Posted by on March 23, 2014 in EDUCATION, LANGUAGE, resources, TCKs


Tags: , , ,

16 responses to “The endless challenges of raising multilingual kids…

  1. Kay

    March 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    Tudo bem?! I just stumbled your blog and I am loving it, My husband and I are American but we are living in Brasília with our two children. My daughter who is 7 learned to speak Spanish first because we were living in Chile. We spoke English at home and Spanish outside of the home. When she was 3 we moved back to the US and it was very hard to maintain her Spanish because of the intense social pressure she felt in school to speak only English. Very quickly after going back to the States she could understand Spanish but refused to speak it. When she turned 5 and my son was 1 we moved here to Brazil. She learned Portuguese in 2 months!! She speaks like a native and so does my son now that he is speaking more (just turned 3). We have continued to play music in Spanish and practice some with our daughter. She imitates perfectly but doesn’t speak fluently. Interestingly, she has recently asked to learn and study Spanish. I think it is because she is farther along in the alphabetization process in both English and Portuguese that she feels ready to move forward with Spanish. Hope this helps.


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      March 28, 2014 at 7:13 pm

      Thank you, Kay {?}! First of all, thank you very much for taking the time to stop by and share your experiences. Coincidently, we’re also heading to BSB, as your next work assignment. Your comments/support do help – absolutely! It’s so hard trying to keep up with the current learnings, without losing the previous experiences/lessons learned! Portuguese is difficult, so, please allow me to congratulate your family on trying and succeeding! Best wishes, Raquel.


  2. Priscila Giusti

    March 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    livros sao uma boa opção pra manter o idioma.


  3. isbergamanda

    March 24, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    I’m an international teacher in Venezuela and I’ve seen families who have a similar language plan as you and it eventually seems to pay off. Hang in there!

    -Amanda at


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      March 24, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      thank you very much for your words of support, Amanda! And also, thanks for sharing your site – for sure I’ll be hoping over to check it – and I’ll hang in here! 😮


  4. Lucid Gypsy

    March 24, 2014 at 2:00 pm

    It is an enormous challenge but the rewards will be even greater.


  5. Priscila Giusti

    March 24, 2014 at 12:43 pm

    your task is very difficult, Raquel. you alone dominate Portuguese at your house. but now that you are going back to Brazil again things will be a bit easier for you, as nanny, TV and some of the kids’ friends will help you on the task..


  6. Alessandro Degiusti

    March 24, 2014 at 11:55 am

    In the spanish keyboard, we have the “ñ” 😉

    PD: Words with “ñ”: ñandú, niño, moño, etc.

    Saludos desde Posadas, Argentina


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      March 28, 2014 at 7:14 pm

      Gracias, Alessandro! And in Portuguese, the equivalent of the ñ is nh… ex: ninho… 🙂 thanks for stopping by, and saludos desde La Paz! 🙂


      • Alessandro Degiusti

        March 28, 2014 at 10:03 pm

        Yes, I am learning portuguese in my school, also french, latin, greek and english!


  7. justiceforkevinandjenveybaylis

    March 24, 2014 at 11:41 am

    Reblogged this on justiceforkevinandjenveybaylis.


  8. Bernard O'Shea

    March 24, 2014 at 7:39 am

    I don’t really know what to suggest. To get their enthusiasm going, it would be good to be a fun activity in Portuguese. Are there any word games you can play?


    • 3rdCultureChildren

      March 24, 2014 at 10:16 am

      Thanks for stepping in, Bernard. It’s definitely a challenge, and not a fun one, I’d say! Tehre’re games, there are songs, oral communication activities, the resources are countless… but it also faces the difficulties of getting them to work… Let’s see what the future has in store for us… thanks again for taking the time to stop by and shar eyour suggestions – much appreciated! 🙂


  9. Cherise

    March 24, 2014 at 1:40 am

    I think my Mandarin is worse than an 8 year old’s. My parents are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Shanghainese. I remember my grandmother insisting that I always speak Chinese with her … which was great until my parents moved from CA when I was 6 … I still speak Mandarin to her while I am visiting, except when Charles is there.
    Unfortunately my parents always spoke English around me while I was growing up. Whenever someone speaks to me in Mandarin, Cantonese or Shanghainese … I translate it to English in my head and then respond in English
    I do think it’s great your kids are trilingual



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