Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child


Monday, July 31, 2017

Trilingual Parents: How Do You Choose Which Language To Speak To Your Child?

How Do You Choose Which Language To Speak To Your Child When Both Parents Are Trilingual (In The Same 3 Languages)?  
My Personal Story About Raising Trilingual Children

by Suzan Alakas

No, no, no! Ei! Yok! YOK!

Younger Daughter stamps her feet, crosses her arms and pushes out lower lip in a pouty defiance. She refuses to get in the car and sit in her car seat. Sigh. Here she goes again. It’s not enough for my 2 year old to be stubborn and object in one language... she has to go on a rant in 3 languages. But even though it’s completely frustrating in the moment (we are going to be LATE if she doesn’t get in and sit down), inside I’m proud of her language ability at such a young age.

Allow me to translate: Yok (Tatar) = No (English) = Ei (Finnish)

Did you guess that she is saying: No, no, no! No! No! NO!

How my husband and I became trilingual in the same 3 languages:

Hello! I’m Suzan Alakas. My first language was Tatar, an old Turkic language, spoken to me by both parents. We spoke Tatar at home, with my grandparents, and extended family/community.

I was born in Japan, and learned a little Japanese, but attended American pre-school and learned English at a young age. We moved to the US when I was 7 (unfortunately, most of my Japanese was forgotten). English quickly became the dominant language in my life, and still is to this day.

About 20 years ago I met my future husband, at a wedding, in California. He was visiting from Finland. He was also raised speaking Tatar at home, and learned Finnish growing up in Finland. Plus, like most Finns, he had a pretty high competency in English since he started studying it in 3rd grade.

After that wedding, we went our separate ways, but kept in touch, long distance. We primarily communicated in English, because we felt limited by our Tatar vocabulary. I also started learning Finnish with songs, reading the dictionary (yes, I’m a language nerd!!) and eventually studying Finnish in college. He would send a portion of his emails to me in Finnish, and I would sit and translate them, asking him questions about the words and expressions I couldn’t find in the dictionary. (This was before Google Translate existed.) As our relationship grew stronger, and we visited each others’ home countries more often; my Finnish improved, as did his English.

By the time we got married, settled in California, and had our Older Daughter, we were both highly proficient in Tatar, English and Finnish.

Suzan Alakas with her two daughters 

In what language environment will we raise our child? Our thought process.

We talked about this A LOT. We planned, discussed different scenarios, and reached a mutual agreement.

Our main options were the same as what you may have read about here:

  • One Parent, One Language (OPOL) – seemed like a good approach from the beginning.

  • Both speaking the same language (Minority Language at Home, ML@H) – Leaned towards Tatar, considered Finnish.

  • Speaking a language based on the day of the week (Time and Place strategy, T&P) – We quickly ruled out because it didn’t feel natural. We had tried this with just the two of us and it never caught on.

Living in the US, we felt our daughter would pick up English from her environment. So neither of us would be speaking that to her. That left Finnish and Tatar.

  • Was Finnish necessary since only 5 million people in the world speak it, and pretty much only in Finland?

  • Was Tatar necessary since it’s only spoken in Tatarstan, and quickly being replaced by Russian? Would we even be good enough to speak it to her, to teach it to her?

We decided that any language we can teach our child would be a benefit, and there were many reasons why we decided to include all 3 in her upbringing.

  • Tatar: speaking to grandparents and small Tatar community, retaining link to culture, food, songs in that language.
  • Finnish: keeping opportunities open for travel/business in Finland, possible move in Finland in the future. 

  • Benefit of knowing more than 1 language in general: becoming more culturally sensitive, increasing exposure to sounds/tones/grammar of other languages, making it easier to learn a foreign language later.

Lots of encouraging research on this, like:

“Most researchers agree that multilinguals have special characteristics which are different from those of monolinguals or even bilinguals. Multilingual speakers use languages as a resource in communication and they use the various languages in different ways according to their communicative needs and their interlocutors. Monolingual speakers use one language for every situation and have fewer resources available.” (Ruiz de Zarobe, 2015)

After we decided all 3 languages would be present in our child’s life, the decision became quite simple. We adopted the OPOL (One Parent, One Language) approach. Since I am not a native speaker of Finnish, I would speak Tatar and my husband would speak Finnish.
Learning to make traditional Tatar food

In theory and in practice

I was already talking and singing to my tummy in Tatar before my Older Daughter was born, so when she arrived it felt natural. It wasn’t easy though – I hadn’t spoken Tatar day in and day out since I was 3 years old. I could only hold a middle school level conversation, mostly limited by my vocabulary. My grammar was rusty too. I could read Tatar written in Latin letters, but not in the widely used Cyrillic alphabet. I had 3 dictionaries nearby and started to read the Tatar children’s picture dictionary daily with my daughter, just as much for my own sake as for hers. It felt wonderful learning more of my mother tongue and passing it on to my daughter.

During the first few weeks, my husband spoke to my daughter in Tatar. When I gently reminded him that he was the Finnish speaker, he agreed that he would switch, but kept forgetting because it felt more natural to speak to her in Tatar. Then something clicked, and he did switch to Finnish.

By about 1 year, my daughter understood Tatar and Finnish very well, and was speaking lots of Tatar. She also knew some English phrases and words from playing with other children, listening to mom and dad, and listening to lots of songs in English. She was an early speaker and said her first string of 4 words, “happy birthday to you” at 12 months.

Then at about 18 months in, we seriously started talking about moving to Finland. At this point, my husband switched back to speaking Tatar. Because my husband knew we would eventually be moving to Finland and our daughter would learn Finnish there, he decided to switch back to Tatar full time.

We supplemented Finnish by playing more Finnish songs and showing some Finnish TV programs via internet.

At first I was disappointed that we were abandoning OPOL, but I didn’t push it because I knew my husband felt isolated speaking to Older Daughter in Finnish when no one else in our Tatar or Finnish circles could understand them. I felt that the most important thing was that he build a strong, loving relationship with her, and if he felt that Tatar was the language to do that in, then that was his choice. We didn’t notice any confusion from our daughter as Finnish decreased and we switched to the ML@H (minority language at home) model. Fortunately for us, she was still quite young, her father’s transition was to her dominant language and she spent most of the time with me at home speaking Tatar anyway.

And then we moved! Äk! Now what?

While pregnant with my 2nd daughter, we decided to move to Finland.

Now what to do with the languages? Should one of us start speaking to her in English?

I didn’t want to switch out of the mother tongue. I was the primary caretaker and didn’t want to abruptly change from Tatar to English. Our daughter would have probably been ok with it, since my husband and Tatar community speak Tatar, but we decided to both keep speaking to her in Tatar, and add more English to her life - since that was going to be the new minority language.

How we increased exposure to the non-mother tongue, minority language (English) 

  • The biggest factor was increasing her exposure to children’s shows in English. We were VERY selective with how often and what she could watch. At first, we only found one show we were comfortable with: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Slowly, we added more.
  • We played lots of music – from the Beatles to School House Rock, plus children’s songs that I wrote myself in English.
  • We visited the US every year, and grandparents visited us often. While they spoke mostly in Tatar, they did use lots of English too.
  •  My husband and I continued to speak English to each other at home.
Increasing language exposure with songs

How Older Daughter Adjusted

When we moved to Finland, Older Daughter was about 3 years old – she was a solid speaker of Tatar, very good English speaker, and knew just a few Finnish words. We quickly enrolled her in a Finnish music group and dance classes, took her to story time every week at the library, and made sure she was out and about hearing Finnish at the park or grocery store during the week. Simultaneously, the increased exposure to English was working.

One day she says to me, in English: I need to elevate my leg. It hurts.

Me, in Tatar: What happened? And did you say, “elevate”? Where did you learn that word?

She replies, in Tatar: Daniel Tiger hurt his leg and went to see the doctor, and she said to “elevate” it.


So since Older Daughter had such a strong English ability by age 4, we decided to shift her focus to Finnish, and enrolled her in a Finnish pre-school for 5 hours per week. Within weeks she was using Finnish words, and just a few months in, she was understanding and replying with basic sentences. We also added more Finnish children’s programming, and my husband started to read books to her in Finnish.

Yes, she would learn Finnish in school, but since we had a few years before she started school, we wanted to give her a chance to be proficient before she got there. Our hope is that by the time she starts school, she knows Finnish well enough to focus on the content and school experience, rather than on learning the language.

My Younger Daughter’s language journey

We lived in the US until Younger Daughter was about 1 year old. My husband, Older Daughter and I all spoke to her in Tatar, and she had very little exposure to English and Finnish.

After moving to Finland and upping Older Daughter’s English shows and songs, my Younger Daughter got much more exposure to English at a younger age than her sister. While she was much slower to speak compared to her sister, now at 2 years old, her English ability is already almost at the same level as her Tatar.

How did this happen? When I looked a little closer, I realized that her Tatar and English exposure are about 50/50:

  • Less Tatar 
  • She has less 1 on 1 time with me, as there are 2 children now vying for attention
  • Less focused Tatar dictionary reading/studying because I already learned lots of new words with Older Daughter o 

  • More English
  • Interestingly, the girls speak English to each other. Big sister spends the most 1 on 1 time with little sister and English is older sister’s language of choice
  • Their favorite shows are in English
  • Mom and dad have more time together at home in Finland vs US, so she hears us speaking more, in English
  • I write children’s songs in English, sing these songs at home, perform these songs at local concerts
  • I teach English to other children and hold story time in English at the local library. My girls often attend.

I have no worries about Younger Daughter’s ability to speak Tatar and English, so now that she is 2, she will be starting a Finnish music playgroup in the fall. We intend to start her in the Finnish pre-school when she turns 3.

A colorful blending of languages - Instances of Code Switching inside and outside the home

What is code switching (CS)? It’s when you mix languages during a conversation.

While I try to consistently speak Tatar to my girls, I am ok with some code-switching going on. To me, it’s more natural to choose a word in another language that we mutually understand, than to stop the conversation, try to explain it or look it up. I grew up in code-switching environment, and so did my husband, and I am happy with how our language abilities turned out. Some people look down upon code switching, though the research is mostly favorable.

“Parents in particular are concerned that CS may confuse children as they develop their knowledge and skills in different languages. However, recent research in bilingual and multilingual education has provided evidence that CS can not only be used as an effective pedagogical strategy for teaching and learning (Canagarajah 2011) but also should be seen as a sign of linguistic creativity and criticality (Li 2011).” (Dewaele/Wei, 2013)

“CS has both educational benefits and drawbacks. Positively, it increases learner participation and lesson comprehension. Negatively, it does not contribute to developing the learners’ proficiency and confidence in speaking…” (Mokgwathi/Webb, 2013)

“Code-switching induced by a particular emotional state and by a lack of specific vocabulary in a target language appeared to relate to increase in innovative capacity.” (Kharkhurin/Wei, 2014)

So when do we use code-switching?
  • Outside the home: Usually when my girls speak to me in English at home, I repeat their question or statement in Tatar and then respond in Tatar.But sometimes when we are outside the home and they speak to me in English, I respond in English. English is definitely more prestigious than Tatar, and I teach English here in the community, so it feels natural to incorporate some English when we are around a larger group of people.
  • Gaps in vocabulary: When I don’t know a word in Tatar, I try to explain it the best I can in Tatar, and then say it in English. I honestly explain to the girls that I don’t know the Tatar word, and that the word I’m using is the English name of the word. Then we attempt to find the Tatar word in one of our dictionaries, or by asking an older member of the community.
    Sometimes I make up Tatar words that are logical translations. For example, when I didn’t know the Tatar word for vein, I explained it in Tatar as “blood roads”. When the actual translation turned out to be the English equivalent of “roots”, we all learned a new word, and made the switch. 

    However, sometimes I do not follow through with finding out the Tatar word, or there is no Tatar word equivalent, so the English word gets incorporated into our everyday vocabulary. 
  • Emotions/complex subjects: It is still hard for me to express deep emotions and have complex discussions in Tatar. Now that Older Daughter is 4, our conversations are less superficial and much more technical (Why do the leaves fall from the trees in the fall, etc?). I do my best to explain in Tatar, and then supplement in English when needed.
  • Written language: Another challenge is reading and writing: I am teaching my girls the English alphabet because I don’t know Cyrillic, and they will learn the Finnish alphabet in school.

What I have learned creating our language environment, in a nutshell

  • It was important to take the time to talk about and work through scenarios of what language to speak to our children.
  • While very common, OPOL is not the only option or best option for everyone.
  • It’s ok to be flexible. Our initial choice doesn’t feel right in practice, and we needed to make a switch. Obviously, the earlier, the better.
  • I’m grateful that I have options of which language to speak to my children. Most people don’t.
  • I will continue to incorporate all the languages I know, at whatever level, to my children - via books or shows, play groups, or songs. You never know which language might be valuable to your child in the future, and at the very least it will help them be more culturally aware, expose them to other languages, and help them learn other languages in the future.

How did you decide on your family’s language arrangement? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you made the decision.

Suzan Alakas is a Mom, Linguist, Singer/Songwriter, and Founder of . She created a system to help children learn English via songs, and stop struggling to learn English; to make it fun, and faster than other methods; to focus on the key words and phrases that native speakers use all the time; to better remember what was learned; and to help reduce heavy/unclear accents.

NOTE: All photos are provided by Suzan Alakas.

Are you interested to participate in the Life Story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent?  Would you like to take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series ? You can contact me here.

You might also like:

Click to listen to radio stations for kids from around the world!

Click to read how you can motivate your multilingual child to speak YOUR language!

Q&A: Trilingual parent: how to add one more language to a bilingual child.

Q&A: Trilingual parent and monolingual spouse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Good Reads: ABC's of Russian Paintings by L. Zhukova - Азбука Русской Живописи - Л.Жукова

If you’d like to introduce your child to the Russian art, this is a good book to start with:
Azbuka Russkoj Zhivopisi ( “Азбука Русской Живописи” ) by L. Zhukova.
I love art, but I have to admit that I have no deep knowledge of Russian painters. This book was exactly what I was looking for to introduce my raised-abroad Russian speaking trilingual kids to Russian art and artists . It is called “Азбука Русской Живописи” which means “The ABC of Russian Paintings”. It has a chart that organizes painters by genres and indicates when they lived. Each page spread is dedicated to one painter:  Ivan Aivazovsky, Karl Bryullov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasily VereshchaginVrubel, Arkhip Kuindzhi - too numerous to mentioned everyone!

I like that for each painter there is a portrait or, in some cases, an autoportrait with a short story about painter's life and genre he was focusing on.

“Азбука Русской Живописи” - замечательная книжка! Как для чтения маленьким детям, так и для самостоятельного чтения для детей постарше. Для маленьких знакомство с русскими художниками начинается с рассматривания картинок. Между прочим, замечательно использовать для развития речи! Я так и делала. Рассказываешь что и как и задаешь вопросы. Такое общение очень интересно и детям и родителям.

С детьми постарше можно рассмотреть картинки и прочесть вслух биографию художника. Ну а те, кто сам читает , смогут узнать много интересного о художниках самостоятельно.

Купить книгу на OZON.RU

Купить книгу на LABIRINT.RU

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA



Купить на AMAZON UK

Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)



Monday, June 19, 2017

Good Reads: Renata Muha. Russian poetry for kids 0 - 99+. Рената Муха - "Ужаленный Уж".

I am not sure who loves these poems more whether my kids or myself. Since the book appeared on our bookshelf, it happened sometime back in 2014, we read it again and again. The fun word play by Renata Muha and beautiful illustrations by Evgeniy Antonenkov keep us entertained.

Как дать почувствовать русский язык детям, особенно тем, кто живет за пределами России и для кого русский - второй язык? Конечно же через стихи!

Ритм и удивительная игра слов в стихотворениях Ренаты Мухи увлечет вас и ваших детей. "Ужаленный Уж" издательства Machaon - книга со стихами поэтессы Ренаты Мухи, проиллюстрированная Евгением Антоненковым - очень полюбилась моим детям и мне.

Стихотворные шедевры, которые так хорошо стимулируют воображение ребенка.

“Платок хоботовый”! - ну конечно же и у больного слоненка должен быть платок! Только у нас нос, а у него хобот.

"Гиппопопотомки!" - Есть ли и где они, потомки гиппопотама? - Есть, но это все "гипопоптетично"!

Завароженная стихами Ренаты Мухи, я сначало предположила, что это ее псевдоним. Ведь фамилия так созвучна с настроением стихотворений автора! Но оказывается, это ее настоящая фамилия, только девичья.

Узнать о Ренате Мухе вы сможете заглянув на веб сайт поэтессы, созданный ее мужем, Вадимом Ткаченко. Ткаченко и есть ее фамилия, взятая после замужества.

А теперь о рисунках Евгения Антоненкова, которые нам так понравились. Они  чудесным образом передают сюжет и эмоции стихотворений. Посмотрите сами!

Купить книгу на OZON.RU

Купить книгу на LABIRINT.RU

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA



Купить на AMAZON UK

Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Russian Language Resources For Kids. Лучшие ресурсы для поддержания и развития русского языка у детей билингвов.

Судьба вас забросила далеко от ваших родителей, ваших друзей детства. И вот теперь и вы родитель и воспитываете маленького билингва или трилингва, как я, или даже мультилингва, у которого русский один из родных языков. Вы наверное уже почувствовали, что просто разговаривать с детьми по-русски недостаточно. Язык окружающей среды начинает доминировать. Кажется невозможным одному передать наш богатый и могучий русский язык.

Но это не так! Это возможно! Мы живем в Италии и я одна - источник русского языка для моих двух детей. Сейчас им 5 и 7 лет и они говорят каждый день по-русски со мной и друг с другом, даже если меня нет рядом.

Вы спросите, как можно сделать так, чтобы ребенок говорил по-русски как на родном языке? Важно создать вокруг ребенка русскоязычную среду со дня его рождения. Разнообразие материалов на русском помогает детям не скучать, пополняя словарный запас. Нехватка слов - одно из основных препятствий к использованию языка. Мы читаем русские книжки, поем русские песни, слушаем детское русское радио и аудиокниги, смотрим русские мультфильмы и просто общаемся на русском. За все это время в России дети, к сожалению, были только один раз.

Я уверена, что представленный ниже подобранный мной материал на русском языке, поможет и вам!

1.Детские книги на русском - Kids books in Russian: 

У нас большая домашняя библиотека русских книжек. Книги мы читаем каждый день.

Здесь вы найдете список детских книг, полюбившихся мне и детям больше всего:

Лучшие Детские Книги на Русском / Russian Children's Books

Ура! Скоро появится в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. Хотите узнать о ней первыми? Оствьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже и я вышлю вам детали когда и где ее можно будет купить. :)

2. Аудиокниги для детей слушать онлайн - Audiobooks in Russian:

У меня нет какого-то одного полюбившегося вебсайта с аудиокнигами и аудиосказками для детей. Слушаем понемногу ото всех.

В коллекции более 600 книг разных авторов и разных жанров.

Русские, зарубежные и народные аудиосказки для детей с возможность скачивания. Сортировка по авторам: сказки Сутеева, Одоевского, Чуковского, Мамина-Сибиряка, Гаршина, Пушкина, Маршака и многих других.

285 детских аудиокниг. Интересная подборка аудиокниг для школьников

Помимо аудиосказок российских и зарубежных писателей Вы найдете раздел детская библия.

Много интересных аудиокниг, например о Гарри Потере и книги таких авторов, как А. Волков, Кир Булычев, Крапивин, Юрий Коваль, Михаэль Энде и другие.

3. Русские детские песни - Children’s Songs in Russian

Замечательная подборка детских песен  на детском Радио Песни:

Список детских радиостанций / List of kids radio stations in Russian

Песни из мультфильмов можно послушать отдельно на множестве вебсайов. Например, на Youtube:

Песни из мультфильмов на Youtube

Детские песенки на Hobobo

4. Колыбельные песни - Russian Lullabys

Русские колыбельные песни. 

5. Программы и приложения по изучению русского языка - Apps for learning Russian

Учим русский язык (школьникам)
Обучающая программа для изучения грамматики и правил русского языка. ребенку предлагается заполнить пропущенные буквы. Проверка с показом правил. 

Грамотей для Детей - Диктанты
Проверка орфографии «Грамотей» - правила русского языка и словарные слова (2 класс - 4 класс).

Карточки для детей / Flashcards for Kids in Russian
1500 дидактических карточек для изучения новых слов. Расчитано для детей до 7 лет.

Скороговорки - Русский язык  Скороговорки на 29 букв русского алфавита. После прослушивания аудио, ребенок имеет возможность потренироваться и записать свою речь.

6. Книги для самостоятельного чтения- Russian language materials for independent readers

Читальный зал
Рассказы, сказки, очерки и стихи для самостоятельного чтения с возможность прослушивания аудио. Для различного уровня : А1,А2,В1 и В2.

7. Мультфильмы для детей - Russian сartoons for kids

Подборка полюбившихся детям мультфильмов.

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA



Купить на AMAZON UK

Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)

If your child learns also other languages, please visit  Bilingual Kid Spot for more language resources.

You might like to read: 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Speech delay due to fluid collection in the middle ear.

Speech delay is often connected to /“blamed” on a child's gender or on the quantity of languages a child is exposed to. It is true that trilingual children definitely face more challenges than bilingual children do and bilingual children face more challenges than monolingual kids do. But be realistic. If you feel that you put a lot of efforts in your bilingual child’s language development and the results are not proportional to your input, it is time to search for doctor’s help.

This life story from Priscila Kohler will illustrate one of the possible causes of speech delay in children and I hope it will help many of you to act promptly to avoid possible complications.

I am Brazilian, and I am married to a Norwegian guy. We live in Norway and communicate in English between ourselves. When our son Martin was born, we decide to raise him trilingual. I only spoke Portuguese, my husband English, and Norwegian he would have to learn from the school.

I have two close friends whom had their children at the same time as me. So it was natural for me, a first time mom, to “compare” the development of the kids. By the time their children were 2 years old and talking, Martin was not.

And two main things kept us from seeking proper help, let’s say.

First, he was the only one being raised in a trilingual environment. So, people would say that many children would delay their speaking because of that, especially boys.

Second, his personality. He was always a child that could deep concentrate in some activity, not paying attention to anything else, and he is really stubborn.

While my friends kids were doing some “tricks” on command, like: clap your hands, put the toy in the basket, etc, Martin never did. And we, me and my husband, never suspected that he could not hear what we told him, but rather, he just chose not to do it.

Then the pedagogue from the nursery school showed some concern, due to communication with him. A psychologist is called in to observe him at the the nursery school, and finds nothing wrong with him. Finally, we had a “2nd year control” at the health station, and then, only then, the nurse suspects that he might not be hearing well. We get an appointment with an Ear-nose-and-throat doctor, and within 2 minutes of consultation, the doctor says that Martin has hearing problem. In fact he´s got some liquid stuck in his inner ear (that is really common among children that have a lot of ear infections, for example, but as far as we knew, Martin only had it one time at 5 months of age…).

Martin was scheduled an operation to drain the liquid out. It’s a simple surgery , but requires complete anesthesia. The same day we came home from the hospital, and turn on the TV, Martin made a face, and started pointing at the TV, like wow, THAT is how it sounds … It broke my heart.

After that, he made a HUGE improvement. Really quick as well. I do feel guilty sometimes for not having thought of that earlier. But no one never suspected that his delay in speech was due to bad ears. Only if I knew that those things are related, I would have done something before.

BE AWARE! Your child can have fluid in the middle ear (otitis media) without you noticing it!
As it can cause absolutely NO PAIN and your child will not complain.

Parents, check if your child has any of the following symptoms:

- Change in the sleeping/eating habits

- Talks less than usual

- Unresponsive or uses gestures instead of talking

- Needs to have information repeated

- Asks to turn up the sound

- Rubbs/ pulls the ears

- High irritability

- Difficulty keeping balance / running / jumping

Resource: Ear infection (middle ear)

Be aware! Your bilingual child’s speech delay can be due to fluid collection in the middle ear. - Click to tweet

You might also like:

Bilinguals' and multilinguals' Life Stories  Read them and get inspired!

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child.

Should I correct my child speaking?

Inspirational Quotes about Language for Bilinguals and Language Learners 

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?  

Fun way to learn letters and start writing: What should I order? Mortadella alphabet! 

Naming languages with their proper name.  

Language learning resources:

Children's radio from around the world. Let me know, if I am missing a radio station in your language.

Kids Books in Russian

Best Russian Children's Cartoons and Movies. - Лучшие Руссие Детские Мультфильмы и Фильмы.

 List of children's books in Polish language - Lista książek po Polsku dla dzieci

Monday, February 20, 2017

Best Practices for Supporting Child's Minority Language Development in a Multilingual Family

“Руль”(Rul’) is the first word my son said almost 7 years ago. It means a steering wheel in Russian. Back then I had lots of doubts whether or not I would succeed in passing on my heritage language and raising a trilingual child. I had exactly same worries you have right now. Would my son prefer speaking the father’s and the country’s language - Italian? Would he be able to speak with his Russian grandparents? Would he be able to speak a third language that I and my husband communicate in with each other - English? Would speaking multiple languages cause a speech delay? Would he mix the languages?

Two years into our family's trilingual journey my worries have doubled with a birth of our little girl. How to share my time between the two kids? How to support their language development, if they have such different needs? One does not speak yet at all, another is already experimenting with making phrases. And another worry, when the first words finally came from my little girl's mouth: What language would my children speak to each other? Would they choose to speak the minority language, Russian, or would they prefer the country language, Italian?

Now the time came when I am stressed more about my daytime job than about my kids’ language development. They reached the very ambitious goal that I set for them and myself. They are fluent in two languages and understand and speak some of the third one. They are 5 and 7 year-old, and have plenty of time to work more on their minority languages. I gave them the tools to continue doing it on their own. So they both read Russian books, play (btw, they love building lego houses for their toy animals) and speak almost exclusively Russian to each other, and sing in all three languages.

Definitely being motivated helped me a lot on this journey, but I would not go this far without my husband’s support and without the following best practises of supporting minority language development:

1. Changing the family language strategy as you go.

It is ok to change your multilingual family language strategy at any time and adjust it to your child’s language learning needs and to your family dynamics.

Before the child is born we all have a perfect plan in mind how to proceed with raising a bilingual or multilingual child. What language to speak and when. But once we have a little one in the arms, things change. We learn about our own and our child’s abilities with every step of the journey. Do not hesitate to adjust your plan. No need to be stressed about raising a polyglot, it is much more important to have a happy child and family after all.

Also different languages need to have a reinforcement at different age. Sometimes what worked in the beginning of the journey does not always work when child gets older.

2. Talking to your child & asking questions.

No matter how old your child is, even a newborn, talk to him.

If your child does not talk back yet, just describe what you do and see. He is listening and learning. I could see great results from my describing-everything-I-see practices, my kids Russian vocabulary is very well developed.

If your child already speaks, ask questions. What? Who? Why?...
I often do it after school or after reading a book or watching a cartoon. Kids are eager to talk when they are excited.

3. Reading books.

In my opinion reading is what develops child’s vocabulary best, because you can read books describing different life situations and covering variety of topics that a child won’t always encounter in everyday life.

My kids loved reading a book about a poney club and learning specific terminology in relation to horses. If not for this book, they would not have known all those words as they do not have an opportunity to attend a poney club.

I would advice to start building a home library with minority language books from the moment your child is born. Just to give you an idea how big your home library can be, about a year ago I decided to count how many Russian books we have at home. We had more than 350 books! And I read almost all of them with kids!

4. Living your cell phone aside.

Wherever you are home or outside - keep your cell phone away. Especially during the first years, you need to dedicate your time and attention to your child. It is difficult to talk to your child if you have a phone in hands. Isn't it?

Make an extra effort to talk to your child at playgrounds, don’t just seat with a smart phone in hands. Describe what your child is doing there (here we are going back to the point #2) How fast he is going down the slide, talk about his feelings. You can play an imaginary game there too. Slides are often becoming my kids boats / cars they going on them somewhere, see things. I take part in it to be able to enrich their vocabulary and it is so much fun!

5. Following your child’s interests.

Children are not very different from adults. If someone is talking about something we are not interested in, we will not pay much attention to it.
If you’d like to maximize your child’s language learning, be aware what he learns best when he is interested in the subject.

6. Watching TV in minority languages and if it’s not possible, just turn it off

I find it a good practice for both kids and parents. Children always listen and very attentive to whatever they hear around them. Even when they play in another room, their ears are like little sponges that soak whatever they hear, even sounds coming from TV in another room.

7. Using variety of language learning resources.

Small children have a short attention span, so it is good to use different games, activities and language input options throughout the day. Here are some of the ideas:

- music CDs

When kids play they can listen to the music.

- kids radio stations

My kids love listening to a Russian kids radio station where other kids call in and chat with DJs

- audio books

You can find the same books you have at home and let your child listen to them read by a different person.

- board games

check, if you can add more rules to work more on their vocabulary or ask your child to vocalize the actions.

- picture lotto games

You can buy one or make it yourself.

- activity books


- drawing and talking

This is perhaps my favorite activity for all age groups. Great for working on letter sounds and writing.

Mixing art, material objects and imagination -
a recipe for language development

8. Keeping a book always close to you, so you can read to your child aloud anywhere you go!

I always kept a book in my purse and still do. We read at a doctor's office while waiting for an appointment; in a park, when kids get tired running around and whenever I have a chance! You never know when the time is right ;)

9. Connecting with other language speakers.

I am pretty much the only Russian language input for my children, but it is obviously not enough. Children need to hear other people speaking the languages they learn. There are several ways to achieve it:

- Talking to relatives using video call programs such as Skype, Whatsapp, FB messenger etc, there is a huge choice now.

- Connecting with the local community. You can ask your country embassy for information.

- Weekend language schools are available in some big cities. Kids often not only learn the target language there, but also get extra instructions in school subjects.

10. Singing and telling bedtime stories.

Until recently my kids had a very long going to bed ritual. First I read a book, then we were singing songs, and followed by a story. Can’t say it was easy for me - it was rather tiring! But it is a truly wonderful way to connect with kids.

11. Making your child's language development as a priority number ONE.

Make minority language development as you goal for the first 5 years of your child’s life and you will have less to worry about later. If children know enough words and have no difficulty expressing themselves in different situations, they will use the language with you. Besides you won't need to be stressed about creating a NEED to speak the language. You speaking the language to your child will be enough reason for him to use it and speak it back to you. The only worry that will remain is to continue support the language development as your child grows. Unfortunately kids slowly detach from us making this task somewhat difficult.

You can find more about setting priorities reading my article:

I hope my tips on raising a bilingual/ multilingual child will help you!

Good luck !

the piri-piri lexiconS is for Supporting heritage language development at home. It is the topic I decided to cover for A to Z of Raising Multilingual Children. Go to The Piri-Piri lexicon website to read other great tips from bloggers from around the world.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Traditions in Italy.

We live in Italy and Christmas is my kids’ favourite holiday because of the magic of the Christmas tree’s lights and, of course, because of lots of presents that Santa Claus brings them!

Christmas in Italy is celebrated on 25th of December, as in other catholic countries; however, I was surprised to learn that not all Italian catholic kids receive presents that day.

Who brings Christmas presents in Italy and when?

In many Northern Italian cities, which once belonged to the Most Serene Republic of Venice, children receive sweets and presents 12 days earlier!

The night from 12 to 13 December Santa Lucia, a blind woman who is walking around towns and rings a bell, brings sweets and presents to the children living in the northern part of Italy: Trentino, Udine, Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, Lodi, Mantova, Piacenza, Parma, Reggio Emilia, Verona regions.

Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and in some places Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) , brings presents on the night from 24 to 25 December to the majority of Italians. Some lucky kids receive a second round of presents.

In Alto Adige, Trieste and Bari kids receive presents from San Nicolas.

In Napoli la Befana, a kind Italian Christmas witch, brings presents and sweets to kids the night of January, 5th. In other parts of Italy, she brings just sweets as an addition to the presents received from Santa Lucia, baby Jesus, Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus.
La Befana often leaves a lump of coal (made of sugar) inside children's stockings to remind them that they can behave a bit better than the previous year.

Xmas tree and Presepe (Nativity Scene).

And another interesting discovery! Some of Italian houses have  a presepe instead of a xmas trees. Presepe is a nativity scene that families start building on 8 December. It contains small figures, some of them are even animated!

Every year the scene gets some improvement: a new figure or a decorative element is added. Italians take a particular pride in presepe. Many expose their work outside their homes, in a garden or in a window, for others to enjoy.

Presepe window display


Italian Christmas meal.

Italy is relatively small country, but it is HUGE if you measure it by the wast variety of dishes and recipes the country has to offer. Different regions have VERY DIFFERENT FOOD! You will not find the same standard Christmas dish. Every table in every family will be different.

However, a general preference can be notices: fish dishes in the south of Italy and meat dishes in the north.

The Christmas celebration starts with a dinner on Christmas Eve, called Vigilia in Italian.

Many course dinner runs upto the midnight mass which is the culmination point of the celebration.

The Christmas day is celebrated with the lunch.

Here are some menu examples.

Christmas dinner (cena) menu from Cremona:

- pate con gelatina and salumi, included salame cremonese.
- ravioli in broth
- cappone ripieno
- panettone stuffed with ricotta cream.

Xmas lunch (pranzo) menu from Bergamo:

- fish and veggitable appetiser (antipasto di pesce salmone e verdure)
- Russian salad (insalata russa)
- lasagna
- rabbit with polenta (coniglio con polenta)
- panettone or pandoro with mascarrpone cream

- cappone ripieno
- tortellini in brodo
- lesso e arrosto
- biscotti

Italian Christmas Sweet.

1. PANETTONE from Milan

Globalization makes its impact even here. Originally from Milan Panettone starts appearing on the tables around the globe and slowly even in the south of Italy.

Panforte Italian Christmas sweet

2. PANFORTE from Siena

Panforte Italian Christmas sweet

3. PANDORO from Verona

Try to prepare one using the following Pandoro recipe

4. GUBANA from Udine

Gubana recipe 

5. PANDOLCE from Genova

6. TORRONE from Cremona

7. MOSTACCIOLI cookies from Naples

8. CROCCANTE from Naples

9. SUSAMIELLI from Naples

10.ROCCOCÒ from Naples

11.BOSSOLÀ from Brescia


13. BISCIOLA from Valtellina (Sondrio)

It is also called Pan di fich or Panettone valtellinese. Typical sweet from Valtellina, Sondrio province, Lombardia region. Bisciola is made of dry fruits, butter and eggs.
Bisciola Italian Christmas sweet


Christmas in Different Lands 2015 | Multicultural Kid Blogs
Welcome to our fourth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, and 2015), plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest! Follow Multicultural Kid Blogs's board Christmas Around the World on Pinterest.
December 9 Creative World of Varya: Lebanon
December 14 Raising a Trilingual Child: Italy
Celebrate Christmas Around the World Printable Pack from Multicultural Kid BlogsDecember 15 Let the Journey Begin: Latvia Spanglish Monkey: Spain
December 16 Pack-n-Go Girls: Austria
December 19 Uno Zwei Tutu on Multicultural Kid Blogs: Colombia
December 20 Multicultural Baby: Paraguay
December 21 La Clase de Sra. DuFault: Chile
December 23 All Done Monkey: Haiti
Don't miss our other posts about Christmas in different lands, plus our printable pack Celebrate Christmas Around the World, on sale now! 


Kids Radio Sations from around the world!
In so many different languages !