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Friday, June 24, 2016

Easy way of teaching your bilingual kids to write in a minority language.

I try to follow my kids' natural interests as I teach them languages. I started introducing letter sounds while reading books and worked on letter - sound recognition day after day through introduction of different activities. Both of my kids learned how to read well before school. My girl impressed me with reading 3 letter words at the age of 3. ( There was no pushing on my side.)
Writing came on its own as a by product of my affords towards teaching them how to read for both of the kids.

Here are some activities I recommend to help your kids to start writing in minority language:

1. Drawing and writing 
I find drawing together with kids is a very important activity that entertains a wide range of age group: babies, toddlers and elementary school kids.You can teach so many things, without your kids realizing all the learning they are doing!
It can be drawing and labelling, writing a story and illustrating it. Creating your own book, a calendar...
In the beginning you do most of the work, but as a child grows and learns, his/her work becomes more and more independent. These days I am amazed by my kids creativity!

2. Playing games where writing is involved

Pretend play “a Restaurant” is such a great game! Kids love to be waiters and write down orders. Lots of orders! Get ready to pretend eating all the dishes you have order :)

3. Dictation
When kids already mastered the letters and writing words, try to experiment with short dictations. First use simple words, then funny phrases and sentences. Allow your child to participate: start a sentence and let him finish it.

4 years old child's writing
Tip! Use a notebook (btw, I mean the paper one not the computer;) for writing in minority language. Especially for elementary school kids, buy the same type of notebook your child uses for majority language to work in parallel on his minority language. My son just loves the idea of having his Russian language notebook. Give the minority language the same value as to the school's language.

4. Use workbooks/ worksheets with letters in your language
In Russia we call it “propisi”. I found great ones with transparent pages that also show the start point for writing a letter and indicate the direction of writing.

Note: do not expect a lot from small kids. Let them write, make mistakes. Only with time and a lot of practice you will see a result.

These are just some activities to help you get started. Try them. Experiment. Work on developing your child's interest for writing based on his other interests.


- Attention: do not criticize!
Even if your child is open to corrections and you already correct him/her speaking. Be extremely careful while correcting mistakes in writing. Do not over criticize him/her. You do not want your child lose interest and stop writing. Everything will come.

- Be prepared for unusual ways of writing:
The letters might dance up and down. Your child might break the word in many different places to start it writing from a new line or, another extreme, write a sentence as one long word. He will not always follow the left to right or the right to left writing rule. Your child will make mistakes. And thus, comes next:

- Be patient:
Your child needs time to figure things out.

I hope this helps.

I’m always happy to hear about your own experiences. Please leave your comment below.
If you’d like to share some tips and /or write about your experience as a parent of a bilingual or multilingual child contact me here.

And if you find my post interesting please share it! It might help other parents too:)

You might also like:

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings. 

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

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

PROS & CONS of Raising a Trilingual Child

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Plus resources for teaching phonics and reading to children in English.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Good Reads: Forest Fairy Tales by Nikolay Sladkov. Лесные Сказки. Николай Сладков

If you’d like your child to love nature, read him or her these short stories by Nikolay Sladkov. In this book nature can breath and animals can talk and think aloud. The author attentively describes everything he saw himself while walking in the Russian woods. He opens the secrets of nature and triggers your child’s imagination.

You can find books by Nikolay Sladkov on Amazon 
I found some other great books by the same author in English and Japanese!

Хотите, чтобы ваш ребенок полюбил природу? - Почитайте с ним книги Николая Сладкова. В них природа дышит, а птицы и звери оживают и говорят, думают.  В каждом рассказе писатель внимательно описывает увиденное, раскрывая один за другим секреты природы и развивая детское воображение.

You might also like:

9 steps of raising bilingual child successfully- how to from Trilingual childrenCan babies distinguish foreign languages?

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 stations 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

Friday, June 10, 2016

How is it to grow up bilingual in a bilingual city? Interview.

Interview with Dani Lechner, who grew up in a bilingual city and  is bilingual from birth.

Question 1: How is it to grow up bilingual in a bilingual city?

I grew up on the east coast of Canada in a bilingual city. French and English were a part of my home, my community and my entire environment from the beginning. At home and in my immediate family everyone spoke French and English. I went to French school till I was 18 but English was present everywhere else.

Many of my family members chose to only speak English many only French.

I cannot even remember when I couldn't speak either French or English. The way it was in my family is you choose which language is most comfortable for you and that's it. For instance my maternal grandmother spoke mostly English with us although she can speak both languages. And when she spoke we just answered in French which came easiest for us since we were in French school. With some of my friends I was more comfortable speaking English although I identify most with the French side.

It's somehow hard to explain but where I come from everyone is bilingual, if you're not it’s almost weird. So from the very beginning I was immersed in both French and English equally. There were periods growing up where I was most comfortable speaking French and other periods (like now) where I feel more comfortable speaking English.

I never realized what a great gift my parents had given me until I was an aupair in France when I realized that no one was bilingual. It was quite a surprise to be honest. I just assumed everyone was bilingual. I'm very privileged to have had such an upbringing and I'm happy that I can also offer my children the same ;)

Question 2. What language did your parents speak to you when your were little? Did they mix the languages? How about code-switching?

My parents spoke French to us and sometimes my mother would speak English, depending on her mood I guess :) and YES we 100% mix languages all the time. As a matter of fact they've even starting calling it a French dialect because it's a mix of French English and "old" 1700 French which no one uses anymore except where I grew up. The "proper" French we learn in school and same for English. And therefore yes code-switching masters in our house growing up ;) but it was also fun because if we were around people who only spoke English we would secretly speak French so they wouldn't understand and vice versa. The negative side of this story is that the code-switching has actually become a language we call Acadian, and it's sometimes difficult for some to speak "proper" French (meaning only French).

Question 3. Since you grew up speaking two languages and often were code-switching, do you feel any difficulty speaking only one language, when you speak to a monolingual person?

Interesting question. To be honest not really. The one thing I would say is that because we speak a dialect in French it's sometimes difficult to be understood by others because some words are pronounced different. But generally no problem keeping to one language :)

Like the interview? - Share it!

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:

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

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child

Free audo books in English

One parent speaks two languages. Raising trilingual child.

Non-native Speaker Raising Bilingual Children. Interview with Christine Jernigan, the author of "Family Language Learning"

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Simple way to motivate your bilingual child to speak your language.

When our family started the trilingual journey more than 6 years ago, I had no idea if I would succeed in passing my mother tongue onto my two children. I simply launched myself into this adventure. Now my kids are 4 and 6 years old and can speak, read and write in Russian, my mother tongue. I can not believe that I did all this work by myself. I set a goal - the maximum fluency level my children can possibly reach - and I went for it.

What is the recipe you might ask?

I believe being motivated yourself is a part of successfully raising bilingual /trilingual children,
as for the rest - just give your child what he enjoys the most and what he is interested in. Give it all in the minority language!

BABY ( 0-12 month)

What babies like is exactly what they need for starting learning the language you speak. They need face to face contact, mommy’s and daddy’s smiles, baby talk.

Talk to your baby all the time. Use simple sentences. Point to things and name them.

“Babies are taking statistics while listening to us” , as Particia Khul has noted in her TED talk. The test have proved that "It takes a human being (not audio or video!) for babies to take statistics!"  (7:08 minute of the video)

Read my article "Bilingualism and Speech Delay. How can you help? for more insights on this topic.

Here are some more tips:

The Best Way to Start Building Your Bilingual Child's Vocabulary

When to start reading to your baby? 

Virtual babysitters help

TODDLER (1-3 years old)

What do toddlers like? - They like being with their parents, play, sing, read books, draw and move. The are full of energy. You just need to direct it a way that works best for language learning and vocabulary development.

Incorporate teaching into play. It is not as difficult as it sounds. Do not associate word “teaching” here with a class room settings. Remember that at this age kids learn well while moving. Turn on a song or sing yourself. I am sure you have something similar to the English “head shoulders knees and toes” song. If not you can make up your own!

Here is how we had fun with the Russian “Wind is blowing in the face”.

Add more words when describing an object to your child. If he makes a mistake, correct it indirectly by simply rephrasing, repeating what the baby says.

Read as much as you can during this period. Select books on different subjects.

Would you like to know why your baby does not want to sit still while you are reading to him and what you could do about it? You will find some answers in
Your Toddler Doesn't Like to Read? article.

Teach letter sounds, too, especially, if you’d like your child to be literate in your language.

Here are 7 simple principles to keep in mind while teaching your child how to read

Watch this Video by Floating University lecture, Professor Steven Pinker , who is talking about the nature of language acquisition in children.

PRESCHOOLER (3-5 years old)

What does a preschooler want? Same as a toddler, but now he is ready to play with friends.

Bilingual Multilingual families Find a playdate in your languageIt would be great, if you could find a friend for your child that can also speak your minority language.
My kids play with each other speaking their minority language only. They often sing songs in other languages, but speak Russian all the time no matter who is around them. Read about 7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings

SCHOOL AGE (5-8 years old)

What do first graders like? - school experience is very new to them. They love writing in a pretty notebooks with pretty pan and pencils. Just use this opportunity to start a new routine. Get a notebook for your home language and “play school” at home.

My kids both 4 and 6 years old have a notebook for Russian, where they write stories, short and simple dictations. I take whatever they covered at school and use it as a base for our fun lessons. Yes, I invent lessons myself. It is not very difficult. These lessons do not have to be long.

Write notes to each other, shopping lists.

Read more books about animals, adventure.

Magazines and interactive games are something they are interested in. Have them available for your child in your language.

Travel, visit museums. Talk about things you see and experience together.

TWEENS (9-12 years old)

I am not quite there yet with my kids. I will add more details later.

Right now I can only assume, that they would like to spend even more time with the friends. Watch TV. I would watch together some news in the minority language on TV or online. They will probably already have a cell phone - it is a good idea to send messages to each other in your minority language.
If kids have hard time reading books, perhaps having Comics around the house could trigger kids interest in books.

TEENS (13-18 years old)

What do teens like? - learn more facts, watch TV, hang out with the friends...

This is a difficult period for many parents as I hear.

Do you already have tweens and teens? I would be happy to add your comments here! What do they enjoy?


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 reading

What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

PROS & CONS of Raising a Trilingual Child

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Happy Easter everyone!

Happy Easter to everyone!

Look what I found in one Italian pastry shop! - Chocolate Minions! :)


minions easter eggs italian chocolate

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Tips on Rolling Your R's. Сreative Kids Culture Blog Hop - March 2016

Did I tell you that one of my trilingual children is trying to master perhaps one of the most difficult sounds in all the languages that have it - “R”. The first word he said was not "mama", it was "rul’" (руль) which is “steering wheel” in Russian. So it is one of the first sounds he was able to pronounce, but unfortunately the tongue had remained in not the correct position accord to his SLP. Happily everything is getting better now and his guttural R is finally changing to the rolling R.

I am sure my child is not alone with this kind of problem, and in some cases parents can help to correct their child's pronunciation. I talk about it in my earlier article:  Ha ha ha or correcting your child's pronunciation problem.

I really liked Frances’ post where she shares tips from parents on how to roll R. Check it out, it might be just the right little push your child needs.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

How to explain your bilingual child the importance of speaking a minority language?

by Berna 

Do you want your child to speak your (minority) language with you and/or with a sibling? Or do you want her/him stop mixing the languages? Use this great tip from Berna to explain your child why it is important to stick to speaking the minority language and to speak it more often.

We live in the USA and have two kids. Their majority language is English and minority is German.

My older daughter always speaks to her little sister in our minority language. I usually leave it be when she slips and uses English words every now and then, but recently she has been talking more and more in English (majority language!) to her sibling.

I kept reminding her by saying
"Remember we need to speak to your sister in German so she can learn it too" .

My daughter’s response was
"She's a baby. She'll learn it eventually".
I guess it is something she heard another adult was saying.

She didn't seem to quite 'get' it why it is very important to speak German to her sister. So I decided to show it to her in the form of a little game.

The sponge represents our brain. Two colors represent our languages.

I have chosen the dark color for the majority language English and the light color to represent the minority language - German.

Each time we counted where we (must) speak English we made a dot with blue color. We did the same for German in yellow.

“Now what happens when we choose English between us?” I asked her.

The German gets diluted and eventually we can't see it!

I asked my 5 year old what can we do so this doesn't happen?

She took the yellow color representing German and said "we speak speak speak it all the time" and added that daddy can get some yellow too cause he's too blue.

At the end we got a beautiful color and she understood that this is the result of keeping up with German. She also asked if we could add red for Turkish. “Absolutely!” - I said. “We just need to keep practising so we don't forget the languages.”

If you have a child who refuses to speak with you in the minority language and who is old enough to understand the concept using the colors same as I did above, maybe this fun way of explaining how the brain works is just what you need!
For those of you, who speaks more than one language to your child, try to use two sponges. Be creative! :)

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:

7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings. 

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

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

PROS & CONS of Raising a Trilingual Child

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Plus resources for teaching phonics and reading to children in English.

Would you like to receive Tips and Updates from us?

* indicates required

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Books in French by Ophélie Texier. Crocolou - half Crocodile & half Wolf. Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop - February 2016

Do you speak French with your kid? Your child surely will enjoy  "Crocolou aime les voyages"  , a beautiful book about a little crocodile Crocolou  or... stop! He is not a crocodile. His mother is a crocodile, but his is father is a wolf! He and his little sister Marilou are a mixture of both: a crocodile and a wolf.  Read more about the book on Eiola's  website.

Keep in mind that there are more books written by Ophélie Texier about Crocolou. Here are all the titles listed in the order of publishing:

Crocolou aime avoir peur
Crocolou aime les câlins
Crocolou aime les voyages
Crocolou aime ses copains
Crocolou aime le sport
Crocolou aime les gâteaux
Crocolou aime la nature
Crocolou aime sa petite sœur
Crocolou aime être beau
Crocolou aime le père Noël
Crocolou aime son doudou
Crocolou aime être amoureux
Crocolou aime sa nounou
Crocolou aime la fête !
Crocolou aime son papa
Crocolou aime les saisons
Crocolou aime l'école
Crocolou aime son chien
Crocolou aime cuisiner
Crocolou aime sa maman
Crocolou aime les livres
Crocolou aime jardiner
Crocolou aime dire non

Some titles are available on  Amazon.  Enjoy!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

15 Inspirational Tips From A Mother Raising Trilingual Children

by Filipa

As you already know from my previous post, I am a mother of two beautiful trilingual children French/Spanish/English. We live in Perth, Western Australia.

My son Tiago has just turned 3 and my daughter Elisa is 23 months old. They are amazing little learners.
As you will notice when your children reach that age, their little minds absorb much more than you expect. It is great fun and a privilege to witness their progress on a daily basis.

Tiago speaks French and Spanish as well as any same age little Aussie speaks English. He understands everything in English but for now it is his minority language, so he is not as fluent.

I am not worried about my children’s English since they are going to be schooled in Australia. I’d rather focus on the French and Spanish while they are little. I feel that the more efforts I put into these languages now the harder it will be for them to give up later. It requires a lot of discipline from us but it is well worth it.

Elisa is starting to associate the languages with the people. Where before she used to ask me for “agua” (water in Spanish) now she says “eau” and “agua” is just for dad.It is very amusing to hear my son correcting her when she speaks Spanish to me instead of French “Non, en français ma poupée” (No, in French my doll).

At home we use the OPOL method. I only speak French to the children and dad only Spanish. I am fluent in Spanish and my husband can also speak French, therefore none of us is excluded. I never switch to English when talking to my children even if I am with people who cannot understand French. I simply translate in English for their benefit. I do not want my children to think that English is better than French or Spanish.

I personally believe that switching to English would confuse them and would undermine my efforts in getting them fully proficient in the other languages. We want them to be able to communicate with their grandparents and cousins who live overseas. We cannot travel every year to France or the USA where my father-in-law lives. It is expensive. The journey is too long and we like to explore other places too.

We use several tools to ensure that they are learning French and Spanish without feeling excluded.

Let me share a few with you:

1. Consistency

We never switch to English (our community language). When they learn new English words at daycare, unless they are singing a song, I will translate everything back to them in the form of a question. “Oh! You have played with the farm animals at daycare. What did they eat? (my son knows the difference between herbivores, carnivores and omnivores) Who else was with you?”

2. Video calling

We skype with my family in France once or twice a week. My children practise by speaking with their grandparents and their cousins. We also skype once a week with my father in law in New York and again they practise their Spanish.

3. Playdates

We are lucky to have South American friends who have same age children. We try to organize playdates at least once a month.

4. Reading Books

I own an online bookstore specialized in international children’s books and we are lucky to have access to hundreds of books in French and in Spanish. My children love books and they are my fiercest critics. So far they loved all the books I showed them.

5. Language Workshop for kids

I also run Spanish and French workshops for little ones. I take my son along with me so he can get more practice with other children but it also motivates the other children who do not have a Spanish or French speaking background. When I ask them to repeat new words, some of them are shy and Tiago says the words straight away, then the children give it a go.

6. Activity Book

I am crazy about activity books, I love them since I was a kid and used to complete them the first couple of days of the holidays. Every time I go back to France or the USA I come back with at least 10kgs of books, same when I have friends who come over. I could never resist a book; I would cut down on my coffees or something else but not on books. However, it can be quite expensive but with the magic of internet you can now find many free activity books that you can download and print. For example, I use for the Spanish and for French . There are many more just Google “free activity books for a 2 or 3 year olds” and you will see many options offered.
I still buy some activity books with stickers as both my kids love them.

7. Music

My children love dancing and singing. I have CDs with French and Spanish rhymes.The other day I got really confused when my son asked me to sing the rhyme with the elephant. I told him I did not know any French rhymes with elephants. He then added, “Yes you know! The elephant that rocks on a spider web.” It is a Spanish rhyme but since he made his request in French I assumed he wanted a French rhyme! When we sing together, I let them finish the sentence. They would sing the last word, and then little by little they are singing the whole sentences and songs.

8. Making mistakes

When I read a story or I sing a song, I will change it to say something silly. They will correct me right away.

9. Play games

For my last Spanish workshop I took a small Christmas tree with coloured balls and stars to decorate it. In order to hang a decoration on the tree the children had to tell me the colour and the shape of what they were picking up. Anything to make them speak.

10. Flashcards & Memory cards

I like to use flashcards. I make my own for my workshops. The ones you can buy tend to be on a single topic at the time. I have made about 45 that cover several themes, such as the house, clothing, food, farm animals, wild animals…..

I also like to play memory cards with them. Again I make my own using different themes such as Halloween, Christmas, birthdays…..

11. Comment on everything

I make comments when we are at the library for storytime or at the theatre. Obviously it is all in English, so I say something like “did you hear that? The cat jumped on the bed then went out of the window and he wasn’t even afraid”. I want to make sure they understand all the English words they are listening to but also I want them to tell me in our home languages what they remember of the story once it is over.

12. Encourage conversations  

Even if they are little and do not speak clearly, it is always great to get them included in the conversation. Promote open end questions? Avoid “yes” or ‘no’ questions. For example, today it is windy I pointed the tree branches moving and asked my children to look at the branches and hear what noise the leaves were making. Then I asked them if the wind was blowing softly or strongly. They could feel the wind on their faces, was it cold, warm? Ask them to describe what they see and feel when they are older.

13. Do not correct kids speaking

I do not correct them every time they make a mistake. It might make them want to stop talking.

14. Exposure

I take them to museums, art galleries, fairs, cultural events and exhibitions to develop their vocabulary.

15. Learning before travelling

When we are travelling, I organize little activities with them on the country we are going to visit. It is fun to see them recognizing some monuments and greet people in the local language.

If your partner speaks English only

I get to speak to many mothers who are trying to raise their children in a language other than English and it seems that they find it more difficult when one of the parents speaks English only. What I tend to tell them is to avoid switching to English when their partner is home, keep speaking German, Polish whatever language you are teaching your child (remember consistency) and say it again in English for the partner’s benefit. This way the partner can also pick up a few words in the foreign language.

Raising children in other languages than the one spoken in the country we live in is not easy.

I always tell myself it all comes down to 3 words: 


When you speak different languages, you are able to think differently and be more tolerant and open to other cultures. We all really need it these days.

Now it is your turn! Let us know what you do to keep your children speaking their mother tongue.

Comment below or share your story!

My husband Albis and I live in Perth, Western Australia. Everyday brings more fun when we hear our children Tiago and Elisa speaking in French, Spanish and English. I love listening to my son literally translating jokes from one language to another. I cannot wait until Elisa is a bit older to hear them sharing a secret code/language in French or Spanish.

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:

7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read.

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

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

PROS & CONS of Raising a Trilingual Child

Multilingual Family Interview: When your home languages are different from community language. Plus resources for teaching phonics and reading to children in English.

Russian Schools and Communities in Australia

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

What I Love about my Trilingual Kids.

The Valentine's day is approaching, so let’s have some fun and talk about love; love in relation to our multilingual children. So, what do you love about your bilingual / trilingual kids?

Here is what I love about my kiddos:

1. they can switch between the languages with ease!

2. you never know in what language they will talk during their sleep

3. you can leave them with the monolingual grandparents that are visiting you, knowing that everything will be fine and nobody will starve even if the adults can not say what they need at a local store - the grandchildren will do all the talking for them.

4. you can leave them with two sets of grandparents, who do not speak each other‘s languages, and go on vacation and know that grandparents from both sides will be able to talk to each other thanks to the little translators!

5. they have three different perspectives on life

6. they never get bored from reading the same book - just read it in another language!

7. they can follow the messy multilingual family / family friends conversation, when one speaks one language and answers to others in another and it all makes sense to them.

8. they can find friends easily no matter where they are

9. they are great communicators in general

10. they know what the fastest means of transportation are and are used to flying

11. they are reflection of the way I speak my mother tongue as I am the main language input for them

12. they explode with creativity and imagination. I wonder where that is coming from…

13. they are the sweetest kids, who hug and kiss me such that I feel that I am their baby and not the way around.

What about you?

What do you love about your bilingual / trilingual child?

Comment below!
♡ ♡ ♡