Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child


Friday, July 11, 2014

What should we do when reading becomes a book eating?

Does your child sit still and listen to the book you read or stays with you for a second and then starts running around picking up toys to play?  Or perhaps, even worse, he is chewing on the books checking how they taste?
In Bilingual children: How to read to a baby?  I gave some  tips on how to keep your child's attention while reading;  and I am very excite to introduce Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini, who is raising a trilingual child in Polish, English and Italian. Today she’s sharing  some great ideas on how to help you to deal with little lions at home :) 

"I really would like to read to my toddler but it’s really difficult. She moves so much or when I start reading to her she grabs the book and tears it apart,” a friend of mine said to me. I really knew what she was talking about as my little toddler was doing exactly the same thing. Pulling, biting and tearing the pages ferociously as if turning into that young and wild lion that I’ve just attempted to read to him about.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

More delight, less doubt.
Bringing up a trilingual child – the beginning

by Alicja Pyszka-Franceschini

I just came back from the hospital with my small and beautiful little boy. He was an easy-going newborn who settled himself into a nice routine very quickly. I loved holding him in my arms late at night and absorbing his peace. Blissful, wonderful peace. I felt enormously happy. I felt rewarded, blessed and enriched; but my fortune was not made of money, but of affection and attachment that strengthened and deepened with every day, unconditionally, unremittingly, and peacefully.

It was in this peace of a quietly breathing newborn baby, in a room that smelled of baby shampoo, just after midnight, that I realised that I want to bring up my son as a trilingual child, that the biggest gift my husband and I can give to him is the gift of languages, an opportunity to enter and explore his parents and grandparents' cultures and to draw strength from them.

But there are other reasons too.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Good Reads: books about Prostokvashino by Uspensky. Read or watch cartoons with English subtitles.

If you ask any child in Russia, who is Uncle Fedor, there is a big chance you will receive an answer that’s full of excitement!
Uncle Fedor is a little but very independent boy, who left the house together with his new friend - the cat. This cat not only speaks people's language and cross-stitches, but also knows the proper way to eat an open-face sandwich so it tastes better!
This wonderful story was written by Eduard Uspensky in 1973. Almost 30 years ago! And it is still loved by children.

You can also find it translated in many other languages:

English: Uncle Fedya, His Dog, and His Cat
German: Onkel Fjodor, der Hund und der Kater
Russian:  Дядя Федор, Пес и Кот
Serbian: Cika Fjodor, pas i macak Djadja
Finnish: Fedja-setä kissa ja koira
Swedish: Fjodor på rymmen

Other books from the series (in Russian):

Каникулы в Простоквашино
Зима в Простоквашино
Дядя Федор идет в школу
Тетя дяди Федора
Любимая девочка дяди Федора
Новые порядки в Простоквашино

Did you know that there are also cartoons about Prostokvashino (Простоквашино)?

Watch Prostokvashino with English subtitles!

Дядя Фёдор, пёс и кот (1975)
Трое из Простоквашино (1978)
Каникулы в Простоквашино (1980)
Зима в Простоквашино (1984)
Весна в Простоквашино (2010)

If you have already read these great books by Uspensky, check out the list of Russian language children's books  on the website and stop by to see what other international families and friends of Multicultural Kid Blogs have to recommend in the Read Around the World Summer Reading Series .  This summer bloggers from all over the world will share their recommendations of great multicultural books for the entire family!

Good reading time to everyone!

You might also like:
7 principles to keep in mind while teaching your child to read. 
A family vacation, multilingual style. Are you in? 
7 facts that can determine the language spoken between multilingual siblings.  

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life Story:
Trilingual mama - trilingual kid.
Why would it be any other way?

(Please contact me, if you are interested to participate in the Life story series and write about your experience as a bilingual or multilingual child and/or a parent).

Trilingual "apple" does not fall far from a trilingual "tree".

Nathalie’s parents raised their kids trilingual long before nowadays multilingual parenting book plethora and well before anyone can google everything.  They did think there was a choice!  And now the story repeats  -  Nathalie is raising her son trilingual and can’t see any other way. 

 Nathalie with Daniël (then 4 months old)
My name is Nathalie (39) and I’m  of a German and a Dutch nationality. After being born in Germany, I traveled around the world with my parents and two siblings. I currently live in Madrid, Spain. I work in a bilingual (Dutch-Spanish) primary school where I teach the toddlers and first grade. 
I am a mother of a nearly two year old boy, Daniël, who is half Dutch half English.  I am a self-proclaimed expert in both multilingualism and moving houses thanks to my upbringing.

I was raised as a trilingual child, and I'm now myself raising a second generation trilingual child, be it with other languages. Many people around us seem to think it is harsh on our child to expose him to not only two, but three languages. Others seem to think we are over challenging the little boy, just for bragging purposes. Neither could be further from the truth. As in my own upbringing, I feel there is no choice than to raise Daniël trilingual, simply because we cannot just ignore one of the three languages.

I was born in Aachen, Germany to a German father and a Dutch mother who spoke English to each other because they didn’t speak the others' language. I suppose neither of them were willing to give up their mother tongue when it came to raising us.
Camping in Kenya

Once my father had finished university he was offered a job that would imply moving all over the world for the next 20 years. The first stop was Nairobi, Kenya where my sister and I were sent to a local (English) school. At home we spoke German to my dad, Dutch to my mother and English at school.

Nathalie with her sister
As my grandparents were mortified not seeing their grandchildren growing up, my parents often recorded cassette tapes of us speaking and singing for them to listen to, which they sent to them. These tapes have become the most valuable and interesting testimonies of our language development. By the age of 3 and 5 my sister and I had formed the most complicated sentence structures applying the various grammatical rules of English, Dutch and German, using all three languages in any given sentence-depending on which parent we were talking to, the language the last song had been sung in or in whatever language a word came to mind first.
To outsiders this must have been a perfect verification against raising children in more than one language. Mind you, at the time you couldn’t google if what you were doing was right. My parents raised us trilingual with no clue as to what they were doing.

The second country (after a break in Holland) was Venezuela. We went to an American school and I think by that time my dad had learned Dutch which became the language spoken at home. I don’t actually know based on what my parents decided to leave out German-possibly it was us, the children who decided we wouldn’t speak German anymore. (I just asked my dad why we started speaking Dutch at home, and even he has no clue). As we were in a Spanish speaking country we also got Spanish lessons at school, and I suppose we learned the basics, but in leaving Venezuela, we left behind our fourth language-Spanish.

The next country was India (again after a little break in Holland) The American school had not really been what my parents had hoped for so we went to a local German school. By now (8 and 10 years old) we were obviously perfectly capable of separating the three languages we spoke and were fluent (but not native) in all three languages. The family continued to speak Dutch at home and we spoke German at school and English when out in Bombay.

Bombay, India
After India we moved back to Holland where my parents were confronted with various options as to where and in what language we would continue our schooling.  At the time our school language and home language were both good but not perfect, and the choice had to be made not knowing what country the future would bring. The choice (for which I am to this day still grateful) was the European school in Mol, Belgium. The European school gave us the possibility of being educated in all three of our languages. Be it that we had to chose which language would be our first, second and third. In the end, we went to the German section.

When it came to going to university I myself chose to go to a Dutch one, as we were living in Holland. It was at university where I became aware that I was pretty non-native in all three the languages which was quite a shocking realization to me. There I was thinking I was a right genius while getting back papers with more red than you could possibly imagine (and comments like: "This is a primary school mistake". Bit by bit my German and English disappeared to the background as I was living and studying in Holland.

I stayed in Holland till my 30th and then started to get itchy-feet and so I decided to make a plunge to Madrid-Spain. It was here that I realised how much I had missed speaking different languages - all of a sudden I would hardly ever speak Dutch. To be honest, I felt negatively towards the Dutch language, wanted nothing to do with it. I very much enjoyed speaking English most of the time and realised that my identity was actually directly linked to the Dutch language.  English became my first language again as I became an English teacher while I was struggling to learn my fourth language-Spanish.

Now (8 years later) I am still in Madrid, working at a bilingual school (Dutch-Spanish) watching “my” little bilingual toddlers learning to speak their second - and sometimes third language.

My partner is English, and I'm half Dutch-half German. We have a 1.5 year old son Daniël (imagine the struggle to find a name that sounds ok in four languages!) who is being raised trilingual as well. His dad speaks to him in English, I speak Dutch and at a day-care he learns Spanish.

When Daniël was born, we knew we had no choice but to raise him trilingual. The fact of living in Spain, being born to an Englishman and going to do his primary school in Dutch and Spanish, there was no way to chose for a monolingual or bilingual education. Therefore,  just like myself,  Daniël will grow up being non-native in all languages, but sounding like a genius to monolingual people.

I have no regrets about him growing up trilingual, and must admit that it fills me with pride that he understands basic concepts of all three languages. I have no doubt that he will, just like me, be endlessly grateful for the present of multiple languages.

You might also like reading:

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?  

Life story: A Journey to Multilingualism.  

Bilingual child: when to start reading?

Does passive language learning work?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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


Long time before my first child spoke his first word, I asked myself: What language should I speak to him in public, when I am surrounded by other people who do not speak my language? Should I switch the languages and speak to my child the community language so everyone understands? There should not be any harm if I do it (right?), since I am bringing up my child trilingual anyway.

However, after giving this matter a thought, I decided to always speak the minority language to my child and this is why:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bilingualism and speech delay.
How can you help?

Are bilinguals or multilinguals any different from monolinguals when it comes to speaking? Well, yes and no. Bilinguals might start speaking somewhat later; however, the latest research totally rejects a clinical language delays in bilingual or multilingual children as a result of exposure to two or more languages simultaneously.

In "Language development in bilingual babies: no delays, just a few adjustments" François Rochon talks about research of Professor Christopher Fennell of the University of Ottawa's School of Psychology:

Research has shown [...], that monolingual toddlers learn to distinguish similar-sounding words at around 17 months old. Professor Fennell has found that bilingual infants start to do this at 20 months. 
Prof. Fennell doesn't at all believe the "delay" in sound distinction is a hindrance. Bilingual babies are simply learning an adaptive strategy because they're facing a more challenging language environment. That strategy sees them unconsciously ignore some of the sound cues they receive so that they can concentrate on matching the word with the object it represents.

What does it mean for you as a parent? It means that you should not worry that two or more languages are too much for a child, and that you should focus on how to help your child and ease that task of connecting words with objects. Do not think about it as something not natural and extra work for you. Look at this the same way you look at helping your child keep his balance while he is making his first steps. Come down to your child's level of understanding when you read or talk to him; proving extra explanations. According to the researchers, a 4 month old baby is already learning to connect words with objects. So start early!

Point on the objects while talking about them, and do the same on the pictures in the books, following a story as you read it to your child. You need to catch new words and follow on them explaining their meanings. I often use Google to find pictures of words  that are not pictured in books we read, or when I'd like to provide some extra explanation and show something in details. Pointing is a powerful tool for creating word-object connection. So make a point to point :)  Read also  How to read to a baby?
Researchers also found that children have difficulties to distinguish one languages from another, if the languages you expose your child to belong to the same rhythm category  (such as English and German (stress-timed), French and Spanish (syllable timed), Japanese and Tamil (mora-timed)) . Deborah D.K. Ruuskanen, Professor of English Linguistics at the University of Vaasa, Finland, and mother of three bilingual children says:
if there is more than one language in the baby's home environment, then the baby will be learning first to process and separate the different languages, before talking begins.  

As you probably already experienced yourself, there are natural obstacles in the language learning process. So be ready to face this challenge and simplify the language learning task for your child by being consistent. Speak only the language you choose to speak with your child.

If you decided to speak only one language to your child - then do it all the time, without mixing with other languages in direct interactions.

If you, as one person, decided to speak to your child two or more languages, think of the best strategy to separate the languages one from another. You could alternate days or even weeks when languages are spoken to your child, for instance, one day / week Italian only and another day / week -  Hungarian. You could also assign a language to a certain activity: bathing, family meals, playgroups ...  Think of some possible, appropriate to the child's age sign that you can give to your baby, to help him to understand what languages you speak and when. It could be a different color bow in your hair,  a scarf, different picture on the wall. Just use your imagination!

You also need to be consistent with the language you speak to others at front of your child. If you decided to speak to your spouse other language then to your child, please make an effort and speak only that language. This brings structure to the language recognition and, hopefully, helps the child to sort out the languages fast.

Nothing dramatic will happen if you mix the languages. There is a number of parents that does it and they have a bilingual or multilingual child afterwards. However, my position on it: if you dedicate your time to your child, why not just take care of the language consistency part as well to speed up and simplify language learning. I found that naming the languages with their proper name helps in the language separation process.

As you see, there are many variables that can affect when your child starts speaking. My children started speaking within the same time frame as monolinguals do. Since my concentration was on speaking Russian language, their first words and sentences were mostly in Russian.  Interestingly, both children started speaking full sentences in Italian without usual long practice of words. They simply transferred the knowledge about building the sentences from one language into another by modeling the Italian speakers.

If you are pregnant, you might like to know that it is also beneficial to speak the languages you are going to use with your child during the last trimester. Research shows that infants are able to show preferences to and thus, recognition of the languages they were spoken to during the pregnancy after they were born.

When did your bilingual, trilingual or multilingual child start speaking? What do you think helped or delayed the child's speaking in your particular case? Share your thoughts to help other parents who read this page.

Useful Resources:
Language development milestones by ASHA - American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

You might also like:
A family vacation, multilingual style. Are you in? 
Can babies distinguish foreign languages?  
Walking with your baby and showing him the world  

Monday, April 7, 2014

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

Parents these days face many difficult decisions, no matter if their kids speak one language, two languages or three languages. One of them is whether or not teach children to read in an early childhood, before the school's formal education starts. Some parents decide to wait,  thinking that kids will otherwise get bored at school, some step in and provide the reading instructions before elementary school  thinking that being "prepared" will help children along the way.

I can understand both parents' positions; nevertheless, experts on this topic see a great benefit in engaging children in pre-reading activities early in life and at preschool. Doing some rhythm and phonic related activities that help children slowly establish letters-sounds connection and  prepare them for more formal instructions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A family vacation, multilingual style. Are you in?

Would your family go on a joined multilingual family adventure? Are you afraid that vacation fun will be lost in translation, if you try to share with other families whose children speak a different language?  Read on, there is something to think about before you plan the summer vacation.

Who does not like summers? A summer beach vacation is one of the greatest experiences for every member of the family.  Parents are more relaxed (if not, getting a drink at the beach bar would really help!) and do not nag the kids. The kids are playing with a sand, water, and do not bother the parents. No one gets bored on the beach!  And this is where I am heading to.
Last summer we went on vacation with our English speaking friends. It is an English and German speaking bilingual family that consists of father, mother and two cute girls, who are about our Russian-Italian speaking children's age.  It was interesting to watch how the kids' relationship developed. All children spoke their native languages at first, but then, after realizing that "the message" does not get through, they started explaining themselves in the language their friends would understand. Our kids tried to speak English and the friends' kids - Italian. The sign language  combined with the native language worked well to fill the language knowledge gaps! They had so much fun playing in water , building sand castles and sharing toys.

 The children loved the time they spent together, and now are looking forward to another joined vacation this year.

This kind of multilingual vacation is good because:

- it widens child's horizons. The child learns about other languages and cultures,

- it generates an interest and creates stimulus to learn a new language and to proficient the already acquired ones,

- it develops communication skills.

It is important to make children aware of the existence of other languages not only by talking about them, but also by bring them in direct contact with their speakers. It will help kids later at school to realize why they need to learn all the verb conjugations. Kids always need to be challenged to promote development. In fact our friends' daughter is really eager to learn Italian now. She is only 5 years old and Italian language is already on her to-do list!

If you like beach as a destination for your vacations, another good way to expose you children to other cultures and languages is just by traveling with them to other countries' beaches.  For Portuguese you could go to Brazil (easy to access from the Americas) or Portugal, if you are in Europe. For Spanish - beautiful Mexican, Argentinian and Spanish beaches. For English - Florida, California or Hawaii.  For German - beach of the Northern and Baltic Sea would do a great job. For French - Cote d'Azur, Bay of Biscay, Tahiti. For Italian - hundreds of beautiful Italian beaches and amazing islands.  For Russian - the Baltic and Black seas, for Hebrew - the Red Sea of Israel. For Croatian - Croatia.   For Greek - Greece and hundreds of fantastic Islands.  For Arabic - Egypt's Read sea, Tunisia or Morocco. There are so many countries with beautiful beaches!

Where have you been with your kids around the world?
Our family already visited beautiful beaches of Italy, France and Portugal. Where should we head next?

You might also like:

How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development?

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?

What should I order? Mortadella alphabet!  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

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

The moment  you think  you figured  it all out and  your multilingual family found the right balance between the languages for your one and only child, you realize the baby #2 is on the way. And everything you planned so perfectly may go the way you were not expecting! Every parent with 2+ kids would tell you that dealing with two kids is much more complex, it's not really 1+1... So, the main question you never really thought of before: What language would the siblings speak to each other?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Planting a language tree.
Does passive language learning work?

Our family, like many other multilingual families, follows a language strategy in which parents speak to each other in a language different from the one they speak to their children. My husband and I communicate with each other in English, I speak Russian to our children, and my husband speaks Italian to them.

In our multilingual family set up children are exposed to English language mostly passively with very little active interaction. I always believed in the power of passive language learning; however, I was still wondering if it can bring any good results. My children are now 4,5 and 2,5 years old, and everyday I see more and more