We, parents, who are raising bilingual or multilingual children and live far from our home land, often struggle to find resources in our heritage language. This story is from a parent whose quest for so needed resources in Greek lead her into something I find utterly wonderful. Read Maria Patsatzi story to find it out. She is raising her children trilingually in German, Greek and English.
Well, I'm not an expert. I can only speak from my experience and therefore the question mark stays!!
But let's start by introducing. My name is Maria and I was raised as a monolingual Greek. Since I came to Germany (2008), communication language with my German husband has been English, which was the only foreign language that I could speak and write fluently then. In the meantime, I really struggled with German and have gotten quite much of it on a good level!
Our sons, born 2011 and 2013 in Germany, are raised trilingual from the very first day of their life. We never thought of doing it differently, but also not even doing it like this! It all comes naturally for them and for us and I think this is a strong indication that we are mainly on a good way. Well, I can't deny that very often I have been reading and asking opinions of specialists on that, but it never occurred to me to measure somehow the result of their progress, first of all because I experience it every day and secondly because I think that it would only give extra stress to everybody of us and this we do certainly not need in our lives. The biggest concern that I must admit having in the past, was whether we as parents should maintain our communication language in English or switch to German, in order not to “confuse” the children. Well, there the opinion of a specialist really unblocked us, explaining how our communicating in a third language might be even better for them! He considered it better when the children receive equivalent exposure to each of the parents' language at home and therefore he implied that our speaking a third language between us was ideal! So, today both my boys speak Greek with me and German with their father, while they also get English “in the air”.
The amount of every used language varies according to their exposure to it. So, since my older son has started at the German daycare, Greek tends to become now really a minority language to him and even to my smaller one, as his older brother tends to speak now with him more in German. This is not only natural, but also good for integration reasons and therefore I do not try to influence this decision at all. However, I have been thinking ways to increase their exposure to Greek, since the older one doesn't get any more the same amount from me.
One day our older son asked to play with Papa's smartphone and another day with my tablet. As technology professionals, such gadgets could not be missing from our everyday life, though they are not such a major part of it. Soon, we realized that these gadgets would be soon a part of our children's life as well, which I must say was not such an easy thing to digest, as we are far aware of the dangers that are hidden behind them for such small children and even for adults sometimes! After the first negative thoughts, we soon were looking for ways to influence our children's first contact with technology on a positive way. So, we have started downloading educational Apps, mostly in German and English, as (to my disappointment) very little was available in Greek. So, my son started learning animals, plants, vehicles, colors, letters, numbers and many other things in these two languages! But not in Greek!
And then it hit us... if he can really learn something out of this, why not create our OWN Apps in Greek, in order to increase his exposure to the language! And so it started... Our first educational App in Greek is already published in the Google App Store after the name ΜΑΘΑΙΝΩ ΤΑ ΖΩΑ (learning the animals) and gets to receive quite some attention over the last time: . This App was made with a lot of love for our boys and I think that this is also the key to success! We decided to include no advertising at all, as we considered that this would be catastrophic for such small children and thus we focused only on how to make the procedure of learning animals highly comprehensive and fun for children who start to talk. And it worked! Well, now we continue already with more Apps like this, which are inspired again from our little boys and soon they will be published, too.
What makes it work? I have been giving a lot of thought on whether this procedure of learning is good or how good it is and so on. I have been reading articles of appreciation and criticism and have even gotten such responses myself on this. And they are all right, all of them! Every tool that we have can be useful or catastrophic, depending on the use that we make out of it. There are many good educational Apps for our children in the net, especially for language learning purposes, but if by this what comes into your mind is children who are left playing alone for hours on a sofa with electronic devices, while the parents are occupied with other staff, then DO NOT download them! Despite I know that it also works like this sometimes, however this must be an exception!
In our every day life with the kids, we often enjoy a lot reading a book with them and letting them learn something out of this, as well as swiping on the tablet screen and hearing mummy's voice naming the animals and then repeating them. Both ways, we give all of our love. And they do learn, both ways. Thereafter, I can only conclude out of our own experiences, as non- expert caring parents that our children need mainly us. An educational App can't substitute parents or teachers, but it is a very effective tool to learn something very very fast. In our case, it has increased dramatically the exposure to Greek words that my kids do not hear from me every day. Well, this I call a success!
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. Or take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series.
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