Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: 2013


Monday, December 16, 2013

When to give your child Christmas presents - an international family challenge.

As many multicultural families, our family was also challenged with making a decision about how to celebrate Christmas. Before the children were born I did not think about when I should receive and give Christmas presents. I lived so far from my country of origin, from my friends and from the traditions I grew up with, that I simply joined my husband and our friends for December 25th celebration. But then the kids were born and this has change me 180 degrees. I wanted so much to share with them the joy that I lived through year after year in my parents home. I wanted to see my children's smiles as they discover the presents under a Christmas tree, as I did back then. I wanted them be exited to decorate a Christmas tree. I wanted them to look forward to the winter holidays the same way I did.  Not only because it was a present time, but because it was the time full of magic!
boy opening christmas presents

Before my son's first December has approached I talked to my husband. We discussed our values. I told him what was important for me and he shared what was important for him during the Christmas time and this is how we decided to celebrate our Christmas and New Year.

Since I grew up during the Soviet time, there was no Christmas celebration. Everyone celebrated a New Year. Everything Western world does for Christmas, Russians did  and still do for a New Year. There are big family gatherings, dinners, parties, fireworks, carnivals you name it! Everything but there was no church of cause.  The Italian traditions are different from what I am used to. One day I will write a post about a Christmas  celebration in Italy to give you more insides. ( And here it is! CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS in ITALY ) So we had to compromise and this is what we settled on.

Our international Italian-Russian family starts decorating the house inside and outside in early December. For the moment we do not do the nativity scene, that is called "presepe" in Italian, but a Christmas tree. And we decorate it with ornaments  that I picked at the local store and that my parents brought from Russia, my very very old child-safe paper and plastic ornaments that are so dear to me. (The glass ornaments have to wait until the kids are older). Even though the Christmas tree is ready for December 24th, the children can find presents under it only on New Year. They still receive plenty of present from Italian relatives on Christmas day and do not feel excluded. I would not want them to!

PanettoneWe celebrate Christmas Eve within our family by preparing a nice traditional dinner and join our Panettone and Pandoro. (see a full list of Italian traditional Christmas sweets here). The time we spend in Germany made its imprint on out taste buds. We do not see Christmas table without Lebkuchen and Stollen, the German traditional sweets! This year I plan to include my family tradition and bake some sugar filled "Plushki". Just writing this brings me back to the time I spent with my grandfather  preparing the sweets. He actually was our family's great cook!
Italian relatives for lunch on Christmas Day. Christmas sweets list for us does not became exhausted with two Italian traditional sweets:

The New Year celebration is a little party for our family with "Spumante" ( Italian champagne)  for the big once and sparkling water for the small. The kids stay up until they feel tired and ready to go to bed on their own will, just to wake up in the morning to tier apart the wrapping paper from the gifts. Big thank you to Russian "Ded Moroz" or Italian Santa for brings presents to us, parents, as well and hanging chocolate mini-Santas all over the tree to make the kids day! 

The new year started, but winter holidays celebrations for our family are not over yet. January the 7th is the Russian Orthodox Christmas day, which we also celebrate with a nice meal, even though I never celebrated it as a child. I believe children need to know that other religions do exist, and they can start learning about their differences from this simple thing - different days of celebrating birth of Christ.

Now you have learned how our international family celebrates Christmas and New Year. If your multilingual family is faced similar challenge and have to make a decision, I hope answering the following questions will help you:

What celebrations and rituals are important to you?
What can you do to support your spouse traditions?
When do you give children presents and how would you do it?
What do you need to explain your children about your traditions and possible differences?

Happy holiday season to you all!

You might also like reading:

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

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

How to read to a baby?  

Visiting Italy in Spring. Your picture guide.

Why You Should Visit Italy During Winter Holiday Season and Why You Should Not.

Monday, November 4, 2013

A touch of nature on a rainy day. Best nurture documentaries in English to watch with children.

I am not a supporter of putting children at front of a TV screen; however, I see a significant benefit in watching movies, cartoons and documentaries in the case of promoting non community language abilities in children. I do limit TV time as much as I can and prefer to snuggle  with my kiddos on the couch with a book instead. That said, I see a need that bilingual children / multilingual children have in that special world that cinema gives them. It works as one more minority language point of reference for them, a strong one that  should be provided especially when only one parent speaks it.

We set a rule for our children that limits the Italian TV exposure to weekends only. During the week they are allowed to watch programs in the languages they are less exposed to in everyday life, such as English and Russian.

I tried to show the cartoons that follow the interests of my children by acting proactively, as I write in Being proactive in exposing your child to the new vocabulary. I first read a book with my son about first planes and boats and he just loved the vision of the Russian ice breaker "Arktika" crushing the thick ice and polar bears running around that he became really interested in boats. I try to provide as much information as I can to feed his hunger for knowledge.  This days we watch cartoons and videos about sea life and pirates.

Turning on the TV gives me a break to run the household errands, but I try not to just leave the children in front of the screen. I find it important to participate in this activity at least by watching some parts together. My children often call me and ask me to stay to share their excitement with me. Also watching a program together it gives even more topics to discuss and, thus, promotes the conversation and the minority language development.

Some of the English languages nature documentaries we love to watch all together on weekends, and they become a rainy day savers, or we love to be in direct contact with nature otherwise :)
EarthFight series;
Frozen Planet series;
The Life of Birds series;
The Living Planet: A Portrait of the Earth  series.

Would love to hear about your family favorite documentaries and cartoons. You are welcome to check the list of our favorite cartoons in Russian language out.

You might also like:

How to prepare yourself to be a speaking model for your child. 
What language do multilingual siblings speak to each other?  
How to read to a baby?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Teaching the letter sounds
before letter names.

When my son was 4 month old, his Russian grandmother gave him a lots of books. One of them was "Russian Alphabet for boys", a colorful book with letters and pictures with a rhythm next to each letter. That was the time when I started thinking: Should I teach my son letter sounds or  letter names?  Thinking that letter names can't really help one to learn reading and can wait a few years, I decided to go for letter-sound correspondence.

Starting with one book, I later added more alphabet books into my son's library. I followed my son's natural interest in learning letters and reading books. By 18 month he could recognize and read all of the letters without a mistake. He looked for Russian letters everywhere: on the labels of water bottles, boxes of cereals... I still remember when at the doctor's office he was scanning an info post for the letters he knew. He was so excited to read them out loud !

Child cuting paper makes russian letter "Б" I was concerned that my son would get confused with the Italian and Russian alphabet . Some letters look similar, but they sound differently. The labels were written in Italian and I could not say it is Russian. Then I found a way to avoid the confusion. I was saying, "You are right! This Italian letter "p" looks like the Russian letter "r".
These days I try to read some simple words with my son, who is now 4 years old. He reads book's covers, chapter titles, short words. He still likes his wood letter cubes. I periodically use them to make a morning surprise for him. I lay out  several words different in length on the breakfast table as my good morning to him. He smiles seeing them and starts reading. I just love this moment!

This summer my son discovered how he could talk and keep things secret from his sister -- through word spelling! We started with some simple and short words such as "sok" which mean "juice" in English. I see the result, my son is eager to spell the words now more then ever before.

If your child has smaller siblings or relatives, you could show him the advantage of spelling words that the others children do not understand. This can motivate him to think more about the way words are build. Look at that special light in the child's eyes, when he discovers the power of spelling. I will never forget that light in my son's eyes!

All the above is of course comes from the Russian language perspective, since I teach it to my children; however, it could be applied to other languages as well. My experience shows that looking at the words from the letter sounds perspective and developing phonological awareness skill in your child early in life has its benefits.  Only recently I became aware of a methodology, where children with autism and other disabilities are taught letter-sound correspondence before the letter names were introduced to them; thus, a possible confusion is avoided.

If you teach your child Russian: please check the Russian book's list for Letters and Activity books.

You might also like reading:

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

How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool.

How to Read to a Toddler?

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Life story:
A Journey to Multilingualism.

How can a person become bilingual, trilingual or multilingual?

This is an amazing story how a little American girl became first bilingual in English and French, then trilingual by adding German. Now she is mastering her fourth and fifth languages: Japanese and Hebrew. 
This "language spree" started thanks to her parents.

Young Woman at home
My name is Amalia and I am an Economics doctoral student from the US.  The area where I live is quite international, so I have had the opportunity to hear many languages here.  I spent three years in Germany and two years in France when I was young, and I have remained attached to those cultures.  Since I haven't been able to travel a lot recently, I've been trying to learn Japanese by reading books.  I'm reading a very helpful book of short stories where the translations of most words are written underneath the text.  I'm curious to find out about other people's experiences teaching their children multiple languages, and I'm looking forward to reading more about this on this blog.  


Eiffel tower symbol of France
My parents were always interested in foreign languages, and my mother started teaching me French when I was about one year old.  She used a lot of  music, for example songs by the singer Georges Brassens, and traditional French folk songs.  When I was 5 my father took a sabbatical year in Paris and I went to kindergarten there.  It was a wonderful and interesting experience.  The French kindergarten was very academic -- the teachers treated us like adults in some ways -- but also creative.  Children had already learned to read in nursery school, at the age of three or four (maybe that is why so many little French kids wear glasses).  We had to write dictees, where the teacher reads a story out loud and you have to write it down, getting points for using the right spelling.  But we also did a lot of art and played games. 

Bonn XMas Market
After a year in the US my family moved to Bonn, at the time the capital of West Germany, for two years.  Since my parents only knew a little German they couldn't teach it to me before going there.  I had a few lessons with a German exchange student but still understood almost nothing when we came to Germany.  The first week we were there, my mom took me to a pony-riding camp, where I spent a few days just listening to the other children, and gradually I could pick out some words.  Since we were playing games, it was easy to figure out what they were saying from the context.   I remember how exciting it was when the meaning of a new word became clear.  When school started, my German was still broken but I could communicate a little bit.  The school I went to had many immigrant students and everyone was used to welcoming those who didn't know German.  My classmates were not surprised to meet someone who didn't know their language and in fact were very curious and accepting of newcomers.  After school I attended an intensive German class, offered by the school for free, with some other foreign children.  By the first month or so I was pretty fluent.  Because we had a very inspiring teacher I became interested in learning as much vocabulary as possible and started to read a lot of German books.

Bonn Rhine RiverWhen we returned to the US, I had a German accent in English and made mistakes in English grammar, though these quickly went away.  Even though I always spoke English with my parents in Germany, I was so integrated into German life that I kept a diary and thought in German.  In the US I kept up my German by writing letters to my friends and reading literature.  Of course, my German accent became worse over time and the grammar didn't come as naturally to me -- now I have to stop and think if I should use the dative or the accusative, or if a word is masculine, feminine or neutral.  I haven't kept up with colloquial expressions and would probably sound old-fashioned if I went back now.  

Japanese BooksBecause I had enjoyed learning French and German so much, I wanted to continue to learn other languages as I got older.  I studied Japanese with a private tutor and spent a year in a Hebrew day school.  Learning languages without being immersed in them has required much more work and concentration.  As an adult studying a language in a class, I have to use mnemonics to remember new words and have to consciously figure out grammatical structure.  It is a more intellectual process.  I would like to spend more time in these countries in order to get a better feeling for the subtle nuances of the languages.     

In many situations I have found it helpful to be multilingual.  Having an understanding of how expressions can vary across languages has helped me communicate better in English with foreigners here in the US.   I can usually get their meaning, even when they use a colorful metaphor that exists only in their mother tongue.  When traveling, I think it is important to make an effort to speak at least a few words in the local language, and learning languages at an early age has probably made it easier for me to do this.   And it is fun when you have several languages in common with someone and can switch back and forth depending on which language you think best expresses what you want to say.

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.

You might also like reading:
Language Strategies 

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?  

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2013

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

A friend of mine, who is an avid traveler, asked me after visiting another country were people speak a language he could not understand: "How do children feel about hearing a foreign language? Can they understand that it is a different language they hear?"

According to the University of British Columbia psychologist Janet Werker, bilingual infants (infants, who were raised in households where two languages were spoken), were able to distinguish foreign languages one from another though facial cues, even before anybody spoke those languages to them. Monolinguals also have the ability to distinguish two languages; however, it does not last long, only until they are 6 month old.

Patricia Kuhl, Professor of Speech & Hearing Sciences at Washington University, says in her talk "The linguistic genius of babies" on TED, that  "babies all over the world can discriminate all sounds of all languages no matter of what country they were testing and what language were using."
However, "by the end of the first year, the infant brain is no longer universally prepared for all languages, but instead primed to acquire the language(s) to which the infant has been exposed", Patricia Kuhl and Maritza Rivera-Gaxiola write in  the paper Neural Substrates of Language Acquisition  published in The Annual Review of Neuroscience 2008.

According to Werker, Canada Research Chair in Psychology and director of UBC's Infant Studies Centre, "The task of language separation is something they (children) are prepared to do from birth – with bilinguals increasingly adept over time."

As parents we should not worry about our newborn children learning multiple languages. They are prepared for this task, which is often not easy for adults. The children's brain works different than ours, and they do not feel overwhelmed as we do. We should not be afraid to start teaching them languages.

Read also an interview with Janet Werker, which was conducted by François Grosjean in the article "How do Bilingual Infants Separate their Languages? Language discrimination and separation in bilingual infants"

You might also like reading:

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help? 

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.  

9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through.

Should I correct my child speaking?

The Best Way to Start Building Your Bilingual Child's Vocabulary Is by Taking Your Baby On a Stroll. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

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

Drawing and wood toys for language learning
I  was working on the computer when my daughter came with her wood animals in hands and sat on my laps.
We started playing with her toys saying what they are doing and where they are going to, and suddenly I picked a piece of paper and a marker that my son left before and started drawing with my daughter.

I made a blue river with green fields for her cow, a barn for her pink pig, dirt for them to have a bath. We went wild! I was drawing and we were making up the stories about what her toys do and where they are going.

Just by chance I discover a simple game that is so beneficial to the language development. You mix material objects (the toys), art and your imagination! This makes the game so special and fun.

I will do it again for sure!

You might also like reading:

Walking with your bilingual baby and showing him the world
"No English!" Motivation is the key.  
How much time do we have to influence a child's minority language development? 
How to read to a baby? Advice for parents of monolingual, bilingual, trilingual or multilingual children.  
What language should I speak to my child in public? - Multilingual parent dilemma.

Monday, July 15, 2013

"No English!" Motivation is the key.

Just a couple of days ago I read a very interesting opinion published on the opinion pages of NY Times with a title: No English! A mother, who is an English teacher at  an university in Madrid, tells her story of trying to raise her son bilingual. The things did not go smooth for her and now she stopped speaking English to her son and switched to Spanish. 

The are two ways of seeing this article. One: it is a story about a failure to teach a child the second language, and the other: it is a story about stress free joyful communication with your child. Yes! Stress free as to raise your child to be bilingual or multilingual is a lot of work for the parents. The parents need to be ready for this task right from the day the child is born and keep working with the child by speaking, reading, developing his language skills even when they would like to have time just for themselves.

It is good if one can hire someone to help with either household or raising the children or even both, but if one can not... All the strain falls on the parent. He or she needs to be a good language model to the child, good housekeeper, good spouse. Plus there is a constant pressure from the community, possible lack of friends. 

We should not judge the mother for not continuing with the task of raising her son bilingual. She wants to be happy and live the life together with her son and not seeing him as one of her students. The true is, at list in my case, I am almost like a teacher with my children. I would love to take a break, but for me it is like a new project at work. I enjoy it and would like to succeed, so I do as much as I can.

Everyone needs to have a goal and a reason why to teach the child your mother tongue and that should keep you motivated.

I speak four languages myself. Only one was given to me as a "present" from the parents and the other three I have been learning myself for the last 14 years. Sadly, I do not speak the language I was taught at school; otherwise, it would be the fifth. Learning a language later in life is not an easy task and requires time, which often we do not have.

I know what it means watching movies and readying books in the original language. All the languages are so particular and transfer different feelings in some special way. There are so many Russian poets and writes whose books I would like my children to be able to enjoy.  The richness of epithets, metaphors, comparison in the Russian language works even in children's books is amazing. I would like my children to open this wonderful world and have different visions. I teach them Russian keeping that in mind.

Monday, July 8, 2013

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

You are abroad and talking to your friends in your mother tongue. The first thing you realize is that the way you just constructed the sentence can not possibly fit the word you just intended to use in your language. Ideally you should rephrase everything again, but you just replace the mother tongue word with the English one or another one from some other language that you both know. Everyone understands, no sweat.

This situation and code switching in general cause no problem until you need to either work using your mother tongue, or  teach your child to speak your language and that language is a minority one.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Should I correct my child speaking?

When my son started saying his first words, I remember I asked myself: Should I correct my child speaking? It is probably a typical question of all the parents who either they raise a monolingual, bilingual or multilingual child.

My answer now is Yes! Definitely and especially if you are the ONLY language model for your child. If you correct your child speaking from the time he pronounces his first words he will accept it as a norm. If you wait too long and start correcting him too late, the child might feel self - conscious about talking.

When my son started speaking I was repeating the first the words after him, articulating the way they should be pronounced. Later I was modeling the correct sentences.

Most of the time I just use the correct words in my question or in reply by saying "Oh! it is true. ... " , using the correct sentence instead of dots. When no hidden ways of corrections are possible -- however, it is important to correct -- I just say "You should say: ....".  I use the direct correction sparely and prefer to use the indirect ways instead.

When I feel my children are receptive, I ask them to look at my mouth to see the tongue positioning when I pronounce sounds and words. The kids like to repeat after me. I do not insist though.

It is clear that children can not pronounce all the words and build the sentences correctly right away. It is important to remember not to over correct them. By the age of 5, independently on the language they speak, the pronunciation should in most cases be fully established. I still have one year ahead of me to help my child to master his.

There are two very important rules when you correct somebody (a baby or an adult):

whatever you do, never repeat the incorrect word, phrase or sentence. Just say the correct way right away.  Modeling the correct sentences works best.

And do not interrupt a speaking person in the middle of the sentence. The interruption can have adverse affect on child's talking. It is important to maintain his words flow.

You might also like to read:

Ha ha ha or correcting your child's pronunciation problem.

Bilingual child: when to start reading?

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?

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

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

Monday, June 24, 2013

Being proactive in exposing your bilingual child to the new vocabulary

I find it good to be proactive in introducing vocabulary to my already bilingual children.

If you see your child is playing, let's say, with boats, try to provide the needed vocabulary in the language you are exposing your child to. Play, talk, read books about boats, show cartoons and documentaries on the topic. He will absorb the words faster as he uses them in his games over and over again.

It is always better that your child learns new words in the minority language before they will be introduced in the country language. Thus, your child will use them at the back of his mind even when he is immersed in the majority language environment (kindergarten).

You might also like reading:

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

Monday, June 17, 2013

What language do multilingual siblings speak to each other?

The two questions that I have right now are: what language my children will speak to each other after the younger child goes to a kindergarten? And most importantly: What can I do to support them to speak the minority language, in this case Russian?

I have an almost 2 year old daughter and a 4 year old son. As of today they speak Russian to each other, with some occasional Italian.

Knowing that I have little time to teach my children Russian, I started early to develop their language skill.  My strong influence on them will end, when my daughter goes to a kindergarten. There she will spend time with the Italian speaking teachers and friends joining in it to my son. They will be in different classrooms; however, for one year they will be sharing the kindergarten's play ground. I expect all these factors will push them to speak Italian to each other.

At home I keep control of the situation by my presence. The children speak Russian to each other when I am around. It works beautifully. I periodically check on them asking some questions so that their mind does not wonder in the languages but stays on one,  in my case Russian.

I hope that spending the summer vacation together will create a better bond to Russian as well.

If their are parents out there that know other tricks to stimulate siblings to speak a minority language to each other, please share with us your secrets to success.

You might also like reading:

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

How to read to a baby? 

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

Monday, June 10, 2013

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

Our children grow becoming more independent, detached from us, parents. At about age of 4 children have their new world established with the best friends, teachers they love, whom they try to copy.

This world is growing, flourishing alongside our children. From this point of time, the vocabulary in the country language increases with a greater speed; thus, majority language starts slowly taking over.

This fact needs to be taking into a consideration when we set our language goals and develop an action plan for a child. The understanding that we have limited time, about 4 years after birth, can help us to choose the best possible action plan.

We might need to sacrifice ourselves in some way: no TV, no music in the majority language, if the child is around. It will pay off later.

I had to create dominantly Russian language environment at home, by providing various entertainment to the children: Russian children's songs, beautiful Russian and foreign, doubt in Russian, cartoons and the pillar - Russian books that I read them everyday two times a day, when possible. I speak English to my husband, that also limits the majority language "intake".

My son is 4 and his Russian vocabulary allows him to speak to me without borrowing words from the dominant language - Italian. The reality is that it will change at some point and he will start code-switching. The only thing I am confident in is that the later he starts, the better it is for him.

Update: My son is 5 years old - still no code-switching and can say the same for 3 years old daughter.

You might also like:

Being proactive in exposing your child to the new vocabulary 

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

Teaching the letter sounds before letter names.

How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Ha ha ha or correcting your child's pronunciation problem.

Baby mouth
Oh, No! My child pronounces some letters wrong. Should I bring him to a speech therapist? He is just 4 years old.

Don't run to a therapist yet! Many of the pronunciation problems could be corrected  by parents themselves, as I learnt by trying to do so.

My son did not pronounced the Russian letter "X" at all. It was produced closer to the Russian "C" at the front of the mouth instead of throat. I tried to find a combination of the consonant (Russian"X" sounds like "H" in "Harley") and vowel that makes the use of the same place in the mouth for sound production and I came out with Russian "XA" (means laughter "Ha ha ha" in English). We were practicing this Russian laughter sound "XA xa xa xa". It was so much fun for him, so after a week he told me:  Mama, listen " XA", "Xarek" (means "weasel" in English)! His pronunciation was perfect! I had to remind him for a month or so about the correct pronunciation, as he could not control it in the speech all the time. The fact is that the problem is gone.

I am sure in your language you can do the same, as I also was able to find a letter combination in words, to practice the correct pronunciation for Italian sounds for my American friend.

Do not push it too much, try once if the child does not want to repeat after you, take a week break, and in the mid time just find something to read that has some of those problematic letters in it.


Monday, May 27, 2013

The Best Way to Start Building Your Bilingual Child's Vocabulary Is by Taking Your Baby On a Stroll.

mother walking with stroller

You are new to the country, and do not have friends yet. You have your little baby, whom you decided to raise bilingual, and nobody else to share your thoughts with. Do not be sad, surely you will find new friends soon....But right now you can spend more time developing your child memory, attention and vocabulary by talking with him while you take have all the time in the world.

Even if he is still a six month old baby, you can start showing him the wonders of this world. Try to look at the things around you as if you have never seen them. That is exactly how he looks at everything. All is new to your child and you should name what he sees.

Look together at the different shapes and colors around you. The beautiful cuts of the  leaves of the trees, flowers, insects running on the ground. And even if you live in a city and you are surrounded by buildings don't be discouraged: find interesting objects around you. A city surely provides with great "study material" as well. There are different brands of cars, shops with all sort of geometrical figures, buildings, so on and so forth. Name them all for your child.

Always remember not to judge what you see. A pipe sticking out from the ground could be an interesting object for a kid, as well as a car falling apart or a tree without leaves. These images are certainly ugly to you, but will be undoubtedly interesting to your child.

Do not rush, stop to show and talk about every little thing you pass by. Remember you are also teaching your child new words in your language (the minority language)!

You might also like reading:

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

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

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?  

Monday, May 20, 2013

Naming languages with their proper name.

My son hardly ever mixed the languages. I see that my daughter is doing not so bad either. I am thinking, what if this is also because I tried to be very clear to them from day one and called the languages with their proper name?

I started with saying that the father speaks Italian and I speak Russian. When I speak to your father I speak English. I made an example of how one word sounds in different languages. When I was talking to my friends and relatives I would name the language we were speaking. Skype was very helpful here as well.

Later I was adding a little geography, saying that in America, people speak English, in Germany people speak German, in Russia people speak Russian, in Italy - Italian, and that there are many other languages. I would tell what language the people whom children know (grandparents, cousins, ants, uncles, friends) speak. We always need to remember that our children do not have a base knowledge yet.

I might be somewhat mistaken, but  clarity will do only good to your child.

We can avoid using abbreviation like "father's language" and "mother's language". After all our children learn from us, and if we say that language is Italian, they will get it, and there is no need for simplification. The kids are smart.

You might also like reading:

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

Monday, May 13, 2013

Virtual babysitters or Preserving
grandchild - grandparent bond
and keeping up the minority language with video calling

Grandparents talk to grandchild on Skype

I love modern technology!
One mouse click and your loved ones are in the living room with you.
The distance between people shortens in a second making the grandchild-grandparents relationship possible to develop even when they are far away from home.

The grandparent-grandchild bond is very important especially for a child's minority language development. The grandparents can help you in your task of multilingual education. Grandchildren can see and talk to the grandparents, share their special moments (for example, Birthdays, New Years, you name it!). Grandparents can always be  near your the child from the infancy to the adulthood.

Skype logoSince the children were born, my video calling usage increased dramatically.  My parents help me a lot via Skype. They keep the kids happy and occupied with activities when I am busy preparing a meal or stepping out to get a mail. Both of my kids liked to be soothed to sleep by the grandma while sitting in the swing, it was giving something special to both of them and for me - some free time to do the house errands.

I lost count of how many evenings the grandparents were watching after and reading a bed story to the older kid, while I was feeding and putting to sleep the little one. 

My parents talk, read, sing, play musical instruments via Skype.

Do not underestimate what your parents or relatives can do for you from far away. Try to connect with them more often using video calling.

You might also like:

Raising a Bilingual Child : Setting Your Priorities From The Start. 

Check out Kids' Radio Stations from around the world!  

9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through.

Are you a multilingual family and looking for a playdate in your language? Click here to find it now!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Your Toddler Doesn't Like to Read? Advice for parents of monolingual, bilingual or multilingual children.

You are on a couch snuggling with your baby totally excited to read him a new book. You did not even finish a page and suddenly your child is up and running around, grabbing toys. This probably happened to many of us. But why did it happen?

The first thought: he did not like the book. However, later your child will be reading it or, even more surprisingly, he will be asking you to read it again and again.

Most likely he does not understand the meaning of the words. In fact, reading is simple for us adults since we already have a rich vocabulary. But how about our little babies?

I decided to use the "do not stop reading right away" rule.

When my son moves and is not sitting on my knees, I just keep reading. Initially, I was more "reading for myself": I practiced intonations and master different voices. I could notice that my son was still listening.

Calling back to look at the picture and inventing sounds to accompany the text do bring back the attention.

You can also rephrase a story using simple words your baby already knows and every time you read it try to add more words to it. 

Consecutive readings become easier, because the child already heard and understood some of the words.

Children learn new words from us through conversation and reading, that will help tremendously to increase the minority language vocabulary.

Also, very important: before buying a book check if the pictures match the text. That way you can point out the words on the picture while reading.  I was surprised to find out that there is a big number of books for kids with beautiful pictures that hardly represent the text....I find that really non-educational.

That said, I wish a fun reading to everyone!

Hooray! My 1st book for little readers  was published and is available on Amazon




Buy on  AMAZON UK:

Would you like to be 1st to know about my new book projects? Leave your email here and I will contact you as soon as a new book is ready.  Talk to you soon! :)

You might also like reading:

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

Bilingual child: when to start reading to your baby? 

Kids Radio Stations from Around the World!

How to develop early phonemic awareness and reading readiness by using language play with kids from birth to preschool.  

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

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

Life story: A Journey to Multilingualism 

9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through.

Books on how to raise a trilingual child:

Language Strategies for Trilingual Families: Parents' Perspectives (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Andreas Braun  - Kindle  - Paperback

Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Xiao-lei Wang  - Kindle - Paperback

Trilingual by Six: The sane way to raise intelligent, talented children by Lennis Dippel MD - Kindle - Paperback

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bilingual child: when to start reading to your baby?

My kids learn how to read words, when they were about 3 years old. When parents ask me when I started reading aloud to them and seek an advice on when they should start reading to their own child, I answer  - as early as possible and before your baby learns to roll over. Do you know why?
Baby readingThe moment a child rolls over the world becomes so big for him, that a book, no matter how colorful  it is, would be just one of the hundreds of objects he briefly looks at. 

I could see this happening with my young daughter. I missed that period and had to wait about 4-5 month until she was ready for serious reading.

If your child learns how great the books are before exploring the world on the tummy,  you will have his attention while reading also during those exiting discovery times. Reading during those month will allow him to build a richer vocabulary and create a solid base for correct speaking.

I started reading to my first child when he was 4 month old. However, I did it not for him but for myself.  Since I mostly spoke foreign languages  I had difficulties starting speaking the minority language - Russian - to him.

Try it ! Reading is so much fun and the results are amazing!
According to Dr. John Hutton of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center , "... reading exposure during the critical stage of development prior to kindergarten seems to have a meaningful, measurable impact on how a child's brain processes stories and may help predict reading success."   
Researches found increased activity in the areas of the brain that are essential to verbal language development and reading, and to imagery. Thus, confirming once more the already existing theories on importance of visualization in understanding stories and developing reading skills.

Does it make any sense to you? Would you start reading to your child earlier?
and if you did, what do you think about it?

You might also like :

How to read to a child? Advice for parents of monolingual, bilingual or multilingual children.

9 Steps of Raising a Bilingual Child Successfully. How to Start So You Don't Feel Giving It Up Halfway Through.

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

Naming languages with their proper name.  

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Exposing our kids to languages

Narrow street in Italy
Since our multilingual family lives in Italy, Italian is the language kids hear most of the time.  It is also the language they speak with the father, who is Italian. I am the mother and speak Russian with them and English with my husband.

I already see some advantages for bilingual kids hearing the parents speaking a third language:
  • understanding conversation on intuitive level (more about Passive listening and language learning);
  • pronouncing words correctly ( I started teaching my children English once a week);
  • decreasing the exposure to the majority language

and I hope later at school our children will be able to learn English fast as well.

We have chosen a "one parent - one language" approach; however, we both read English books to our kids and sing English songs from time to time. 

Multilingual family language knowledge:
Mother - Russian, English , Italian, German
Father - Italian, English, German, Russian, French
Children - Russian, Italian, some English

What are your language groups?

Books on Raising Trilingual Kids

Language Strategies for Trilingual Families: Parents' Perspectives (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Andreas Braun  - Kindle  - Paperback

Growing up with Three Languages: Birth to Eleven (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Xiao-lei Wang  - Kindle - Paperback

Trilingual by Six: The sane way to raise intelligent, talented children by Lennis Dippel MD - Kindle - Paperback


You might also like reading:

 Life Story: A Journey to Multilingualism.

Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?  

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

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

Monday, April 15, 2013

How To Raise a Bilingual or Multilingual child. Where to start?

Woman expecting bilingual child

Are you expecting a baby?

You have many questions:
What I need to do first?
What language should I speak to my bilingual baby?
I speak several languages, should I pass them all onto my child? Should I bring up my baby trilingual or multilingual?
Are three language too much for my baby's brain?

Here you will find information that will help you answer all this questions and make some important  decisions regarding your family's language strategy in the future.

Let's start from the first steps of bilingual baby planing that you should follow before your baby is born.

1. Plan ahead.  
Yes! If you are thinking to bring up a bilingual baby you should plan ahead and  have   your family language strategy  figured out and ready, while your baby is still in your womb.

2. Read related literature.
There are many interesting books written about raising bilingual children that help to understand what method is best for your particular case.
I used as a guide line  Raising a Bilingual Child  by Barbara Pearson & 7 Steps to Raising a Bilingual Child by Naomi Steiner ( it is more for parents who would like to teach a language they do speak little or don't speak). You can also find more information on Language Strategies page and in the articles, written by me and by other parents on  this website.
And check the books I reselected here.

3. Discuss your ideas with your partner.
It is important to do as you might discover that your partner has a different view.

4. Write the action plan.
The languages you would like to teach. Set the minimum and maximum goal for each of them.

5. Wait for your baby to come out and go head and implement it!
Good Luck!

Articles to prepare you for your bilingual baby:

(click on either a link or a picture to read the article)

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help?

Do you and your partner speak to each other in a language different from the one you plan to speak to your child? Planting a language tree. Does passive language learning work?


Get inspired by reading bilinguals and multilinguals life stories:

Life Story: Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way?  
Life story: A Journey to Multilingualism.

Life Story: A language story that spans two centuries.

Are you still uncertain how many language to speak to your baby ? or Do you wonder how many languages can a baby learn?

Pros and Cons of raising a trilingual child

One Parent Speaks Two Languages. Raising a Trilingual Child. 

Are you a non-native speaker and would like to raise a bilingual child?


Non-native Speaker Raising Bilingual Children. Is It Doable?