Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: April 2015


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

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

I already wrote an article in regards of a parent, who stopped speaking the minority language to her son: "No English! Motivation is the key". Recently I read another article published in The New Republic -  "For Three Years, I Spoke Only Hebrew to My Daughter. I Just Gave It Up. Here's Why".

The author, who is a father and a senior editor at The New Republic, stopped speaking the minority language ( Hebrew) to his three years old daughter.

He lists many reasons why he decided to stop speaking his heritage language to his child

   - Different personality in heritage language vs country language. (He find himself not as funny in Hebrew as in English.)

   - Parental competition for attention.

   - Parent identity issues.

But if you read the article, you can also find OTHER REASONS , the author prefers not to talk about them as much.

   - Bilingual child's resistance to speaking minority language.
As he says,  at age of 3, 5 years his "...daughter understands Hebrew and will even speak it under duress."   Under duress means under pressure or force. 

  - Lack of vocabulary for communication on different topics.

"But the older my daughter got, the less plausible the whole routine felt. Last fall, she started going to pre-school five days a week. Like any parent, I was keen to know what she’d been up to all day."... It also occurred to me that I was getting nowhere—my daughter was clamming up."

She was not saying things just because she did not know the words in Hebrew. Her life at preschool is all in English. Someone needed to tell her how to say in minority language all what she was experiencing.

Would you ever stop speaking your heritage language, if the child is responsive and eager to do so? Probably not.
In most of the cases a child does not want to speak the parents language just because s/he does not know the words. This is the initial stage and later more reasons grow on this one.

Parents, who live outside of their language home country, can not just speak to their child and expect that the child will pick up the language the same way other children, who live in the country and learn their country language, do.

You need to start early with activities related to language development , such as reading aloud and direct interaction with your child, and be persistent in your efforts.

If your goal is to have a child who speaks your heritage language fluently, you or someone else ( nanny, school, tutors) has to work on it.  And work hard.  Sorry, there is no other way, if you are the only parent who tries to pass on your mother tongue and your goal is to have a child who speaks the language and not just understands it.

9 steps of raising bilingual child successfully- how to from Trilingual children

Here are the steps of successfully raising a bilingual child, the way I see them:


0. Set your priorities from the day 1.

How do you prioritize the language learning? How do you figure out what’s important? This article will help you setting your priorities.

1. Start speaking to your child early and use any opportunity to do so.

The early you start the better. As I already mentioned in the language strategies for parents, your child can hear you speaking even when he is in the womb. Ok. I was not speaking to my child  my heritage language so early, but for some of you it might be a useful piece of information. You can start preparing yourself and your child :)

The best way to start building  your child's vocabulary and maximize the language learning is by taking your bilingual baby on a stroll. 

It is also a good idea to keep speaking your language to your child in public.  

2. Start reading to your child early. Read a lot. Everyday. Several times a day.

For tips read:

Bilingual child: when to start reading to your baby?

Bilingual children: How to read to a baby?

Child rips books apart ?  Alicia found a way to keep books safe and to read to her child.

3. Start  preparing your child for reading  and  teach your child to read in minority language  early

While your child is still small, letter learning will be just like another game for him. Do not miss this unique opportunity!
Read these articles on the topic:

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

Teaching the letter sounds before letter names.

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

4. Be proactive in introducing new vocabulary. 

If you see your child is interested in 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.  
If you see your child learned something new in the community language, rush to introduce the same in minority language.

5. Draw together with your child. 

This is time when you can talk, learn new words, practice writing letters and words. Experiment: Mixing art, material objects and imagination - a recipe for language development 

6. Sing to your child and with your child.

Small children love music and songs. They are able to learn so many words just from this fun activity.

Looking for nursery songs in Russian?
Русские колыбельные песни. Колыбельная песня для двойняшек.

7. Be creative.

You would need to come up with new activities for extending your child's vocabulary on different variety of subjects. Experiment and look for things that can trigger new words learning and/ or a conversation.

8. Use media.

Differentiating the ways a child receive the language input is always good. However, you should try to avoid using media before your child turns 2 years old. Researchers tell us it is not good for a child to watch television at this age. Plus small children learn best from direct interactions with them. However, after this age, media in minority language (such as games, cartoons and movies ...) can provide a lot of language support. Children learn more about your culture and remember many words and expressions from the new digital world you open to them.  But remember, your child still needs you!  I like the way Maria puts it in her life story: “Life Story of one family. Educational Apps – How they affect multilingual development of small children?
Also do not forget about radio! Your children can listen to it while they play. Here is the list of children's radio stations from around the world. 

9. ? What would you add? Leave a comment bellow!


I wish you best of luck on your multilingual journey! It is such a joy to see your child speaking your language, especially when you don’t live in your home country!

What does help YOU successfully pass your mother tongue onto your bilingual child?

Contact me to be interviewed or join others in the Life story series by sharing your own or your multilingual family story.

You might also like:

Plan to raise a bilingual or multilingual child, but not sure where to start? - Click to read

Get inspired by reading  bilinguals and multilinguals Life Stories

Can babies distinguish foreign languages?

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

Should I correct my child speaking?

Inspirational Quotes about Language for Bilinguals and Language Learners 

Bilingualism and speech delay. How can you help? 

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

Naming languages with their proper name. 

Language learning resources:

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

Kids Books in Russian

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

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2015

Inspirational Quotes about Language for Bilinguals and Language Learners

Nelson Mandela said, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." "But what if you do not speak his language??? - Sing!" adds Galina Nikitina from Raising a Trilingual Child

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

trilingual child pros and cons


Raising a Trilingual Child Is Not Always a Bed of Roses.

by Nathalie Vieweger

I was raised trilingual from birth. My mother was Dutch, my father - German and the community language was (often) English. I am a TCK - Third Culture Kid.

I am now raising a trilingual child myself (English, Dutch and Spanish) as his father is English and we live in Spain.

I used to go to international schools, and I’m a teacher at a bilingual school, so I have seen my fair amount of bilingual children. Read my full story:  Trilingual mama - trilingual kid. Why would it be any other way?

As much as I am a supporter of raising a child multilingual, I also see many parents struggle with their decision to raise their child in more than one language. Generally information and articles one can find on trilingualism are predominantly pro raising a child with more than one language. They seem to just surpass the struggles involved in a trilingual upbringing.

I have decided to show both sides of a (in this case) trilingual upbringing.

Bearing in mind that what I am writing is based on my experiences and my opinion I invite you to have a look at my perspective on this matter.

Looking back as an adult

I can not express how grateful I am for having been brought up trilingually.

I have learned the languages effortlessly and have had many opportunities other (monolingual) peers did not have. My being “native” in three languages looks fantastic on my CV and it has opened doors that would otherwise have been shut.

My personal identity is based on my three languages. The languages of my thoughts and dreams vary in different situations. The languages I speak are linked to the culture they belong to, having broadened my view of the world. I have become more open-minded (I believe) than my peers.

My nicest memory of being trilingual must be going to a restaurant in the Netherlands with three of my (multilingual) friends. With four of us at the table mixing French, English, German and Dutch effortlessly, and the conversation making sense to all of us, we noticed being stared at by all the other visitors of the restaurant. I think all four of us realized at that moment, how special our conversation was to others, and we couldn’t help but be filled with pride. Being unique in this way certainly is a beautiful thing.

Also, thanks to my upbringing, I have been able to learn a fourth language with less effort than a monolingual person would have. 

Having said that, and again pointing out how grateful I am, must admit that there have been quite a lot of downsides to my trilingual upbringing.

Mainly, the fact that I do not speak any of the three languages completely accent-free or flawlessly. That is to say, I do not have a strong accent, and native speakers of either of the languages say I almost sound like a native… almost… in all three languages !!

Because of that, many times people have asked me where I was from (a difficult question anyway for TCKs, and moreover trilingual ones).
Apparently I am not a native in any language.
Maybe the point of not being completely native has had an effect on the way I see myself as well as the way others see me. At work sometimes I get complimented about the difficult sentence structure I use (any monolingual person would be downright insulted), with friends I often struggle to find the nuances in certain discussions, making me sound tactless or just not very smart.

I struggle to separate the languages fully, so I translate proverbs or sayings literally into the other language, or I use complicated long German sentence structures while writing Dutch. Making it look like I don not grasp the concept of a full stop.

I personally believe something gets lost along the way, the thing native people just grasp. Many of my friends at the European school struggle with the same issues now they are adults.

I would say being a trilingual person has filled me with a sense of pride riddled with a faint feeling of incompetence.

Observing my trilingual son

So now I am on road to raising my own trilingual child.

My son is 2.5 now, and I am proud to say he is in fact becoming pretty trilingual. He is starting to differentiate the languages, speaking to his dad in English, speaking to me in Dutch and to his teachers in Spanish.

Am I proud of it? Very much so!

But the poor kid does struggle at times.

I sometimes wish he would be able to say what he wants to everybody, without having to think what language they understand. He excitedly wants to tell his dad that he has seen something, and then gets a confused look as an answer. He tries to tell his teacher he came to school by bike, she looks at him blankly, asking me to translate. The moment has gone and he goes off to do something else. I feel he is at times missing out on basic social interactions, and with that important connections to the people around him, that monolingual children naturally have. He seems to have to make an extra effort.
Obviously in the future he will be much more capable of separating the languages, but for now it is a bit of a downside.

Something I just recently noticed that is definitely a down-side of raising a trilingual child is the following: Very often my partner and I spend time together with our little boy. Making jokes, playing or reading books. As Daniël was not speaking a lot, we would usually both speak our own language to him. Recently Daniël has started speaking more…and there the conflict within him started. We were talking about pictures in a book when Daniël excitedly wanted to say something. He looked at Rich, then back at me, then back to Rich until he finally decided to talk in Dutch … to me. He most obviously had a bit of an issue deciding what language to speak, in the end leaving his dad out of the conversation. These loyalty-issues will come up more often until he realizes that we both understand English. I felt bad for him for feeling he had to chose between his mama or his dad.

Struggles for us as parents

As my partner doesn’t speak Dutch, we speak English together. When I speak to Daniël I generally speak Dutch. But when we are all together it seems a bit strange to first say something in Dutch to my son, and then translate it into English. Obviously, as he is just 2, we don’t really have any interesting, translation-worthy conversations.
But it won’t be long before either my partner feels left out, I translate a lot of our conversations, or I speak English to both in family situations.

In my opinion following the “trilingual rule-book” is secondary to all members of the family feeling comfortable when we are together.

Something else is speaking to your child in public in a minority language, when it sounds like gobbledygook to everybody. The Dutch language sounds like somebody is having a stroke - and a serious one. We get many looks from people when they hear us speak. Obviously that does not stop me from speaking to Daniël in Dutch. But I would be lying if I said it doesn’t make me feel awkward at times. I worry about Daniëls reaction to this in the future, at some point it will be humiliating for him.

What really gets me crabby however, are people correcting him. His Dutch and English being treated as if he is making a mistake. In a local bar he shows his car to the staff. He enthusiastically claims: “Car!!”. The staff shake their head and say “No Daniel, es un coche!!” as if he made a mistake.


Raising a trilingual child is not the easiest route to take. In the modern world full of mixed couples and expats it is, however, a necessary route for many.

If your main (or even only) goal is to make your child speak more than one language, it is not very complicated. Speak to your child in your language and expose him/her to it as much as possible.

Difficulties arise when

      the minority language is not spoken by both parents,

      the minority parent is uncomfortable speaking their language in public,

      the child finds it difficult to distinguish between the languages, or

      the child, as an adult feels incompetent in all languages.

My advice is ask yourself if you are willing to take the challenges of raising a child with more than one language.
Are you willing to be looked at in a strange manner by the community?
Are you willing to speak to your child in a language your spouse doesn’t understand?

I am, but up to a certain point.
The OPOL (one person one language) approach is something I strongly believe in. But I believe that the well being of all of my family members is far more important. I will, therefore, not always speak the minority language with my son.
I find it hard to accept the funny looks, when I speak gobbledygook with my child, but know it is the price I have to pay. I would have preferred to raise my little boy in one language, or two at the most, but our situation is what it is, and it being so, I am very proud of my little trilingual monkey/aap/mono. And I know he will be, as I am myself, very grateful for the gift of languages.

UPDATE 21/02/2018:

By now Daniel is 5 and very trilingual. The struggle stays the same (although my partner has learned some basic Dutch by listening to us speaking to each other. Daniels favourite language is Spanish (community language that we do not speak at home) his Dutch is near native and English is his weakest language. Having said that, he still does not feel embarrassed to speak Dutch to me in public (not thanks to the amount of people rudely staring at us in the bus). We still do a variation of OPOL but very flexible, sometimes using all three the languages in one conversation. I can conclude that it works, and am very happy we were flexible and am still proud of the ease of which this trilingual upbringing works. I think one mainly doubts during the first years, once the child responds to us, we become more secure we are doing the right thing. Wishing you all the best of luck during your journey of the gift of languages.

Books on Raising Trilingual Kids

Language Strategies for Trilingual Families: Parents' Perspectives (Parents' and Teachers' Guides) by Andreas Braun  - E-book  - Book

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

Trilingual by Six: The sane way to raise intelligent, talented children by Lennis Dippel MD - E-book - Book


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.

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

Bilingual Multilingual families Find a playdate in your language

You might also like reading

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

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

One parent speaks two languages. Raising a trilingual child.

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

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

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

Listen to  kids radio in your language ! 

Still undecided what language to speak to your child? Read about possible language strategies.


And read my answers to parents questions in Question and Answer series.

So excited! My first book was published and available on Amazon!  in Russian language (КТО Я?) and  
in Italian language (CHI SONO IO?)

View on AMAZON or visit my author's page.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Visiting Italy in Spring. Your picture guide.

Have ever you wonder where you should go for vacation this spring? My answer is ITALY!

With not so many tourists around (the country starts getting packed from May on wards) you get to experience the gorgeous Italian spring just like a native!!!

I know what springs are like in Russia, Germany and the States. Spring in Italy is actually a real season that lasts long! The Italian spring colors will leave an imprint in your memories .

What are you waiting for? Just take a break from cold to indulge with some sun and colors!

My picture tour will help you to get some inspiration :)

Do you see plants, flowers that you know? When do they bloom in your country? Leave a comment with the country name and the plant/ flower name in your language.


NOTE: Pictures are taking in the Northern part of Italy. Please contact me, if you'd like to use any of these pictures.

Acacia dealbata or Mimosa (March)

Almond tree blossoms (March)

Bumble bee and blooming tree (March)

Flowering Rosmary (March) 


Reb Robin (March)

Primula flowers  (March)

Dandelion (March)

Calla (March)

White wildflower (March)

Hairy Violet (March)

Cherry tree blossoms (April)

Pear tree blossoms (April)

Globularia punctata (May)


Wild Viola (May)


More photos to come ...

NOTE: Pictures are taking in the Northern part of Italy. Please contact me, if you'd like to use any of these pictures.

You might like reading:

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

Pros and Cons of Raising a Trilingual Child.

Listen to Kids Radio in your language! Great list of radio stations for kids.