Google+ Raising a Trilingual Child: 2017


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Raising a Trilingual Child: How NOT to do it.

OK, I have to warn you from the beginning. This is a “true story”. Not only true, but also a pride, prejudice, pain, gain, failure, and finally getting the grips kind of story. Got your attention? Cool. Listen up. I will give you a secret on how “not to raise” your trilingual child, so that you can probably skip the “failure part” from your own story.

Yes, finally after a long battle over “theory and practice”; I can say that I am a proud mother of a trilingual. Over the 4 years, this got me on the edge of mental failure – especially trying to find a “method” that fits our family, trying to keep that method within the family, and trying to “ignore” the super parents around who kept blab blab blab’ing on “how natural it is in their family”, “how fast the kids absorb 3,4,5,6,7 languages (no *hitting, I met an African mama who kept all 7 languages at home!) etc.

Raising a trilingual child: how not to do it

Ok, now a flashback on who I am. I am a psychologist.Not only a random one (unfortunately), I am a “shrink” and a “neuropsychologist”. Yeah baby. I thought I read it all, I could just use my knowledge and get through this business of raising a trilingual. Easy-peasy. Not really. That is the first piece of information I will give now: “Do not read too much, especially after the child is born”. Why? Because you will get lost in theory and surprised how different it is in reality. Skip that part. Google “OPOL technique” and see how you lost from the beginning: “One Parent, One language, Never mix” simply does not work with more than 2 languages and only 1 parent. Gosh its sooo easy to raise a bilingual, right? (Sorry guys, you do a great job, just pure jealousy here).

The problem with theory is; you tend to forget the basic cliche: “every child is different”. Yes, there are supposed to be some super talented kids around who absorb languages like “you stuff yourself with chocolate in bathroom when your 2-year old is having a meltdown in her room”, but most children are not talented that way.

My child was an exception of theory. She was raised 3-lingual until age 1,5. Me speaking Turkish, daddy speaking German with her and we speak English when we all were together. The first year was easy since there were no expectations of her talking back. The second year, I realized she was far beyond her developmental stage. First time mothering plus being a neuropsychologist hit me hard, ladies and gents, and I started comparing and contrasting my kid. Second advice: Do not do it. Why? It only makes you miserable. I got panicked. She was not gonna talk, EVER.

So what did I do? I went to her pediatrician who was obviously an “expert” in speech development (Nooooot!) who told me “yeah, it’s delaying, not normal” (some doctors really fail in human psychology, right?). So I thought, “Oh no, all the old and wise ladies who stopped me on bus-stops were right! (We call them Oma-Police here, they are those grannies who are always worried about your child being outside without a hat). The brain on development is having hard time, lets make things a bit easier for poor child” and whoooop I dropped the 3rd language. I did! Yes.

And she talked.

Of course.

She talked, but not because I dropped the 3rd language, because it was her personal developmental point of starting to talk. Gosh, she talked and talked... and talked. But she talked nonsense! It was impossible to understand her “3-languages in same sentence” talk unless you can speak all those languages. The books said “it’s a phase, keep on answering her in your own language, she will know soon whom to talk with which language”. But when? I was devastated.. What was I doing wrong that she was just not getting this trilingualism?!

Let me tell you. I was believing theory and other mothers too much! They all told me “yes, sure, ours is trilingual and it’s just so natural and easy” and I believed. I thought I was the only mother who sucked at this trilingualism business and my child was the only one who didn’t get it. But in reality, people just tell you what they believe, not the “brutal” reality. They usually say “sure, she is trilingual” when the child understands all those languages, yet can not speak them properly. Or when she mixes, jams, plays around. Or even when her nanny speaks a language, they assume the child is automatically trilingual! I even met a mother who believed she was raising a trilingual because she was watching TV in language X for 1 hour every day!!! And me, I only accept a child is trilingual when that child speaks ALL three languages without mixing, forming grammatically correct sentences with rich vocabulary. In this sense, are there any trilingual children (at least before Age 3-4) at all???? My answer: No. Never seen one.

So relax! Don’t be a dick head psychologist who questions everything until perfectionism.. Relax..

Until age 3, she lived all these VERY NORMAL phases of more than one mother language acquisition: she mixed, she developed her own rules, she tried using grammar of one with vocabulary of other, she formed logically correct yet linguistically super wrong sentences (this phase was really so much fun). Not so much fun but still normal phases such as stuttering, avoiding one or both or any languages for a long period of time (selective mutism) and being socially rejected due to lack of community language skills etc. Also, been there, done that. Of course when you are living it, it’s not fun. But they all pass eventually, just like all those growth spurts of babyhood or terrible twos pass. And somewhere between age 3 to 4, you realize that you have a child who can speak the community language as good as her peers PLUS at least one language better than them - to be honest, you may end up with a child who can speak at least one language better than you or your husband, too. ☺ Welcome to our boat, fellow parents of multicultural children.

Now let’s turn back to our “poor old 3rd language”, which I radically decided to drop for a while, at age 1,5, panicking my toddler will not speak any language at all. You know what, it showed up by itself at age 3,5! Without any effort, without any intention, to my surprise one day, she started speaking it with her grannies.. Just like that! I was shocked, speechless.. She was there, all by herself, cracking the codes of her looooong forgotten 3rd language! In only 1 month, where we had a long summer holiday with her grannies, she started showing interest in speaking Turkish. After a full month, she was speaking it! – Well, not perfect, but good enough to be able to play with children speaking only Turkish. Now, finally, at age four, she is “trilingual”. Isn’t it a success story? Hell, yeah!

But, to be honest, it was damn hard for us. We failed, got up, tried again, failed again, got up, tried again, failed again. Learned a lot on process. And its another story or multiple stories, I would love to share with you.. Common mistakes, common misunderstandings, common failures, common “I can not do it anymore on the loooong road of “creating a trilingual child”. If I dare to say “trilingual” at all.. I see our family as “on the road of trilingualism” still, because for me a true trilingual is someone who can speak all three languages fluently, in right context, without any (or minimal) mistakes. And well.. we have a looooong way reaching there. But, come on people, be honest! Who does not?! So, why not sharing our experiences, why not saving each other doing same mistakes, why not giving a hand to each other on this common road? Good idea? Then come up, join up!

To be continued.. ☺

Caren Schubert - MA developmental psychology and clinical nauropsychology

Ceren Schubert  - Contributing writer from Munich, Germany. She holds double Masters degrees in Developmental Psychology and Clinical Neuropsychology, who choose to give a break on her PhD career to be SAHM of two trilingual (to be) children. When she is not full time parenting; she is also an enthusiastic traveller off the beaten tracks, a passionate blogger, and enjoys being around open minded, colorful and multi cultural people.

She loves dogs a bit more than cats, malaga a bit more than vanilla ice cream, coffee a bit more than sleeping, and summer a lot more than winter. She also loves walking very long distances when she needs to think and sometimes (often) gets lost doing that.. Her latest “project” is learning Qigong, which she started just recently and loved a great deal!

Oh and, she dreams of writing a book one day.

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 of one?  Would you like to take part in the Multilingual Family Interview series ? You can contact me here.

Recommended Books for Parents Raising Trilingual Children

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:

kids radio stations for around the world in different languages
Click to listen to radio stations for kids from around the world!

simple way to motivate your bilingual trilingual child to speak your language
Click to read how you can motivate your multilingual child to speak YOUR language!

How to add one more language to your bilingual child - trilingual parent Q&A
Q&A: Trilingual parent: how to add one more language to a bilingual child.

how to raisie a trilingual child? family with one trilingual parent and monolungual spouse
Q&A: Trilingual parent and monolingual spouse.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Italian Christmas Decorations

When Italians start decorating for Christmas:

Traditionally Italians start decorating for Christmas in the beginning of December, on the day of the Immaculate Conception, which falls on December 8. However, lately many Italians started putting out Christmas decorations and lights as early as at the end of November.

1. Italian Christmas Decorations - Church

Church has an important part in Italian culture. Every single one is decorated and has a nativity scene display, that is called Presepe. You can find Presepe both inside and outside the church. Sometimes in a building in the near proximity.

Italian Christmas decorations near church

2. Italian Christmas Decorations - Nativity Scenes or Presepe 

Children and adults are passionate about building nativity scenes, that in Italian called Presepe.
Some Presepe are even animated!  There are also Live Nativity Scenes with real animals and people dressed in costumes.

3. Italian Christmas Decorations - Windows 

Italians are creative decorators and decorate for Christmas their house windows and balconies.

Italian Christmas Window Decorations

4. Italian Christmas Decorations - Doors and Entrances

There is almost no single door left without a decoration! Red color bows  and Christmas wreaths are used often this year.

5. Italian Christmas Decorations - Storefronts 

Stores beautiful Christmas decorations are another way to attract more customers during the winter holiday season. Christmas trees, lights and ornaments are everywhere, even on small town streets!

Do you feel like visiting Italy during this winter holiday season? - Then read this post to learn "Why You Should Visit Italy During Winter Holiday Season and Why You Should Not"

Interested to learn more about Italian Christmas Traditions?
How is Christmas celebrated in Italy?
Who brings Christmas presents in Italy and when?
What is a typical Italian Christmas meal?
And learn about 13 Italian Traditional Christmas desserts? - Then read  Italian Christmas Traditions!

Have you already got a calendar/planner for 2018? Check out this coloring calendar monthly planner that I created together with very talented Maria Soldatova.


Christmas in Different Lands 2017 | Multicultural Kid Blogs

Welcome to our fifth annual Christmas in Different Lands series! This year each participating blogger will focus on a different country, sharing a traditional dish and more about Christmas in that country. For even more glimpses of global Christmas celebrations, see our series from previous years (2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016) plus follow our Christmas board on Pinterest!

Celebrate Christmas Around the World Printable Pack from Multicultural Kid Blogs
Don't miss our other posts about Christmas in different lands, plus our printable pack Celebrate Christmas Around the World, on sale now!

Friday, November 24, 2017

2018 Coloring Calendar Monthly Planner

Have you thought about getting a calendar/planner to track your child's development? This year my 8 years old son asked me many questions for his school project. I was happy I made notes in a calendar and kept it all these years! So I was able to tell him when exactly he said his first word, when exactly he started walking ...

In a collaboration with an illustrator Maria Soldatova I created a 2018 Coloring Calendar / Monthly Planner that not only can help you stay organized, but also keeps you entertained!
2018 Coloring calendar monthly planner March
2018 coloring calendar monthly planner
Click to enlarge the image

Monday, November 13, 2017

Как вырастить билингва или трилингва? - Языковые стратегии для родителей.

Вы и/или ваш партнер разговариваете на нескольких языках и хотите вырастить маленького билингва или еще лучше полиглота. У вас уже есть список языков на которых вы бы хотели, чтобы ваш ребенок разговаривал. А что делать дальше и с чего начать пока не знаете.

Многие начинающие родители спрашивают себя:
1. На каком языке разговаривать с ребенком?
2. Когда начинать разговаривать с ребенком на выбранном языке?
3. На каком языке следует разговаривать другим членам семьи?
4. Надо ли что-то делать или просто разговаривать с ребенком?

Языковые стратегии.
Существуют две наиболее популярные стратегии обучения ребенка языкам в многоязычной семье:

1.Один родитель - один язык.
Эта стратегия подразумевает, что каждый член семьи говорит с ребенком только на одном языке. Например, мама русская, говорит с ребенком только по-русски, папа итальянец, говорит с ребенком только по-итальянски. Язык страны может быть или итальянский или русский или вообще третий, например, английский.

2. Дома один язык, а в обществе - другой.
Говорить дома на одном языке - языке меньшинства, а за его пределами - на языке страны где проживаете. Например, живя в Италии, члены семьи между собой всегда говорят на русском, а в обществе на итальянском.

3. Время или Место. 
Если вы планируете обучить ребенка еще и другим языкам, можно логически привязать их к дням недели или к определенным занятиям. Например, семья говорит только по-испански по воскресеньям или когда ребенок принимает ванну или за обедом. Таким образом, предлагая ребенку постоянный распорядок к которому он привыкнет и будет готов.

Ребенок может оказаться двуязычным, трёхъязычным, четырёхъязычным или полиглотом даже у родителей говорящих всего на одном языке, например, если семья переехала в другую страну и мотивирует ребенка на познавание новых языков и поддерживает уровень уже изученных.

Какой язык выбрать? На каком языке разговаривать с ребенком?

На этот вопрос нет однозначного ответа. Безусловно лучше всего говорить с ребенком на языке, которым вы владеете лучше всего. Обычно это родной язык. С моей точки зрения, точки зрения матери, родной язык более естественен при общении с ребенком, так как все колыбельные песни и слова, что вы слышали ребенком, сами собой возвращаются когда держишь ребенка на руках.

Возможно будет тяжело начать разговаривать с ребенком на родном языке, особенно, если вы давно его не использовали. Я испытала это на себе. Но не пугайтесь, у вас все получиться! Вам только надо начать разговаривать с ребенком с  самого рождения и язык к вам вернется, а странные ощущения исчезнут.

Может быть и такая ситуация: Вы по какой-то причине не считаете "полезным" ваш родной язык. И не хотите на нем разговаривать с ребенком. Прежде чем вы окончательно откажитесь от , казалось никому ненужного языка в пользу другого, спросите себя не окажется ли это препятствием для вашего ребенка при общении с родственниками. Особенно важно для ребенка общение с бабушкой и дедушкой. Не отнимайте у него радость общения с ними!

Если, хорошенько поразмыслив, вы все-таки решили отказаться от передачи ребенку вашего родного языка, вы можете поддержать вашего супруга или супругу и говорить с ребенком на его языке. Это в том случае если язык родителя отличается от языка на котором говорят в обществе, в стране где вы живете. Таким образом следуя стратегии "Дома один язык, а в обществе - другой" вы сможете вести спокойный разговор за столом без прерывания на переводы. Как это обычно происходит у нас.

Когда начинать разговаривать с ребенком на выбранном языке?

Чем раньше начнете, тем больше будет преимущество перед доминирующем языком, обычно это язык страны проживания. Так что активно разговаривайте с ребенком с момента рождения. А ближе к 6 месяцам можете начинать его знакомить с книгами. Время играет очень важное значение: чем больше вы сможете вложить в ребенка в первые годы, тем лучше результат.
О моем опыте раннего чтения, вы можете прочесть на английской версии сайта: Когда начать читать? и Как читать ребенку?

На каком языке следует разговаривать другим членам семьи?

Попросите бабушек, дедушек, теть и дядь поддержать вашего ребенка на пути к многоязычию и разговаривать с ним на языке меньшинства. Если кто-то из них говорит на других языках, вы можете попросить использовать только его при разговоре с вашим ребенком. Постоянство важно и здесь, объясните родственникам что вы от них ожидаете.

Достаточно ли просто разговаривать с ребенком чтобы передать родной язык живя в другой языковой среде?

Нет. Просто разговаривать с ребенком в данном случае будет недостаточно. Надо день за днем развивать словарный запас. Так что читайте ребенку как можно больше. Постоянно разговаривайте с ним с рождения и даже во время беременности. На основании исследований опубликованных в журнале по психологии Psychological Science Journal, младенцы с которыми во время беременности разговаривают на двух различных языках проявляют интерес к обоим языкам в отличие от одноязычных детей. Таким образом, обеспечивается внимание и легкость восприятия уже услышанных языков.
Перед вами так же стоит задача насколько возможно максимизировать контакт ребенка с языком.

Сколько времени надо разговаривать с  ребенком на языке?

Научно доказанных цифр для измерения достаточного языкового воздействия нет и нет гарантированного результата если скажем ваш ребенок будет в языковой среде 25-30 % времени. Вам надо просто запастись терпением и постоянно , день за днем, работать с ребенком, развивать его словарный запас, стараясь включать материал из все возможных жизненных ситуаций.
Если вы работаете, наймите няню говорящую на вашем языке. Поищите садик или школу, где язык будет поддерживаться. Вам надо разработать долгосрочный план с рождения и на многие годы вперед, который вы сможете менять с ростом вашего ребенка и в зависимости от текущей динамики в семье.

Пора в путь по дороге к двуязычию, а может быть даже к многоязычию!

Счастливого пути вам и вашим детям!

Книги о трехъязычии и трехъязычных детях

на английском:

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

на русском: 

Наши трехъязычные дети - Елена Мадден

Monday, July 31, 2017

Trilingual Parents: How Do You Choose Which Language To Speak To Your Child?

How Do You Choose Which Language To Speak To Your Child When Both Parents Are Trilingual (In The Same 3 Languages)?  
My Personal Story About Raising Trilingual Children

by Suzan Alakas

No, no, no! Ei! Yok! YOK!

Younger Daughter stamps her feet, crosses her arms and pushes out lower lip in a pouty defiance. She refuses to get in the car and sit in her car seat. Sigh. Here she goes again. It’s not enough for my 2 year old to be stubborn and object in one language... she has to go on a rant in 3 languages. But even though it’s completely frustrating in the moment (we are going to be LATE if she doesn’t get in and sit down), inside I’m proud of her language ability at such a young age.

Allow me to translate: Yok (Tatar) = No (English) = Ei (Finnish)

Did you guess that she is saying: No, no, no! No! No! NO!

How my husband and I became trilingual in the same 3 languages:

Hello! I’m Suzan Alakas. My first language was Tatar, an old Turkic language, spoken to me by both parents. We spoke Tatar at home, with my grandparents, and extended family/community.

I was born in Japan, and learned a little Japanese, but attended American pre-school and learned English at a young age. We moved to the US when I was 7 (unfortunately, most of my Japanese was forgotten). English quickly became the dominant language in my life, and still is to this day.

About 20 years ago I met my future husband, at a wedding, in California. He was visiting from Finland. He was also raised speaking Tatar at home, and learned Finnish growing up in Finland. Plus, like most Finns, he had a pretty high competency in English since he started studying it in 3rd grade.

After that wedding, we went our separate ways, but kept in touch, long distance. We primarily communicated in English, because we felt limited by our Tatar vocabulary. I also started learning Finnish with songs, reading the dictionary (yes, I’m a language nerd!!) and eventually studying Finnish in college. He would send a portion of his emails to me in Finnish, and I would sit and translate them, asking him questions about the words and expressions I couldn’t find in the dictionary. (This was before Google Translate existed.) As our relationship grew stronger, and we visited each others’ home countries more often; my Finnish improved, as did his English.

By the time we got married, settled in California, and had our Older Daughter, we were both highly proficient in Tatar, English and Finnish.

Suzan Alakas with her two daughters 

In what language environment will we raise our child? Our thought process.

We talked about this A LOT. We planned, discussed different scenarios, and reached a mutual agreement.

Our main options were the same as what you may have read about here:

  • One Parent, One Language (OPOL) – seemed like a good approach from the beginning.

  • Both speaking the same language (Minority Language at Home, ML@H) – Leaned towards Tatar, considered Finnish.

  • Speaking a language based on the day of the week (Time and Place strategy, T&P) – We quickly ruled out because it didn’t feel natural. We had tried this with just the two of us and it never caught on.

Living in the US, we felt our daughter would pick up English from her environment. So neither of us would be speaking that to her. That left Finnish and Tatar.

  • Was Finnish necessary since only 5 million people in the world speak it, and pretty much only in Finland?

  • Was Tatar necessary since it’s only spoken in Tatarstan, and quickly being replaced by Russian? Would we even be good enough to speak it to her, to teach it to her?

We decided that any language we can teach our child would be a benefit, and there were many reasons why we decided to include all 3 in her upbringing.

  • Tatar: speaking to grandparents and small Tatar community, retaining link to culture, food, songs in that language.
  • Finnish: keeping opportunities open for travel/business in Finland, possible move in Finland in the future. 

  • Benefit of knowing more than 1 language in general: becoming more culturally sensitive, increasing exposure to sounds/tones/grammar of other languages, making it easier to learn a foreign language later.

Lots of encouraging research on this, like:

“Most researchers agree that multilinguals have special characteristics which are different from those of monolinguals or even bilinguals. Multilingual speakers use languages as a resource in communication and they use the various languages in different ways according to their communicative needs and their interlocutors. Monolingual speakers use one language for every situation and have fewer resources available.” (Ruiz de Zarobe, 2015)

After we decided all 3 languages would be present in our child’s life, the decision became quite simple. We adopted the OPOL (One Parent, One Language) approach. Since I am not a native speaker of Finnish, I would speak Tatar and my husband would speak Finnish.
Learning to make traditional Tatar food

In theory and in practice

I was already talking and singing to my tummy in Tatar before my Older Daughter was born, so when she arrived it felt natural. It wasn’t easy though – I hadn’t spoken Tatar day in and day out since I was 3 years old. I could only hold a middle school level conversation, mostly limited by my vocabulary. My grammar was rusty too. I could read Tatar written in Latin letters, but not in the widely used Cyrillic alphabet. I had 3 dictionaries nearby and started to read the Tatar children’s picture dictionary daily with my daughter, just as much for my own sake as for hers. It felt wonderful learning more of my mother tongue and passing it on to my daughter.

During the first few weeks, my husband spoke to my daughter in Tatar. When I gently reminded him that he was the Finnish speaker, he agreed that he would switch, but kept forgetting because it felt more natural to speak to her in Tatar. Then something clicked, and he did switch to Finnish.

By about 1 year, my daughter understood Tatar and Finnish very well, and was speaking lots of Tatar. She also knew some English phrases and words from playing with other children, listening to mom and dad, and listening to lots of songs in English. She was an early speaker and said her first string of 4 words, “happy birthday to you” at 12 months.

Then at about 18 months in, we seriously started talking about moving to Finland. At this point, my husband switched back to speaking Tatar. Because my husband knew we would eventually be moving to Finland and our daughter would learn Finnish there, he decided to switch back to Tatar full time.

We supplemented Finnish by playing more Finnish songs and showing some Finnish TV programs via internet.

At first I was disappointed that we were abandoning OPOL, but I didn’t push it because I knew my husband felt isolated speaking to Older Daughter in Finnish when no one else in our Tatar or Finnish circles could understand them. I felt that the most important thing was that he build a strong, loving relationship with her, and if he felt that Tatar was the language to do that in, then that was his choice. We didn’t notice any confusion from our daughter as Finnish decreased and we switched to the ML@H (minority language at home) model. Fortunately for us, she was still quite young, her father’s transition was to her dominant language and she spent most of the time with me at home speaking Tatar anyway.

And then we moved! Äk! Now what?

While pregnant with my 2nd daughter, we decided to move to Finland.

Now what to do with the languages? Should one of us start speaking to her in English?

I didn’t want to switch out of the mother tongue. I was the primary caretaker and didn’t want to abruptly change from Tatar to English. Our daughter would have probably been ok with it, since my husband and Tatar community speak Tatar, but we decided to both keep speaking to her in Tatar, and add more English to her life - since that was going to be the new minority language.

How we increased exposure to the non-mother tongue, minority language (English) 

  • The biggest factor was increasing her exposure to children’s shows in English. We were VERY selective with how often and what she could watch. At first, we only found one show we were comfortable with: Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. Slowly, we added more.
  • We played lots of music – from the Beatles to School House Rock, plus children’s songs that I wrote myself in English.
  • We visited the US every year, and grandparents visited us often. While they spoke mostly in Tatar, they did use lots of English too.
  •  My husband and I continued to speak English to each other at home.
Increasing language exposure with songs

How Older Daughter Adjusted

When we moved to Finland, Older Daughter was about 3 years old – she was a solid speaker of Tatar, very good English speaker, and knew just a few Finnish words. We quickly enrolled her in a Finnish music group and dance classes, took her to story time every week at the library, and made sure she was out and about hearing Finnish at the park or grocery store during the week. Simultaneously, the increased exposure to English was working.

One day she says to me, in English: I need to elevate my leg. It hurts.

Me, in Tatar: What happened? And did you say, “elevate”? Where did you learn that word?

She replies, in Tatar: Daniel Tiger hurt his leg and went to see the doctor, and she said to “elevate” it.


So since Older Daughter had such a strong English ability by age 4, we decided to shift her focus to Finnish, and enrolled her in a Finnish pre-school for 5 hours per week. Within weeks she was using Finnish words, and just a few months in, she was understanding and replying with basic sentences. We also added more Finnish children’s programming, and my husband started to read books to her in Finnish.

Yes, she would learn Finnish in school, but since we had a few years before she started school, we wanted to give her a chance to be proficient before she got there. Our hope is that by the time she starts school, she knows Finnish well enough to focus on the content and school experience, rather than on learning the language.

My Younger Daughter’s language journey

We lived in the US until Younger Daughter was about 1 year old. My husband, Older Daughter and I all spoke to her in Tatar, and she had very little exposure to English and Finnish.

After moving to Finland and upping Older Daughter’s English shows and songs, my Younger Daughter got much more exposure to English at a younger age than her sister. While she was much slower to speak compared to her sister, now at 2 years old, her English ability is already almost at the same level as her Tatar.

How did this happen? When I looked a little closer, I realized that her Tatar and English exposure are about 50/50:

  • Less Tatar 
  • She has less 1 on 1 time with me, as there are 2 children now vying for attention
  • Less focused Tatar dictionary reading/studying because I already learned lots of new words with Older Daughter o 

  • More English
  • Interestingly, the girls speak English to each other. Big sister spends the most 1 on 1 time with little sister and English is older sister’s language of choice
  • Their favorite shows are in English
  • Mom and dad have more time together at home in Finland vs US, so she hears us speaking more, in English
  • I write children’s songs in English, sing these songs at home, perform these songs at local concerts
  • I teach English to other children and hold story time in English at the local library. My girls often attend.

I have no worries about Younger Daughter’s ability to speak Tatar and English, so now that she is 2, she will be starting a Finnish music playgroup in the fall. We intend to start her in the Finnish pre-school when she turns 3.

A colorful blending of languages - Instances of Code Switching inside and outside the home

What is code switching (CS)? It’s when you mix languages during a conversation.

While I try to consistently speak Tatar to my girls, I am ok with some code-switching going on. To me, it’s more natural to choose a word in another language that we mutually understand, than to stop the conversation, try to explain it or look it up. I grew up in code-switching environment, and so did my husband, and I am happy with how our language abilities turned out. Some people look down upon code switching, though the research is mostly favorable.

“Parents in particular are concerned that CS may confuse children as they develop their knowledge and skills in different languages. However, recent research in bilingual and multilingual education has provided evidence that CS can not only be used as an effective pedagogical strategy for teaching and learning (Canagarajah 2011) but also should be seen as a sign of linguistic creativity and criticality (Li 2011).” (Dewaele/Wei, 2013)

“CS has both educational benefits and drawbacks. Positively, it increases learner participation and lesson comprehension. Negatively, it does not contribute to developing the learners’ proficiency and confidence in speaking…” (Mokgwathi/Webb, 2013)

“Code-switching induced by a particular emotional state and by a lack of specific vocabulary in a target language appeared to relate to increase in innovative capacity.” (Kharkhurin/Wei, 2014)

So when do we use code-switching?
  • Outside the home: Usually when my girls speak to me in English at home, I repeat their question or statement in Tatar and then respond in Tatar.But sometimes when we are outside the home and they speak to me in English, I respond in English. English is definitely more prestigious than Tatar, and I teach English here in the community, so it feels natural to incorporate some English when we are around a larger group of people.
  • Gaps in vocabulary: When I don’t know a word in Tatar, I try to explain it the best I can in Tatar, and then say it in English. I honestly explain to the girls that I don’t know the Tatar word, and that the word I’m using is the English name of the word. Then we attempt to find the Tatar word in one of our dictionaries, or by asking an older member of the community.
    Sometimes I make up Tatar words that are logical translations. For example, when I didn’t know the Tatar word for vein, I explained it in Tatar as “blood roads”. When the actual translation turned out to be the English equivalent of “roots”, we all learned a new word, and made the switch. 

    However, sometimes I do not follow through with finding out the Tatar word, or there is no Tatar word equivalent, so the English word gets incorporated into our everyday vocabulary. 
  • Emotions/complex subjects: It is still hard for me to express deep emotions and have complex discussions in Tatar. Now that Older Daughter is 4, our conversations are less superficial and much more technical (Why do the leaves fall from the trees in the fall, etc?). I do my best to explain in Tatar, and then supplement in English when needed.
  • Written language: Another challenge is reading and writing: I am teaching my girls the English alphabet because I don’t know Cyrillic, and they will learn the Finnish alphabet in school.

What I have learned creating our language environment, in a nutshell

  • It was important to take the time to talk about and work through scenarios of what language to speak to our children.
  • While very common, OPOL is not the only option or best option for everyone.
  • It’s ok to be flexible. Our initial choice doesn’t feel right in practice, and we needed to make a switch. Obviously, the earlier, the better.
  • I’m grateful that I have options of which language to speak to my children. Most people don’t.
  • I will continue to incorporate all the languages I know, at whatever level, to my children - via books or shows, play groups, or songs. You never know which language might be valuable to your child in the future, and at the very least it will help them be more culturally aware, expose them to other languages, and help them learn other languages in the future.

How did you decide on your family’s language arrangement? Please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you made the decision.

Suzan Alakas is a Mom, Linguist, Singer/Songwriter, and Founder of . She created a system to help children learn English via songs, and stop struggling to learn English; to make it fun, and faster than other methods; to focus on the key words and phrases that native speakers use all the time; to better remember what was learned; and to help reduce heavy/unclear accents.

NOTE: All photos are provided by Suzan Alakas.

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.

Recommended Books for Parents Raising Trilingual Children

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:

Click to listen to radio stations for kids from around the world!

Click to read how you can motivate your multilingual child to speak YOUR language!

Q&A: Trilingual parent: how to add one more language to a bilingual child.

Q&A: Trilingual parent and monolingual spouse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Good Reads: ABC's of Russian Paintings by L. Zhukova - Азбука Русской Живописи - Л.Жукова

If you’d like to introduce your child to the Russian art, this is a good book to start with:
Azbuka Russkoj Zhivopisi ( “Азбука Русской Живописи” ) by L. Zhukova.
I love art, but I have to admit that I have no deep knowledge of Russian painters. This book was exactly what I was looking for to introduce my raised-abroad Russian speaking trilingual kids to Russian art and artists . It is called “Азбука Русской Живописи” which means “The ABC of Russian Paintings”. It has a chart that organizes painters by genres and indicates when they lived. Each page spread is dedicated to one painter:  Ivan Aivazovsky, Karl Bryullov, Viktor Vasnetsov, Vasily VereshchaginVrubel, Arkhip Kuindzhi - too numerous to mentioned everyone!

I like that for each painter there is a portrait or, in some cases, an autoportrait with a short story about painter's life and genre he was focusing on.

“Азбука Русской Живописи” - замечательная книжка! Как для чтения маленьким детям, так и для самостоятельного чтения для детей постарше. Для маленьких знакомство с русскими художниками начинается с рассматривания картинок. Между прочим, замечательно использовать для развития речи! Я так и делала. Рассказываешь что и как и задаешь вопросы. Такое общение очень интересно и детям и родителям.

С детьми постарше можно рассмотреть картинки и прочесть вслух биографию художника. Ну а те, кто сам читает , смогут узнать много интересного о художниках самостоятельно.

Купить книгу на OZON.RU

Купить книгу на LABIRINT.RU

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для начинающих читать русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA:



Купить на AMAZON UK:
Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)



Monday, June 19, 2017

Good Reads: Renata Muha. Russian poetry for kids 0 - 99+. Рената Муха - "Ужаленный Уж".

I am not sure who loves these poems more whether my kids or myself. Since the book appeared on our bookshelf, it happened sometime back in 2014, we read it again and again. The fun word play by Renata Muha and beautiful illustrations by Evgeniy Antonenkov keep us entertained.

Как дать почувствовать русский язык детям, особенно тем, кто живет за пределами России и для кого русский - второй язык? Конечно же через стихи!

Ритм и удивительная игра слов в стихотворениях Ренаты Мухи увлечет вас и ваших детей. "Ужаленный Уж" издательства Machaon - книга со стихами поэтессы Ренаты Мухи, проиллюстрированная Евгением Антоненковым - очень полюбилась моим детям и мне.

Стихотворные шедевры, которые так хорошо стимулируют воображение ребенка.

“Платок хоботовый”! - ну конечно же и у больного слоненка должен быть платок! Только у нас нос, а у него хобот.

"Гиппопопотомки!" - Есть ли и где они, потомки гиппопотама? - Есть, но это все "гипопоптетично"!

Завароженная стихами Ренаты Мухи, я сначало предположила, что это ее псевдоним. Ведь фамилия так созвучна с настроением стихотворений автора! Но оказывается, это ее настоящая фамилия, только девичья.

Узнать о Ренате Мухе вы сможете заглянув на веб сайт поэтессы, созданный ее мужем, Вадимом Ткаченко. Ткаченко и есть ее фамилия, взятая после замужества.

А теперь о рисунках Евгения Антоненкова, которые нам так понравились. Они  чудесным образом передают сюжет и эмоции стихотворений. Посмотрите сами!

Купить книгу на OZON.RU

Купить книгу на LABIRINT.RU

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA



Купить на AMAZON UK:

Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Russian Language Resources For Kids. Лучшие ресурсы для поддержания и развития русского языка у детей билингвов.

Судьба вас забросила далеко от ваших родителей, ваших друзей детства. И вот теперь и вы родитель и воспитываете маленького билингва или трилингва, как я, или даже мультилингва, у которого русский один из родных языков. Вы наверное уже почувствовали, что просто разговаривать с детьми по-русски недостаточно. Язык окружающей среды начинает доминировать. Кажется невозможным одному передать наш богатый и могучий русский язык.

Но это не так! Это возможно! Мы живем в Италии и я одна - источник русского языка для моих двух детей. Сейчас им 5 и 7 лет и они говорят каждый день по-русски со мной и друг с другом, даже если меня нет рядом.

Вы спросите, как можно сделать так, чтобы ребенок говорил по-русски как на родном языке? Важно создать вокруг ребенка русскоязычную среду со дня его рождения. Разнообразие материалов на русском помогает детям не скучать, пополняя словарный запас. Нехватка слов - одно из основных препятствий к использованию языка. Мы читаем русские книжки, поем русские песни, слушаем детское русское радио и аудиокниги, смотрим русские мультфильмы и просто общаемся на русском. За все это время в России дети, к сожалению, были только один раз.

Я уверена, что представленный ниже подобранный мной материал на русском языке, поможет и вам!

1.Детские книги на русском - Kids books in Russian: 

У нас большая домашняя библиотека русских книжек. Книги мы читаем каждый день.

Здесь вы найдете список детских книг, полюбившихся мне и детям больше всего:

Лучшие Детские Книги на Русском / Russian Children's Books

2. Аудиокниги для детей слушать онлайн - Audiobooks in Russian:

У меня нет какого-то одного полюбившегося вебсайта с аудиокнигами и аудиосказками для детей. Слушаем понемногу ото всех.

В коллекции более 600 книг разных авторов и разных жанров.

Русские, зарубежные и народные аудиосказки для детей с возможность скачивания. Сортировка по авторам: сказки Сутеева, Одоевского, Чуковского, Мамина-Сибиряка, Гаршина, Пушкина, Маршака и многих других.

285 детских аудиокниг. Интересная подборка аудиокниг для школьников

Помимо аудиосказок российских и зарубежных писателей Вы найдете раздел детская библия.

Много интересных аудиокниг, например о Гарри Потере и книги таких авторов, как А. Волков, Кир Булычев, Крапивин, Юрий Коваль, Михаэль Энде и другие.

3. Русские детские песни - Children’s Songs in Russian

Замечательная подборка детских песен  на детском Радио Песни:

Список детских радиостанций / List of kids radio stations in Russian

Песни из мультфильмов можно послушать отдельно на множестве вебсайов. Например, на Youtube:

Песни из мультфильмов на Youtube

Детские песенки на Hobobo

4. Колыбельные песни - Russian Lullabys

Русские колыбельные песни. 

5. Программы и приложения по изучению русского языка - Apps for learning Russian

Учим русский язык (школьникам)
Обучающая программа для изучения грамматики и правил русского языка. ребенку предлагается заполнить пропущенные буквы. Проверка с показом правил. 

Грамотей для Детей - Диктанты
Проверка орфографии «Грамотей» - правила русского языка и словарные слова (2 класс - 4 класс).

Карточки для детей / Flashcards for Kids in Russian
1500 дидактических карточек для изучения новых слов. Расчитано для детей до 7 лет.

Скороговорки - Русский язык  Скороговорки на 29 букв русского алфавита. После прослушивания аудио, ребенок имеет возможность потренироваться и записать свою речь.

6. Книги для самостоятельного чтения- Russian language materials for independent readers

Читальный зал
Рассказы, сказки, очерки и стихи для самостоятельного чтения с возможность прослушивания аудио. Для различного уровня : А1,А2,В1 и В2.

7. Мультфильмы для детей - Russian сartoons for kids

Подборка полюбившихся детям мультфильмов.

Ура!  Появлась в продаже моя первая книжка-раскраска, написанная для русско-говорящих детей. 

Купить на AMAZON USA



Купить на AMAZON UK:

Хотите узнать о моих следующих проектах первыми? Оставьте адрес вашей электронный почты здесь или в форме ниже. До скорого! :)

If your child learns also other languages, please visit  Bilingual Kid Spot for more language resources.

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