How I’m raising my children to be bilingual 

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As some of you might be aware, my husband and I have different first languages and therefore we very much want our children to be fluent in both languages. My husband’s first language is English and mine Portuguese.

Before our first child was born, I had no idea how to raise a bilingual child but I definitely didn’t want to leave it to chance. It was too important to be left to chance! So I did some reading on the subject and together with my husband we came up with a plan (sort of!).

WE WILL EXPOSE HIM TO BOTH LANGUAGES FROM THE MOMENT HE IS BORN!

Now I have 2 amazing kids at very different language development stages (one is 3 and a half and the other 18 months) both learning and speaking in English and Portuguese.

In a nutshell, these are the things we consciously do to develop both languages.

  1. When we lived in England we mostly used the ‘one parent one language’ approach. I would always speak to the kids in Portuguese and my husband in English. Since we moved to Portugal, this changed. My husband and I both speak English with them because they are exposed to Portuguese everywhere else.
  2. We read them books in both Portuguese and English every day. They love books and don’t have a preference for the language they are written in.
  3. Sometimes they mix up both languages in the same sentence. When this happens, I repeat the sentence back to them in both languages correctly so that they get used to the correct way of speaking. Every time they learn a new word i make sure i refer to whatever it is in both languages.
  4. When I speak to them in Portuguese I expect an answer in Portuguese and vice versa. This doesn’t always happen so instead of telling me to answer in the correct language, I repeat their answer back to them in the correct language. This seems to work a treat!
  5. We listen to music in both languages, we play in both languages, we watch cartoons in both languages and we sing in both languages.

 

Are you or do you know someone that is raising bilingual children? How are you/they getting on? Drop me a line to let me know. Would love to hear other people’s experiences.

Love, P

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Mummuddlingthrough
Diary of an imperfect mum

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  1. I’m jealous – wish I was bilingual! I think it’s brilliant that you’re trying to teach your children to be fluent in both. The way in which you’re doing it seems to be working well for all of you, so far at least! x
    #triballove

  2. This is so interesting! I wish my partner or I spoke a different language fluently (although I studied Spanish for many, many years during school and in Uni, but I still can’t speak it fluently!!) I think this is a great idea, and I like how when you were in England it was one parent that spoke one language and the other parent spoke the other language and now it has changed to both parents speaking English in Portugal. : ) Such a great idea and will be great that your children will know both languages fluently! Thanks for sharing with #StayClassy!

    1. Hopefully they won’t drop any of the languages! I think we need to make sure that as soon as they start school we do a little homeschooling also on the other language. Thanks for reading and hosting #stayclassy

  3. I always find this so interesting. I think it’s great for children to grow up bilingual, but sadly don’t speak any other languages fluently myself. Children learn languages so well when they’re little – it’s a fascinating process. #familyfun

  4. Such an amazing thing to do with the kids. I am tempted to teach Alyssa Italian having learnt it when I lived there. I was always so impressed when at the airport id see bilingual children talking to mummy in one language and daddy in the other. or i’d here “per ché?!” and the response “because I don’t want to!” amazing!
    #stayclassy

  5. It’s brilliant that your little ones are bilingual. I’ve read some research that says that bilingual people develop particular connections in their brains that help their general intelligence later in life (sorry I appreciate that didn’t sound very technical!) but what I am basically saying is that it’s universally acknowledged to be a good thing! I would love to bring Piglet up bilingual, but given my limited knowledge of languages that aren’t English, it’s not going to happen! Thanks for linking up to #StayClassy

  6. My son is being raised in English and Japanese, we currently live in Japan but he gets more English at the moment (he’s 23 months). But it’s so fun for me to watch him pick up both languages. I struggled so hard to learn Japanese but still don’t speak it well after 10 years! I’m an EFL teacher by profession so I knew all the basics about raising a bilingual child. Having seen my nephew (now 13) raised trilingual also helps. I think as they grow learning to read in both languages is a big key to helping them stick. And having fun and enjoying the languages together. I tend to mix languages a lot and I’m not concerned with my son doing that. Schooling in each language will help with any confusion over which word belongs in which language. #StayClassy

  7. I wish I could speak more than one language and I have huge respect for those people who can. I think its great that you are teaching your kids to be bilingual, and it sounds like it is going very well #stayclassy

  8. Oh wow I am so impressed! I was never very good at languages at school, I love the idea of being bilingual though. Sounds like you’ve got it sussed really well. My cousin and his wife have sort of done this; she’s from Mauritius so speaks French. Their daughter speaks French with her mother but their son had a few difficulties with language and in the end he stopped speaking French which dramatically improved his English. I hope he picks up back up again when he’s older though as I think it would be great to know two languages and that’s definitely the best way to learn! #StayClassy

  9. I have such bilingual parenting envy going on here – I know so many mum’s that do this and it just amazes me just how fluent their children are in both languages and how they can hop around both so easily – amazing parenting and will give your children such a benefit with approaching other languages too – fantastic! #stayclassy

  10. I think this is brilliant and so important too! I would love for both my children to be able to speak another language. On Jersey we have quite a big Portuguese community and Oldest is always asking her friends who speak Portuguese to teach her new words and they also had a term where they learnt some of the language in school which I think is fab. I have read somewhere that young children can learn languages easily and I think this is something we should be developing in Primary Schools. #Stayclassy

    1. Absolutely agree with you. The little ones are like sponges and so if they are stimulated enough they will easily pick up another language. If they were learning it at school it would be great but with so much to cover already when would they have time to play??? That always worries me.

  11. That’s really good and will be such a skill for them. I would love for my children to be able to speak another language. I was always fluent in French until the last few years and I fear I have forgotten too much to call myself fluent now due to lack of use, so to be using both languages everyday will do them the world of good. They will certainly be top of their English class at school en the time comes #familyfun xxx

    1. I’m sure you are still fluent in French. You can’t just forget it like that. I find it that with languages you need not be shy to make mistakes otherwise you will never improve.

  12. My hubby and I were keen that our children learn Spanish from an early age for business purposes in later life. The teacher I found has girls the same age as mine who are bilingual, and has adopted a similar approach to yourself- these kids amaze me! When they speak in Spanish, you wouldn’t know they were English and vice-versa! I am now learning Spanish myself (so the kids can’t talk about me, in front of me!!) and am really enjoying learning again, though it does hurt my brain sometimes! It’s far easier as a child and your kids will thank you for the effort you’re putting in now xx

  13. This is so wonderful! I tutor college-level English, writing, and grammar, and I know from the stories I hear from my students that this is not an easy thing to do. In south Florida, where I live, the children don’t want to be perceived as different, so often they simply refuse to learn the second language. Your children will be so grateful to you when they are older. I know I would be! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  14. I will keep a close eye on tips or techniques you offer as my wife and I are trying to have a little one now. She is Polish and I am American. We will be raising our children to speak and write both languages.
    Danny

  15. My friend is American, single parent, living in Prague, her little girl is fluent in English and Czech. They speak only English at home, she picks up Czech from her environment. My other American friend married to a czech girl living in Prague have a son who is bilingual, similar to you, each parent speaks their language to the boy and expects answers in the language. If ever I have kids, I will definitely raise them bilingual, what a gift to be able to give someone. Well done.

  16. Olá P 🙂

    Por aqui por casa falamos em português, mas na escolinha só falam inglês. Por vezes, eles trocam-se mas é muito engraçado ver o desenvolvimento deles. Ontem o P disse-me ” Vamos to the kitchen?” ahahha

    E aí? Também fazem misturas?!

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