Bilingual Children - Week #6

Our Bilingual Week

Welcome to week Six of Bilingual Children! Sadly this is the last week in our Series of speaking to mums raising bilingual children! I hope you've enjoyed reading it as much as we have enjoyed sharing with you. 

This week we're looking at the reasons why it's important to us that our children are learning our languages and how to not give up in those difficult times. 


Loss of heritage

"My husband and I speak Urdu (indian language) at home to our kids because although I was born here, I still consider it our mother tongue and it’s important for me that my kids understand it and are able communicate with their grandparents. I’m afraid that it’ll be a lost language with coming generations as fewer kids are speaking it because parents aren’t giving it a priority anymore. Challenges we face are that we immediately think and speak in English so we have to make a conscious effort to speak in Urdu constantly at home. Many people have told me to keep it up and don’t let it go, regardless of school. My daughter started school 3 months ago and she picked up English very fast, I was afraid she wouldn’t speak Urdu anymore. Thankfully though, we just kept at it and she is doing great in both languages. It just takes conscious effort and dedication but kids will absorb whatever you teach them so don’t be afraid to just go for it!".  Sumra Hassan: Sweetdreamer.Blog Instagram: @ssweetdreamer

"I've thinking about this recently after filling out a Nursery form on the English words my toddler can say. My 2nd language, Ibibio, is very "niche" as it's only spoken in corner of Nigeria. I'm keen to pass it on for preservation but I'm not sure it is worth the effort and whether he'll pick it up as he can't practice it with anyone else but me. I only speak it with my parents who don't live close by - so it's on the phone. I'm getting them to bring some study materials and kids books so we can try some fun reading just in case it sticks. I'm not sure what more I can do as unlike other languages, there are no local classes or online resources. So far I've been singing songs in my 2nd language to him!".  Victoria  Instagram: @thegrowingmum

"For me it's very important they speak my language and their mothers, I truly believe it's the only way they can understand who they are and where they come from". Graziano (Papa' Prada) Meet Papa' Prada


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Expat experience

"We moved to Portugal last May and our son started attending Portuguese kindergarten last September (aged three and a half), despite none of us speaking Portuguese before we arrived. It was important to us to get him into school as soon as we could, so he could start learning. We are also firm believers that if you plan to live in a country that doesn’t speak English, you must try and learn the basics. And we’ve found the few words we know go an awfully long way with the locals.

But it’s not so smooth. We've found it more difficult than our son as he is immersed in the language five days a week He’s even caught us out with a few words from kindergarten that we haven't learnt yet. Google Translate has helped with those. I am slowly learning through using the Memrise app on my phone and I also use Google Translate to translate everyday phrases we use at home. I then use both the English and Portuguese words/phrases at the same time. I also started sticking the Portuguese word for household things around the house and our son's classroom assistants have helped us with words and phrases too. One speaks very good English and is very understanding with us.

But our son is now fully accepting that there are two words for everything. He has also become very inquisitive and regularly asks “mummy, what’s this in Portuguese?”. He has only been in school since September, but we are constantly surprised at new words he comes out with, or how quickly he adopts those we teach him.

I spoke to the Dad of the only other English-speaking family and found out that his son, now eight, started school at the same age as our son and is fluent now. He speaks completely in Portuguese to his friends and teachers, but switches back to English at home. And even translates for his parents if they get stuck while out and about, albeit reluctantly. He said that within three months our son should understand most things his teachers say and within six should be conversing in Portuguese. I’m looking forward to seeing what the next school term brings with him.

We find not having Portuguese speaking friends a disadvantage. My husband’s cousin has lived here for a year longer than us, and because she works with Portuguese people, she has grasped the language very quickly. I know my husband and I will soon be playing catch up with our son, but we’ll get there in the end.

If I was to give one tip to anyone thinking of starting to teach their child another language, or thinking of moving to a new country, I’d say do it when they are young. Our son was three and a half and, as mentioned, he just accepts there are two words for everything and doesn’t question why. Had he been even six months older, I think we’d have found it more difficult. Get your child(ren) into a local school as soon as you can and support them by learning yourself, even if it’s slowly like us". Catherine  Passports and Adventures Instagram:  @passportsandadventures

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Keep on carrying on

"Don’t give up, even when the children don’t utter a word in the target language, keep going! It’s all in there - one day it will come out. Attitude is everything. Have fun and create beautiful memories associated with the language and culture and one day you’ll see the results". Andrea  Facebook: @MotherTongueNotes

"I've never thought about giving up, sooner or later my children will speak both Italian and English, even if I have to wait until I'm an old man".  Graziano (Papa' Prada) Meet Papa' Prada

parents writing about raising bilingual children: 

Andrea:  Facebook: @MotherTongueNotes


Find out how Kirsty of Navigating Baby is teaching her toddler a second language.

What's next?

So now we've spoken to all our super helpful mums what can you expect from Mammaprada? Well I will continue to run my Weekly Wednesday post on raising Bilingual Children, it will include insights into our Bilingual Week. 

I'm also working on some valuable downloads for you all so whatever stage you are at in your Bilingual Journey you will have some support! In the meantime please email me if you have any questions or would like any advice. 

Ciao ciao!


Bilingual Children 6