Raising Multilingual Children Carnival: Lessons Learned

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Nearly five years ago to the day, I sat, enormous and excited, waiting for the arrival of our new baby. Like so many of us, I had all these grand ideas and plans of what kind of mother I was going to be. I can assure you that in all of my scenarios, I was way more patient and crafty than I turned out in the end. I am much more likely to inadvertently teach my kids what happens if you leave eggs to boil for an hour –they explode and you warp all but the best quality pan than how to make papier-mâché or fireworks in a jar. However, the one thing I did stick to was the dream of raising multilingual kids.

I couldn’t have done it without an amazingly supportive community. At the time, it was pretty slim pickings, especially if you were looking for information on 3+ languages. I am particularly grateful to two people who were a huge support early on, before our wonderful multilingual world blossomed across the branches of the interwebs.

The first is Corey Heller, the founder of Multilingual Living. Before finding her site, I started to believe I was totally alone out there trying to raise trilingual kids. Or at least, I was the only one struggling with it. I can’t begin to explain the relief I felt once I started perusing her wonderful site.

The second is Letizia Quaranta from Bilingue per Gioco. She is the founder of the original Bilingual Carnival through which so many of us first met. I credit her work as a significant force in creating today’s significant and diverse community. Thanks to Letizia’s encouragement, I went from passive viewer of others’ stories to an active voice of my own. I, along with many others, was very sorry to see her Carnival slow down and eventually fade away. I know this happened only because she has moved on to bigger and better things; we are grateful for the foundations she put down and hope we can do all her hard work justice.

This incredible group of multilingual bloggers provides a rich and varied source of ideas, stories, and on occasion, a well deserved venting. Our inaugural carnival’s theme is looking back. As that dream-inducing bump is about to turn five in a couple of weeks, I thought it would be nice to have everyone look back at their experiences so far and share what they have learned so here we go!

I’ve broken it down in two sections. The first is a series of posts that are focused on resources out there. If there is one thing a seasoned parent has is a fantastic arsenal of tools and tips that can often be applicable across different languages. The second, to quote the charming Sinatra, is about our regrets and what we would do differently if we had the opportunity to start over.

Resources, tools and tips:

All Done Monkey  looks back and shares what they would have done differently. In her case, it would have been to focus on the minority language using a wide array of resources.

The Educator’s Spin on It sent in a wonderful post giving guidance on how to go about finding relevant resources for your language and a double bonus to you if you are on the hunt for Russian materials!

Babel Kid’s post touches on a subject that I’ve struggled with so much and that is dealing with books and the often mediocre translations of our children’s favorite stories. Definitely something to think about as you build your child’s library.

LadydeeLG shares the amazing moment when you first experience your child code-switching appropriately as well as a host of fabulous resources for anyone needing Spanish support. (Me, me, meeeeeeee!)

And on the topic of resources and planning, Perogies and Gyoza shares with us their after school planning for the year, providing ideas for English curriculum resources as well as thoughts on how to match up thematically to what your kids are learning in their local schools.

***Interlude***

Here’s a post to remind you why you should/have undertaken this journey and why you should stick to it to avoid any regrets down the line…

Bilingual Monkeys‘ an adorable letter from a newborn to its parents telling them of its dream of being bilingual. A nice reminder too, that even though our kids will likely hit linguistic rebellious phases, later on, they will always be grateful for the gift of language you have given them.

“Regrets, I’ve had a few”

Project Procrastinot (which should be my motto given how late this carnival is going up) shares her own regret that her parents didn’t put more effort into creating a bilingual household while also acknowledging how tough it is to do so and a nice reminder that we are not alone ‘wandering the bilingual realm’ striving to do better.

The Head of the Heard’s Having Peppa Pig For Lunch is a hilarious reminder of how easy it is to make mistakes and the consequences that follow. And I say to Heard Head: you are not alone in having made the screen/table misjudgment! It is also a wonderful story of how to keep families close together despite being thousands of miles apart.

Mistakes, expectations, they are all par for the course. European Mama shares her top 10 multilingual parenting ideas that went out the window. So many of these resonated with me – particularly #9. But in the end, we get there and it’s important to remember to enjoy the journey instead of obsessing on the destination. It’s split in two parts: part 1 and part 2

MotherTongues looks back at the challenges and barriers they faced from outsiders on raising their kids bilingual and then trilingual (English/Afrikaans/Spanish). A reminder of the courage and determination it takes to ignore the naysayers and opt out of the easy path.

Busy as a Bee in Paris looks over the progress her trilingual kids are making and shows us how despite similar environments, different kids respond differently to languages. I also love reading about non-OPOL families as a nice reminder that there are different and effective ways to approach multilingual parenting.

Discovering the World Through my Son’s Eyes  shares her one regret and the inspiring steps she took to make up for it. You will see the results she is now reaping!

Expats Since Birth tackles the fascinating topic of siblings in: Bilingual Siblings and their Language Preferences. I had no idea there was a book written on this topic that can help figure out where your family sits in the multilingual spectrum.

Third Culture Mama’s Hindsight is 20/20 had me shouting Yes Yes Yes and that was by around line 4:

But just like breastfeeding books have never met your baby and your breasts…

Point 1 is something I think doesn’t get nearly enough air/blog time. I am left thinking how lucky she is to have figured this out when her wee one is 13months. Let’s just say it took me a lot longer…’nuff said.

In Culture Parent’s editor shares her own story on Why OPOL Doesn’t Always Work and the importance of the overall time spent in languages as well as the importance of widening the exposure and opportunities as much as possible.

PiriPiri Lexicon’s From Linguist to Mum: Looking Back is a fascinating read. It’s an insightful piece from a former researcher who studied bilinguals’ language acquisition and how, when faced with reality, the theories don’t always hold up.

Closing thoughts: My hope is that this first carnival will serve as a strong reminder that there isn’t one ‘right’ way to raise multilingual kids and that different approaches will be needed depending on your languages, your community, your place of residence, and simply each individual’s child inherent and unique linguistic evolution. It’s a reminder that we all make mistakes and have regrets but that nothing is irreparable and we are so lucky to have a strong community to share and support each other.

A final word of thanks: I want to take this opportunity to thank Annabelle from PiriPiri Lexicon for her endless enthusiasm and energy in making this new multilingual carnival a reality. I am so grateful and thrilled to be a part of this and for the honour of hosting the inaugural carnival. For more information or to sign up as a host, please visit the carnival page.

Thank you all for participating. Thank you all for reading. And thanking you all in advance for sharing widely! This is multilingual mama singing out. I think I’ve just made the April 29th deadline somewhere over the Pacific, a little too close to an international date line…

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10 thoughts on “Raising Multilingual Children Carnival: Lessons Learned

  1. Thanks so much for getting this all together – it is a lot of fun to read what everyone wrote, and I always get so many ideas for our language journey!

  2. Pingback: Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival: July Edition | The Head of the Heard

  3. Pingback: Take me Riding in the Car, Car | The Head of the Heard

  4. Pingback: Raising Bilingual Kids Blogging Carnival: Hidden Opportunities | The Head of the Heard

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