How we rise our children bilingual without us being bilingual parents

by | Jul 7, 2018 | Family life

I love languages.
Today, I speak fluently German, French, English and Spanish.
I’m also learning Portuguese and Swedish on a daily basis.

This is not something that was predestined from my upbringing.
Even though I have French and Scandinavian roots, I wasn’t raised bilingual.

bilingual
My french teacher in school told me that I should forget about ever learning a foreign language – I was definitely a pain for this “elderly” man, a native from Paris, France. 

However, I was always fascinated by languages and when I left home at age 16 to live in the French part of Switzerland… I had the opportunity to learn this beautiful language during the almost then years I lived there. 

It was similar when I learned English and Spanish. I lived several months in England and the USA, as well as a couple of years overall in South America. I am still not very efficient learning any language from books and audios, let alone in a classroom.
Today, I do much of my “deep thinking” in English. Therefore, I prefer to write all my articles in English and afterwards I translate them then into the other languages for this website. Doing that every week, keeps my brain fresh and my vocabulary present. 

However, having acquired these languages has not been enough to teach my children any of these languages in a way to raise them bilingual.
In my case, my thinking and writing in these languages is better than my pronunciation.
Benny’s pronunciation is pretty good, but still –  not enough to teach our children English in a way to raise them bilingual. Also he has always been more adept to use his English to talk about God, cars and American football than about pacifiers, diapers and that kind vocabulary needed in the daily talk with children. 

And still, it was really a desire of mine to raise children who feel relaxed when it comes to languages. I didn’t think of raising bilingual kids. My aim was to make it “natural” for them to listen to another language, to make them feel comfortable to be with people from another nation, culture and language. 

In this article I would like to share with you how we found a way to transmit our love for languages to our children – so much that, today, they speak English better than we do… with great pronunciation and having a pretty solid vocabulary. 

  1. Children imitate what they observe in us

Even in this area of life children imitate who we are, more then what we say.
I never ever told my children I would like them to speak another language. I never pushed them into anything, we do put no expectations on them.
However, they experience how we have music albums from different parts of the world. How we know songs in other languages.
I have several albums from different places I’ve been to.
Music from Brazil, Bolivia, Norway, France and the English speaking part of this world. They listen to it and some of these songs they love very much.  They love to sing along in all these different languages.

Languages have always been a “normal” thing in our home.

They see me improve my Portuguese and Swedish on a daily basis with an App I have on my smartphone. They sometimes even sit with me and they’re fascinated to hear how similar – or how different these words are.
They hear me talk (mostly on the phone) with friends who speak French, Spanish or English.

While on the campground in France, we enjoy the events in the evenings, where the children animations are with songs to sing and dance along in French.

We are thrilled to see how they are open and how they relax when they meet people from other nations and language.
It’s a joy for us when they start singing along a Norwegian song I use to listen to in the car. They like to ask me about the meaning of the words. Sometimes they catch a word I say to my friend on the phone in Spanish and ask me what it meant.

As a family we have decided to provide a home where languages and cultures are cherished – not feared.

  1. We create a learning environment
    .
    As mentioned above, our language skills were not good enough to raise our children bilingual.
    Therefore, we came up with something different, and it worked far better than we ever thought.
    We exposed our children to English, whenever they wanted to play a game or watch a movie on the smartphone. We don’t have a TV at home and this makes it much easier to select what our children will watch – and the language they watch it in.

Another time, I will talk more about the values and standards we have concerning children movies and computer games.
Today I will only mention that most of the time our kids spend in front of a screen, we choose English content.

To end this article, I will mention some movies our children watched while learning with.
Most of the material one can find in different languages. Therefore, if you are speaking English at your home, and you would like to introduce or improve another language – this material is still available to you.

Angelina Ballerina

To find on their channel on YouTube.  The older and the newer version both are cute and great for any girl and boy that likes the world of music and dancing.

These mouselings encounter the challenges and joys of friendship at home and in school.

Franklin the Turtle

To find on their channel on YouTube. There is a new version of franklin, called “Franklin and friends”. We let our children watch only the older version, as we think it is made in a better way for several reasons.

Patty Shukla

Her songs are all available on her website and on her channel on YouTube. She even has an App you can download. Her Songs are mainly English, some are Spanish. She’s doing a great job creating new songs and presenting them in her videos in a fun, entertaining and educational way.

Mother Goose Club Playhouse

To find on their channel YouTube. Real People (children and adults) who present songs and rhymes in a fun and entertaining manner.

Little Baby Bump

To find on their channel on YouTube. Cartoons presenting songs and rhymes in a fun and sweet way.

Veggie Tales

To find on their channel on YouTube. Biblical – and other stories – based on biblical principles. Made in a fun, exciting way.

Then there are two educational programs our children love. They have been learning a lot by using it:

Lingokids

Available as an App on your Iphone or Ipad. Made for kids to learn a foreign language, you choose.
Lingokids is an English learning app for kids ages 2 to 8. The best way for kids to learn a new language at this age is through fun games and exercises that not only keep their attention but also allow them to learn more effectively.

The Lingokids curriculum has been designed by experts who specialize in early language learning. Furthermore, it features teaching materials from the esteemed Oxford University Press to provide a quality education experience.
Lingokids is specially designed for kids and offers a safe environment that is free from distractions and ads.
Watch your child become bilingual as they have fun and enjoy engaging lessons!

My favorite Program of all times is called
ABC-Mouse.com

This is an educational American program, not really to teach English but to learn by playing. Also available in Spanish.

ABC-Mouse.com says about itself:

«More than 850 Lessons Across 10 Levels
The Step-by-Step Learning Path presents the full ABCmouse.com curriculum in a carefully designed program of more than 850 lessons in ten levels. As your child completes each lesson, he or she is guided to the next one and is motivated to continue learning by ABCmouse.com’s Tickets and Rewards System.»

Our children love to learn with that program and they really learn by playing… be it English grammar, math, history and much more. It’s a great way for them to learn English and a fun way to improve at school.

This is how our children are growing up bilingual, even though we as parents did not have the language skills to teach our children to do so. I hope that our experience in this matter can help you with finding your way to introduce languages in your home, if this is something you wish to do.

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Following are some videos I made from my kids the during the last few years of their language skills: 

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