Friday, 25 May 2012

Being a bilingual family

Now that I have been a mother for 5 almost 6 years, and having been blessed to be the mother of 3 children, I know how experience really changes mothering.
I remember how, with X, just having to take care of him was more then I could handle, and I am sure that if somebody would have told me at that point that I was going to have 3 child, I wouldn't have believed him.

But here I am almost 6 years later, with 3 children and a confidence that I never dreamed of at first.  I have no regrets, I have walked the path of motherhood, learning and changing (oh so much!) at my own pace, and I am still on that road, still evolving as every day passes.

I can say that I am much happier about how I am parenting E then how I parented X.  Why? experience... again.  I have manage to do with E what I didn't even think of possible with X, one thing being a completely bilingual family.

X and M have always grown with english around them.  But not as much as I would have liked.  This time around, I have decided to go another route with E, and not only surround him in english, but immerse him completely.  I always speak to him in english, I read to him in english, whatever I do, I do in english.  I was scared at first that since english is not my mother tongue, I would somehow "screw him".  But these fears are long gone.  As long as he is able to talk he'll be able to adjust his language, just like a child who is learning his mother tongue would do if he had picked up something incorrectly.

There was one thing that was bugging me though.  The fact that I was the sole source of english around.  I wanted E and X and M too in fact, to hear english everyday, and often, english used by someone else.

Sure, there is an english town just right by.  But I have not yet found the way to integrate this community.  Still working on it.  But in the meantime, I found the way to increase their exposition to english, and I am happy to report that it is working!!  E understand just as much in english and in french, and even M and X are making leaps.

So here is what we have been up to recently:

  1. We have been listening to the radio everyday, while commuting, in english.  We are lucky enough to have english radio channels, and so I am taking advantage of these.
  2. Again, in the car, we have satellite radio.  Well, I have discovered some weeks ago that there is a book channel, on which books are being read all day.
  3. We read at least 3 books a day in english.  Some book are stories (most of which I also have in french, and that were previously read in french for comprehension) and others are picture dictionary
  4. I have found several learning site such as Petra lingua, that features language games that all my children love to play, yes, even E (That gives more vocabulary to M and X)
  5. And finally, and not least I have found online stories that the kids can hear.  There are many free sites for that, but our favourite, hand down Sparkle Stories.  Sparkle stories are geared toward a Waldorf type of crowd.  There are different types of stories, some of which are very fairy tales oriented with gnomes and so on.  But some of them are very reality based, including the one we choose: At home with Martin and Sylvia.  I LOVE those stories, and what can I say about the kids.  When they hear the intro tune start, they usually dance until the story begins.  Friday has quickly become the story day, the magical day. I love the rich vocabulary they use, I love how the stories are told, I love the themes of the stories, and how it paints a simple and yet fantastic childhood picture for the children to listen to.  The stories have also brought many interesting topics of discussion.

Being a bilingual family is totally doable now.  I have found a great website talking about this: Multi language.  If you feeling like giving bilingualism a try, but fear you might not be able to, this site will give you the push in the back you need to carry on.  I think it is a great asset to be bilingual in the world we live in, and why not enjoy this time in the life of a child when absorbing language is like absorbing water for a sponge.  M.Montessori defined this sensitive period for language, and said that the languages learned during that time will be learned by the child in a way that he will never be able to later on.  So let's take advantage of that!

By the way, if you are interested in Sparkle stories, they are handing out a little bit of magic. They are giving you the chance to try Sparkle for 1$ for the first month.  Here are the info:

The magic code: SPARKLEFRIENDS
The magic page:

You get a chance to receive four weeks thus 12 stories = 3.5 hours of delightful audio for kids! (and you can cancel any time)
Go ahead if you feel like giving it a try.  We got hooked pretty fast!


  1. Thank you for these links! I want to be a bilingual family here in the US (English/Spanish) since I am Mexican and my family speaks Spanish primarily, but was afraid to talk to her exclusively in Spanish. I just need to find the resources you have listed but in Spanish and it will help me. Thanks again and wish me luck!

  2. Before I stopped working to spend my days with my children I was a Japanese teacher. I am by no means bilingual but enough to get by. I couldn't agree more, bilingualism is so beneficial for so many reasons. We have started incorporating Japanese into our son's days too. He is loving every moment and is so excited about learning new words.

  3. Gabriela: GOod luck.
    And if it can help, it is much easier to find spanish stuff then french! I'm sure you'll have no trouble finding material to help you out. :)

    Kate: WOW, Japanese. That is great!
    It has been a while since I have written this post, and I can say that the evolution is incredible here. So yes, I think it is completely worth the effort.
    Good luck with this, I sure would be excited to learn japanese too!!!

  4. Thanks for the links, we are a bilingual (well kind of trilingual) family too, those links sound interesting and might come in handy when N. will be older :)

  5. I wondere how do you incorporate French into your daily routine with kids, when you speak only E with E. Do you mix it anywhow, or do you stick with E only?