Welcome back, friends, for another edition of Family Fridays here on the blog. If you’re a first-time reader, Family Fridays is a weekly series that highlights the unique journey in multilingual parenting of families from around the globe. Today, Anna, from San Francisco, CA, by way of Russia, shares with us how she and her husband, a native of Spain, navigate through life with their lovely daughter in three languages. You can check out her blog on multicultural cooking here!
Be encouraged, friends.
Give a brief snapshot of your family’s language dynamics and your family’s language policy (what language(s) do you speak, who speaks what with whom?).
My husband is Spanish and I am Russian, our daughter is American. Right now we live in San Francisco, California. We use the one parent one language strategy. The family language, English, was chosen before our daughter was born and now it brings challenges as she hears us speaking English, but at the same time this makes our house trilingual and brings less confusion about the heritage languages of her parents.
What prompted your decision to raise your child bilingually?
My husband and I met at a language exchange meeting in Madrid and when our daughter was born, it was clear from the start the main focus would be languages.
What positive growth or results have you witnessed in your child/family because of their multilingualism?
We constantly learn about each other culture and it gives us a reason to laugh. We love to try and cook new food from various parts of the world, it is always surprising and rewarding. When we have a chance we travel to seek inspiration and life lessons, or just stroll around the neighborhoods of San Francisco, which is a cultural experience in itself. Our daughter is saying words in three languages. She is immediately drawn to people that speak Russian or Spanish.
What challenges have you faced with language rearing and learning? How do you handle them?
So far the only challenge was strong environment pressure to speak English at the playground, in swimming class, etc. As we meet more couples like us, we feel more comfortable to use our languages in any situation outside of our house.
Can you talk about the cultural aspect of bilingual parenting as it relates to your family?
Our family is all about culture as it is quite strong both in Spain and in Russia. We preserve it in simple ways like cooking, celebrating holidays, dressing up in traditional clothes, dancing, things that come natural to us. We also preserve culture unconsciously with behavior, gestures, and attitudes.
We have no illusions that our child will belong to one or the other culture, but by bringing her up with a mix of two ethnic traditions will hopefully make her open to other cultures.
Share a memorable moment you and your family experienced with language learning, something that shed light or taught you a lesson about bilingual parenting.
We put effort in teaching our daughter at home by having posters in the house, reading, playing sensory games. Recently we have been playing with figures of a penguin family. I have explained to her where and how they live. However, she started playing by having each family member kiss each other. This amazed me!
How do you involve your family, community, school and/or world at large in this bilingual adventure?
Our friends are used to hearing three languages in our conversation and we encourage them to communicate to our daughter. Family chats via FaceTime or Skype are also a big support since one of the reasons for speaking the heritage language is communicating with cousins. Recently we have organized a multilingual family picnic to meet more families that have three languages in the house. As for the community, it helps our child learn English and on the playground you can hear German, Spanish, French and Russian.
What advice or encouragement can you share with other families raising their children bi-/multi-lingually?
Have a clear understanding of the reasons why you decide to do it and then just keep going as learning a language is a journey. Passion and motivation are essential in keeping the language as a part of culture. Also, be flexible and patient as children are all different. Find a unique way for your child to thrive in your heritage language.
Freebie! Anything else come to your mind about the issue of bilingual/multilingual parenting?
For us multilingual parenting is not just about languages, but also about an emotional bond that we create, and the values we pass along to our children.
Spasibo to Anna for sharing her family’s journey through trilingual parenting with us today. If you’re a multilingual family and you’d like to participate in the Family Friday’s series, please contact me.