What does it mean to raise your children in a bilingual or even multilingual family?
In this blog, I wanted to share my experience as a French mum in Ireland who has raised her children speaking mostly French at home and who has also sent her children to a Gaelscoil.
Simply, the reason why I spoke French at home was a way for me to keep my identity and also to make sure my kids would be able to communicate with my family in France. I never doubted or questioned whether that could be an advantage or disadvantage in their overall learning.
Why did we send our kids to a Gaelscoil? My husband wanted them to learn Irish, as part of their identity and culture and there again it made sense to me. However, I was a bit innocent as I'm the one who struggled with the homework big time!!!
I believe that learning Irish and French for my family was one of the many ways to get an understanding for our culture and identity. It was OK for my kids to absorb two cultures, the same way it was ok for them to absorb several languages.
Often parents would ask me how that worked, the Irish school, the French at home...from our point of view as parents, there was never any questions asked, we never saw it as a burden or an impediment to learning other subjects.
Let's not forget, children are sponges! for example when we played games in French it never felt like learning. When they sat in the Gaelscoil and heard Irish all day that did not feel like learning. I am all for experiential learning here!
My 2 youngest (now 15 and 17 years old) are dyslexic so then came the question, to keep or not to keep languages including Irish in secondary school. Why not? Both my children have kept Irish and French in secondary school. Dyslexia is another way of learning, both of them have great oral memory and are able to express themselves well and understand conversations in both Irish and French.
On paper, their level is just about OK for any of the written work requested at school.
Spelling and writing are issues for them but the bottom line is, if they get lost in France or in the Gaeltacht, they'll be able to ask questions and understand the answers!!! That for me is the most important aspect of language learning, being able to understand, communicate and feel comfortable around the language.
So if you were asking me, as a mum, how easy or difficult learning another language for our family and our children was? The answer would be neither, it is our way of living.
I could not finish this article without asking my children how the whole multilingual environment work for them...
Here is what I was told "I don't know, I don't care and what are you on about" which leads me to believe it was not a big deal...
Learning through fun and learning without feeling it! is key here so here are a few games that can be used to explore new languages:
All sorts of beads for colours and counting.
Janod Magneti'Book available in German, English, French and Spanish.
All puppets! a great way to make language learning by miming, using another voice and a different character.
What does it mean to raise your children in a bilingual or even multilingual family? | Mimitoys 2023