Monday, 24 September 2012


You know, those people; the ones who have multiple languages stuck under their belt, switching effortlessly between the two, depending on the person and situation. Those people who can start a sentence in one language and finish in another. I don't like them. Ok, that's not true. In fact, most of the bilinguals I know, I love. :) It's just that I'm jealous that they grew up speaking two languages and can't remember how they learned them. I, on the other hand, despite living 12 years in Asia, got by with English and a little bit of Bangla. Definitely not enough to be considered fluent or bilingual. And so I find myself here in Brazil, struggling to learn another language, wishing I was gifted in that area like my dad is, and raising two kids to be bilingual.

When I met my husband at university, we spoke English all the time. (He is my favorite bilingual) Admittedly he did try several times to get me to learn Portuguese in those early months/years together, but as we were living in Canada and then Bangladesh, it was hard for me to add on another language. It wasn't until we moved to Brazil in 2009 that I really started learning Portuguese. I have since forgotten any Bangla I used to know, and refuse to think about any French I once knew (having studied it for 7 years in school).

There's lots of differing advice out there about how to raise your kids to speak more than one language. Some suggest that each parent exclusively speak one language with their kid. In our case, my hubby would speak only Portuguese and I would speak only English. But what happens when you are all together?

Since we are living in a dominantly Portuguese culture we have done it this way; when we are at home, we all speak English. When we're out, I almost always speak English with the kids and hubby alternates.

It has been interesting to see how our kids are starting to incorporate both languages into their arsenal. Lucas only really started talking a few months after he turned two - a little delay probably because he was getting two languages, and when he started, it was all English. He started pre-school a few months before he turned three, and while the first few weeks were challenging, he adapted very well to the Portuguese-only environment. Soon he was coming home singing Portuguese songs and learning to distinguish between the two languages.

People sometimes ask me how Lucas is doing with Portuguese and it's a little hard to know exactly how much he knows because he usually speaks English with me. For a while he would come home from school speaking Portuguese and if I would respond in English, he would say, "Não, mamãe, fala português" (no, mom, speak Portuguese!) Now I think he understands that it's easier for him to speak English to me. When we are out, however, he happily speaks Portuguese to people around, at church, at the shops, to kids at the park. Sometimes when he's playing by himself I hear him switching between languages. And it's so cute.
We have a lot of books in English and Portuguese at home. 
For now I think I know a little more Portuguese than he does, but I know the day will come when he will start correcting me. :)

So I'd better get back to my language study...

Jellibean Journals


  1. We're right there with you on this whole bilingualism journey! Yannick speaks German to Lukas, while I speak English. We try to hang out with German friends every week so that all our kids get to experience proper German conversation (while the adults relish the cakes...). I wish my German was good enough that we could have a 'German' home to balance the English all around us, but that's not going to happen right now (!). Lukas clearly understands both languages, so for now, it will do.

  2. I am awful at foreign languages and what you are doing sounds like super mom to me! That is awesome that your kids are adapting so well to the second language! Thanks for linking up with us this week!

  3. Wow! I don't care what language you speak ... your writing skills are amazing and could very easily transfer to Portuguese when the vocab grows!! I know about learning another language...hard to do, but worth it, even with the little Bangla I learned [compared to your dad!!]. I'm glad I remember my German ... it was sweet to sing German songs with Grandma G on Saturday as I prepped the apples to make juice and she hummed along with me. The best language to learn is the love language of the special people in your life, and I know that you are great at that! love you....Mom

  4. Oh wow, that is so cool that you are raising your kids to be bilingual! I'm sure it will serve them well in life too. I wish I could speak another language, but I definitely do not have an ear for it - it would take me a long time to learn a different language. Maybe someday! :-)

  5. I'm not looking forward to the day my little girl starts correcting my Spanish. Perhaps I should practice more? ;) My husband and I speak mostly English between us (since that's what we spoke when we started our relationship it seems most natural.) He speaks 90% Spanish with the baby and I the same in English. We'll see how her speech turns out, but from the bilingual couples we know, this seems to be the best way. Who knows. Love that onesie. Thanks for sharing, Taara. I'd love to visit Brazil someday. The hubs has been, but only to the trifronteras Amazon sector.

  6. Awesome! I wish I knew another language to teach my little one! Thanks for stopping by the Mommy Moments link up!

    The Mrs

  7. My husband speaks Spanish and English but I only speak English (as I'm sure you know, learning another language as an adult is hard!) Our two sons know some words in Spanish but not a lot. We are lucky that there is a Spanish/English bilingual school near our house and our oldest just started kindergarten there! Now if only I could go there with him...

  8. Wow, this is great! I definitely plan to raise my children to be bilingual since my husband's native language is Spanish. I'm learning SPanish right now... and I'm not sure what strategy we'll use yet, but I'm determined that it will be done!

  9. It's wonderful that you raise your child to be bilingual.

    Unfortunately I haven't been very good at speaking my native language with my children. My oldest speak Swedish since he was born in Sweden and also went to school in SWeden for one year. He also quickly picked up Spanish and German when he went to school in those two countries..Well, with my youngest it was the easiest to keep it to English since that's the language we speak in CA where we lived most of the time..I wanted to start early to teach my youngest but my daughter had speech problems so we waited and then we got lazy...Now they learn via Rosetta Stone at the same time as I teach them..I want to send them home to my country to study for a year if they are interested..


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