Welcome the first part of an exciting new series ‘Multilingual Family’, where I interview families from different parts of the world.
I have the pleasure to introduce you to the lovely family of Karolina, Oscar and their 2-year-old, gorgeous daughter Natalia. They live in the USA where Karolina and Oscar met after having moved from Poland and El Salvador. Mum Karolina has kindly answered my questions – you can find out more about the family in their blog Hodgepodge Parenting.
Polish, English, Spanish, learning American Sign Language (ASL)
Why did you decide to raise your daughter to become bilingual?
It’s always been natural for me to speak my native Polish to preverbal children. My husband is a native Spanish speaker, so we saw an opportunity to give our daughter an advantage by letting her grow up knowing multiple languages without special effort on her part.
The benefits to multilingualism that we like in particular include the ability to see situations from multiple points of view (already at 2, our daughter knows there are multiple ways of saying the same thing), leading to tolerance, open-mindedness, empathy.
Also, the ability to enjoy travel and cultural attractions in the original language of multiple cultures, and the overall benefits to brain development in other areas thanks to multilingualism.
What is your family language strategy – who speaks what language with whom?
Primarily, I speak Polish to our daughter; my husband speaks Spanish. We speak English to each other. However, my husband also incorporates ASL in speaking to her, and I do to a lesser extent.
As our daughter has a preference for saying certain things in certain languages, we both use each other’s languages in those instances, generally repeating in our native language as well. There are some times when we speak English to her, usually when outside the house and for the benefit of a given comment being understood by those around us (for example, to ask our daughter to say Hello! or translating what she says to/about our interlocutor).
What do you think is the biggest advantage your children have of being bilingual?
Being open minded and understanding multiple points of view.
Biggest challenge when raising a bilingual kid?
Outsiders not understanding our daughter, who currently mixes languages.
Anything you would do differently at this early stage?
What are your family’s plans for the future with regards to languages?
Our goal is for our Natalia to be able to have a conversation in all the languages and read/write at newspaper level.
What is your best advice to other multilingual families raising bilingual children?
Set clear goals, prioritize, and enjoy the process!
Thank you so much, Karolina, for telling us about your family. What great advice you gave and what a fantastic role model you are to other multilingual families! Natalia is lucky to have you and Oscar as her parents and to grow up with the gift of being able to master several languages.
Would you like your family to be featured in this series? Please contact me!