Understanding Our Multilingual Children

This month Annabelle from The Piri Piri Lexicon has organised a month long series looking at the topic of 'Raising Multilingual Children'. Every day this month a different blogger from around the world has taken a letter or the alphabet to discuss the topic and today we've reached 'U'. I have chosen to write about how we as a family help to better understand our multilingual children.

For my husband and I, the idea of understanding our multilingual children falls into two categories...do our boys understand the multilingual world that surrounds them and how as parents can we understand their needs as multilingual children? Just over three years ago we moved from the UK to France. Our home life is exclusively English and our two boys get their French language education purely from what they hear at school. Their progress has been quick and it never ceases to amaze me their seamless slip into their second language.

The school holidays have just come to an end and every morning for two weeks Reuben, aged 7, had swimming lessons for the first time. On the first day I suddenly had a thought in the car...would he understand everything the instructor asked him to do? Vocabulary is a huge topic as unless they are exposed to words or specifically taught them (in both languages) how else do they learn them? I was hit by the worry that he may not understand 'swimming' vocabulary in French and hated the thought of him not understanding instructions alongside his peers who would understand everything. When I put the question to him he replied that if the words were easy it would be ok, but there might be some things he wouldn't understand. He didn't seem bothered by this prospect and in hindsight I realised my worry was a bit silly. At school they have had to learn how to deal with not fully understanding everything from day one and to date this has never hindered their learning (they've both had glowing reports!) or held him back in any way. As an adult we may be afriad to surround ourselves with a language we do not know, but not understanding everything is not necessarily a fear that our children may have and it's important that we recognise that.

As parents of multilingual children we understand that our boys may have difficulties at times speaking their two languages. We often cringe at some of the English words and phrases that come out of their mouths and hasten to correct them, but we recognise that this may be a common feature for kids exposed to and using two languages at once. We are constantly explaining the meaning of unknown English words that pop up in books, television, or in conversation, and we help translate French words into English when they struggle to find their meaning.

How do we help and understand our multilingual children?

We listen to the English language that they use, gently setting them straight when the vocabulary is not quite right or words are not placed in the correct order. Although we don't want to be doing this constantly we recognise the importance of doing this to help them progress and continue learning in their mother tongue.

We talk! As they are only exposed to English at home it's important that we talk...lots!..over dinner, with books, to family over the phone. The more vocabulary they hear in both languages the more their language will develop.

We encourage and lead by example. We show them that although our French is far from perfect my husband and I try and learn from the friends we have made and the people we talk to everyday. We encourage them to use their French outside the comfort of the school environment.

We support them, with their French at school for example. We help them with their homework when we can, which in turn aids our own understanding of the language.

Do you have tips on understanding multilingual children? If you do we'd love to hear them. Also, if you have the time do take a look at some of the other posts from the series. There is lots of good advice and stories from families raising multilingual children around the world. You can find all the posts here.

the piri-piri lexicon

Our Lego Obsession

The past two weeks were half term for us and the kids were free to do as they pleased. 95% of the time our boys get on swimmingly well. We stayed put during the holiday and although two weeks at home could seem daunting to some, the boys had their favourite obsession to keep them going...Lego. I have to admit, we have rather a lot of Lego. Every Birthday and Christmas they have acquired more sets along with inheriting my old set from when I was a child. Lego is not cheap. But the price is more than justified as it is the one toy that they keep going back to. (In our case on a daily basis.) The Playmobile box sits unplayed with, even the car box doesn't get much of a look in these days.

There are endless benefits of Lego, the imagination they use to create and build, their storytelling with the characters, the negotiations that go on for the smallest of parts, and the fact that it's a toy that doesn't break (aside the few small pieces that have been stood on...ouch!) There are even charities around the world, such as this one, that takes Lego donations and, in this case, sends them to Africa to give children a chance to play and develop skills. Our boys can spend hours...and hours...lost in their Lego world. I'm a little sad about the fact that they no longer need me to help them build their sets, to the point where I'm even considering going out to buy my own!

Despite the fact that Lego is our favourite toy, because we have so much of it we have imposed a 'Buy No Lego' rule in our house this year. I have to confess I've already broken it. We are hugely excited for the new Batman Lego film that I couldn't resist the new minifigures that contain characters from the film. Check out Batman Fairy above. No, not Batgirl as we originally thought but Batman dressed as a fairy! He's like the best character ever and has allowed pink to be cool for the first time ever in the eyes of my 5 year old boy. Even I'm going to find it hard to resist the new sets that have come out to accompany the film. (We have our eye on the Batcave!) We have a grand plan of sorting out all the Lego to find all of the bought sets so that they can be rebuilt to create a massive Lego city. Just thinking about this task is exhausting itself so I'll let you know by the end of the year whether we manage to achieve it.

What are your favourite household toys? Are you massive fans of Lego too?!
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