Raising Bilingual Children






It's no secret to those of you that know us that, ever since Olivia was born, we have been trying to raise her bilingually.

Throughout my pregnancy I was adamant on this (even before I was pregnant I wanted my children to learn other languages and be brought up bilingually if possible).

It's been harder than anticipated - the truth is, when the foreign language isn't your first language, it's difficult to remind yourself to speak it at home, especially when your partner doesn't also speak the same language!

Jamie has been an avid learner for a while now, however he considers me fluent (I don't consider myself fluent, but, yes, I can speak French fairly well) and he is still learning. That hasn't stopped us from attempting it though! Olivia actually has a very good French vocabulary, considering she's 2!

So, for any parents who are wondering how they can also cultivate a language skill in their little one, these are the resources and techniques we have found most helpful:

1. Muzzy


Muzzy are a BBC resource on DVD that are specifically aimed at children. For the first 18 months of Olivia's life, she wouldn't watch the television (partly because she didn't want to and partly because I didn't want her to), but, from her being a few months old and able to sit in a bouncy chair or baby walker, she would watch Muzzy. If I needed a little break, to have a wee, a shower, a cup of tea, or food, I'd plonk her in front of Muzzy and felt ZERO guilt for sticking her in front of the TV, because she was learning.

2. Youtube

This has been a more recent discovery, since dreaded Peppa Pig made an entrance into our lives. I mitigate whatever hatred I feel towards that damned pig by letting Olivia watch it in French, and, FYI, Youtube hosts an hour long video with back to back episodes in French.

3. Songs

I have always sung to Olivia at nighttime, and I used to sing French songs to her more often. I simply googled the lyrics to our favourite Disney songs and sang them in French. I also learned the French lullaby 'Alouette' and that one is a particular favourite in our house!

She has also learned body parts by singing 'tête, époules, genoux, pieds' (head, shoulders knees and toes).

4. Animals/Teddies


On our morning walks to the childminder, Olivia would of course see lots of things outside that she had never seen before. Each time she discovered a new thing, I would teach her the word in French (only French - she would have plenty of time to learn the English word later!)

This evolved into using her teddies, as she has many animal teddies, and teaching her the words for the animal using each of these.

5. Flashcards

Olivia has a 'My First French Words' set of flashcards that we have used since she was 14 months old. These have probably been the most valuable resource! She is able to tell me most of the French words for the pictures on the Flashcards on request.

6. Bath books

She has had bath books since she was a tiny baby, and I would use these to tell her the names of the animals in French during bath time from her being that young age!

I bet you're wondering how much she's actually picked up...

Well, on 1 January 2018 when she was 18 months old, she could already say:
  • Kaka (poop)
  • Pipi (wee)
  • Bras (arm)
  • Bouche (mouth)
  • T’aime (love you)
  • Papa
  • Couche (nappy)
A month later, she could also say:

  • Arbre (tree)
  • Cochon (pig)
  • Chat (cat)
  • Pied (foot)
  • Bon nuit (goodnight)
  • Dents (teeth)
  • Papillon (butterfly)
Now,  she can say full sentences. Her entire list of French vocabulary is in italics below:

kaka, pipi, bras, mains, dents, pied, jambe, tête, bouche, époule, genoux, oreille, nez, je t'aime, bon nuit, bon matin, au revoir, bonjour, couche, arbre, fleur, orange, jus, cochon, mouton, vache, canard, grenouille, cheval, chat, chien, oiseau, souris, flocon de neige, pomme, banane, saucisse, pain, croissant, poissons, pâtes, glâces, manger, grande, blanc, rouge, vert, papillon, s'il vous plait, merci beaucoup, trés bien, princesse, belle, petits amis, joyeux noël, à bientôt, ça va, je m'appelle Olivia, oui, non, 
un, deux, trois, quatre

Now she is 3 months away from turning three, and she recognises French words. She tells me that Cinderella is speaking French if I put the film on in French for her, and she tells me off for speaking French too!

It's not quite what I wanted, but I'm proud of how much she's come on and how clever she is! She will pick languages up easily at school, and I'll continue doing what I can to teach her at home.

Have you ever taught your children another language? What did you find helpful?

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