Multilingualism in my family (Luisa's story)

6 Jun 2012

 In our Multilingualism in my family series this week Luisa tells her amazing story. She is raising multilingual children (currently in the Philippines having recently moved from the USA).

1.    Name


2.    Blog

3.    In what country do you currently live? 


4.    How many children have you got and how old are they? 

2, ages 3 and 5

5.    Who speaks what to whom (in the home)?

Dad - English
Mom – Filipino, English
Nannies - Filipino

6.    What language do your children hear outside home?

Mixed of English and Filipino in school, friends and extended family
Mandarin with tutors

7.    If you had to put a percentage on the languages your child(ren) hear what would they be?

60% Filipino
35% English
5% Mandarin

8.    Did you set out to follow a particular method to raise your child(ren) multilingually?

OPOL when Daddy is around – he speaks English to them, I speak Filipino.  But when he’s not around, I speak both languages.  The nannies speak only Filipino.

9.    What works with your current family language set up?

Immersion in the target language/s works best for us. Once the kids achieve literacy in Filipino this year, our plan is to go to China or Taiwan so they can also immerse in their third language which is Mandarin. Mandarin is a difficult language to learn so having them fully immersed at an early age will be beneficial.  For now, they are tutored in Mandarin by a Chinese native speaker and they are learning a lot!

10.    What doesn’t work?

So far, our current method is working with much success. We are in the Philippines for 5 months and both kids are speaking and understanding Filipino.  My 5 year old is writing, reading well and having good comprehension of the language.

11.    What would you do differently if you could or would have to do it again?

Back in the States, I would have started early and be more consistent.  It was difficult to use OPOL when they know I can also speak English.   I also would have stayed a year to strengthen their Spanish (they attended Spanish Immersion preschool)  because it’s now difficult to introduce Spanish in the mix.  But then, we introduced Mandarin so it’s a trade-off, I guess.  We will revisit Spanish again in few years when it’s time to do immersion in that language.

12.    Any other comments

Multilingualism is going to be a long journey, but with immersion we feel that we can get results quicker and sustain it. We wouldn’t have achieved this fluency had we stayed in the States because it is difficult when you’re the only one speaking the minority language at home.  But sometimes, my children still ask why they have to speak Filipino (or Mandarin) when I can understand English and their Filipino cousins speak only English to their parents.

Thank you very much to Luisa for answering my questions.
Are you a multilingual family? Would you like to share your story? Contact me.

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